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Feliz Bloomsday / Happy Bloomsday

Juan Cruz nos visitó el pasado día 11 de junio. Siempre generoso, durante esta semana ha dedicado dos entradas de su blog a Irlanda, especialmente a Dublín, a Joyce, a Cervantes, y a lo vivido aquí durante sus visitas al Instituto.

Ya lo decía en su primera entrada: los irlandeses “reirán hasta Bloomsday y después”. Lo vimos muy claro durante el partido que enfrentó a Irlanda con España. La afición irlandesa no dejó de cantar, sonreír y animar a su equipo a pesar de la derrota, como siguen haciendo durante la crisis, cantando los hermosos acordes de The Fields of Athenry.

¿Seremos nosotros también capaces de seguir sonriendo? Afortunadamente, tenemos muchas cosas en común con Irlanda. También ese espíritu burlón que nos hace fuertes ante la adversidad y nos anima a reirnos hasta de nuestra propia sombra. Feliz Bloomsday.

Reirán hasta Bloomsday y después / Juan Cruz

El ministro irlandés de Educación es calvo y corpulento, como una cama sin hacer, que decía Sean Connery en La Casa Rusia. Se llama Roairi Quinn y es arquitecto; a él se debe que los nacionalistas ultrarreaccionarios de Dublín no acabaran con los vestigios del estilo georgiano, que consideraban una agresión al gusto patrio. Y por eso hoy Dublín sigue siendo la ciudad que amaron, y odiaron, Beckett y Joyce, quienes, como escribió el primero, jamás se fueron de esta isla aunque desarrollaran su vida y su literatura de uñas con la vida en otras geografías muy distantes.

Seguir leyendo

Bloomsday / Juan Cruz

El mejor homenaje a un escritor es leerlo. Hoy se celebra el Bloomsday, el día en que Leopold Bloom, el célebre personaje de James Joyce, recorre como Ulises el camino que en Dublín tantas décadas después marca la más impresionante carrera que la imaginación le prestó a la literatura y a la vida.

Seguir leyendo


Juan Cruz visited us last June 11. Always generous, this week he has devoted two of his blog posts to Ireland, especially to Dublin, Joyce, Cervantes, and to the experiences he lived here during his visits to the Instituto Cervantes.

He already said it in his first post of the week: Irish people will laugh to Bloomsday and later.” We saw it very clear during the football match between Ireland and Spain. Irish fans never stopped singing, smiling and cheering their team despite the defeat, as they still do during the crisis, singing the beautiful chords of  The Fields of Athenry.

Will we also be able to keep smiling? Fortunately, we have many things in common with Ireland. Also that spirit that makes us strong in adversity and encourages us to laugh even of ourshelves. Happy Bloomsday.

Audiolibro de la semana / Audiobook of the week: La hora azul

Una nueva novela en audio para un nuevo fin de semana que se presenta un tanto gris. Puedes descargarlo ahora mismo y escucharlo en cualquier reproductor de MP3. Ya sabes, si tu lengua nativa no es el español, esta es una buena forma de practicar y afinar el oído. Esta semana te proponemos la novela de Alonso Cueto titulada La hora azul. La tienes a un solo clic de distancia.

La hora azul cuenta la historia del doctor Adrián Ormache, un abogado próspero que vive en una zona acomodada de Lima. Tiene un buen sueldo, un trabajo estable y una familia encantadora. Al cuidado de su madre, su infancia también ha transcurrido sin problemas. Adrián sólo ha visto esporádicamente a su padre, de cuyas hazañas como oficial de la marina peruana ha oído hablar.

Tras su fallecimiento, Adrián descubre, sin embargo, que su padre estuvo a cargo de un cuartel en la zona de Ayacucho, durante la guerra de Sendero Luminoso. Gracias a ex subordinados suyos, se entera, además, de que ordenaba las sesiones de tortura y mandaba violar y ejecutar a las prisioneras. Pero en una ocasión su padre le perdonó la vida a una de ellas, que luego se escapó del cuartel. Adrián se propone conocerla.

