“I learned a lot from the Uruguayan novelist Juan Carlos Onetti when I was starting out.

“He taught me flat on his back, smoking. He taught me with silences or lies, because he loved to add some luster to the few words he spoke by attributing them to ancient civilizations.

“On one of those nights of silence and cigarettes and wine that caused instantaneous cirrhosis, the master was lying down, as always, and I was seated by his side. Time passed without us noticing in the least.

“That was when Onetti told me a Chinese proverb: ‘The only worthwhile words are ones that improve upon silence.’

“I suspect the proverb was not Chinese, but I never forgot it.

“Neither did I forget what I was told by one of Gandhi’s granddaughters, who years later visited Montevideo.

“We met up at my café, El Brasilero. Recalling her childhood, she told me about her grandfahter’s word-fasts: for one day a week Gandhi neither listened nor spoke. Not at all.

“The next day, words sounded different.”

“Silence, which speaks without a sound, teaches us to speak.”