Alonso Cueto Caballero nació el 30 de abril de 1954 en la ciudad de Lima (Perú). Debido al trabajo de su padre, pasó su infancia viviendo en Paris y Washington. A los siete años, volvió a vivir en Lima.

En 1977 se graduó en la facultad de literatura de la Universidad Católica del Perú con una tesis sobre la obra de Emilio Adolfo Westphalen. Ese mismo año, viajó a España con una beca del Instituto de Cultura Hispánica, para realizar un trabajo de investigación entorno a la obra de Luis Cernuda. En 1979 reinició sus estudios en la Universidad de Texas en Austin, de donde se graduó con el título de PhD, en 1984, con una tesis sobre los relatos de Juan Carlos Onetti. En 1985 se casa con Kristin Keenan Atwood con la cual tiene dos hijos, Daniel (1986) y Esteban (1991). Actualmente reside en Lima, Perú.


The Blue Hour tells the story of Dr. Adrian Ormache, a prosperous lawyer who lives in a wealthy area of Lima. He has a good salary, a stable job and a lovely family. His childhood has also gone smoothly, but Adrian has only sporadically seen his father, worked as a Peruvian naval officer.

After his death, Adrian discovers that his father was in charge of a barracks in the Ayacucho region, during the war of Sendero Luminoso. Thanks to former subordinates, he learns also that his father ordered the torture sessions and the rape and execution of the prisoners. But once his father spared one, a misterous woman that later escaped from the barracks. Adrian intends to meet her.

Alonso Cueto (Lima, 1954) is the author of several novels, short stories and essays. He recently published a study on Uruguayan writer Juan Carlos Onetti, El Soñador en la Penumbra (Fondo Cultural Económica, 2009). Cueto has won several distinctions for his literary work, including the prestigious Herralde Award (Spain 2005) for his novel La Hora Azul (The Blue Hour), the 2007 Casa de Ámericas-Planeta second-place prize for his novel Susurro de la Mujer Ballena (Sigh of the Whale Woman) and the Anna Seghers Prize for his body of work (Germany, 2000). He also received a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation grant in 2002.

Filmmaker Francisco Lombardi adapted Cueto’s novel Grandes Miradas (Knowing Gazes) to the screen in “Mariposa Negra,” which won several international awards. Cueto’s work has been translated into 15 languages, including Chinese and Korean. Random House recently bought the rights for the English-language translation of La Hora Azul. Cueto lives in Lima, Peru, where he teaches literature and writing workshops at the Universidad Católica.

Mario Vargas Llosa y Seamus Heaney en el Instituto Cervantes de Dublín / Mario Vargas Llosa and Seamus Heaney at the Instituto Cervantes in Dublin

El pasado lunes, antes del encuentro literario que tuvo lugar en el Instituto Cervantes de Dublín con Mario Vargas Llosa y Juan Cruz, dos grandes de la literatura, dos premios Nobel, se reunieron en la Biblioteca del Instituto Cervantes de Dublín.

En el video, Mario Vargas Llosa y Seamus Heaney intercambian comentarios sobre su obra y sobre su experiencia en Estocolmo, adonde viajaron para recibir el galardón de la academia sueca.

La velada literaria tuvo lugar a continuación de este encuentro, con motivo de la presentación en el Instituto Cervantes de Dublín de la traducción al inglés de El sueño del celta (The dream of the Celt), la última novela de Mario Vargas Llosa.

Mario Vargas Llosa, Premio Nobel de Literatura en 2010, Premio Cervantes en 1994 y Premio Príncipe de Asturias de las Letras en 1986, es uno de los más importantes novelistas y ensayistas contemporáneos. Nacido en Arequipa, Perú, en 1936, viajó a España en 1959 gracias a una beca para realizar un doctorado en la Universidad Complutense de Madrid.

Ese mismo año, vio la luz su primera publicación, Los jefes, un conjunto de cuentos que obtuvieron el premio Leopoldo Alas. Sin embargo, no sería hasta la década de 1960 cuando publicó tres de las obras que lo lanzaron a la fama: La ciudad y los perros (1962), La casa verde (1965) y Conversación en La Catedral (1969). En 2010, tras recibir el Premio Nobel, publicó El sueño del celta, en la que se cuenta la peripecia vital de un hombre de leyenda: el irlandés Roger Casement, uno de los primeros europeos en denunciar los horrores del colonialismo.


Last Monday, before the literary evening at the Instituto Cervantes in Dublin with Mario Vargas Llosa, and Juan Cruz , two literary great writers, two Nobel laureates, gathered at the Instituto Cervantes Library in Dublin.

In this video, Mario Vargas Llosa and Seamus Heaney exchange comments about their work and their experience in Stockholm, when they traveled there to receive the award from the Swedish Academy.

The literary evening ensued on the occasion of the presentation of the English translation of El sueño del celta (The dream of the Celt) at the Instituto Cervantes in Dublin.

The dream of the Celt is Mario Vargas Llosa’s  latest novel, where he tells the life story of a legendary man: the Irish Roger Casement, one of the first Europeans to denounce the horrors of colonialism.

Mario Vargas Llosa, Nobel Prize in Literature 2010, Cervantes Award 1994, Príncipe de Asturias de las Letras Award 1986, is one of the most significant contemporary novelists and essayists.

Mario Vargas Llosa was born in 1936 in Arequipa (Peru). He travelled to Spain in 1959 thanks to a bursary to complete a doctorate at Complutense University in Madrid.

On the same year, he published his first work, Los jefes, a compilation of stories. It is not, however, until the 60´s when he published three of the works that launched him to fame: La ciudad y los perros in 1962, La casa verde in 1965 and Conversación en La Catedral  in 1969.

Following a period of intense political activity, he returned to writing in 1993 with his book of memoirs El pez en el agua. In 2010, he published The dream of the celt.

El hombre que se atrevió a soñar / The man who dared to dream

Hoy hemos recibido a Mario Vargas Llosa en el Instituto Cervantes de Dublín. El premio Nobel de Literatura 2010 ha charlado con Juan Cruz ante más de doscientas personas acerca de su última novela, El sueño del celta y su protagonista, Roger Casement.

Durante la velada, también hubo tiempo para reflexionar acerca de la banalización de la cultura, a propósito de la reciente publicación del libro de ensayo de Vargas Llosa que lleva por título La civilización del espectáculo, y por supuesto para saludar y conversar con su viejo amigo, Seamus Heaney.

El pasado fin de semana se publicó en el Irish Times una elogiosa crítica de El sueño del celta, publicado en inglés por Faber and Faber. El resumen de la conferencia que retransmitimos a través de twitter se puede consultar en: http://storify.com/icdublin/en


Tonight Instituto Cervantes Dublin hosted Mario Vargas Llosa. Over 200 guests listened to the laureate of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature chat to Juan Cruz about his recent novel “The Dream of the Celt” and its protagonist Roger Casement.

During the evening there was also an occasion to reflect on trivialization of culture, alluding to Vargas Llosa’s recent book of essays “Civilization of the spectacle”, and to say hello to his old friend Seamus Heaney.

Last weekend The Irish Times featured a laudatory review on The Dream of the Celt published in English by Faber & Faber. The conference transmitted live on twitter is available here: http://storify.com/icdublin/en

Audiolibro de la semana / Audiobook of the week: La buena letra

Parece que hasta el domingo no vamos a ver el sol, así que, ¿por qué no disfrutar del verano irlandés escuchando un buen libro en casa? En realidad, lo puedes oír en cualquier lado con tu MP3, en el autobús, en la bici, o corriendo por el parque cuando salga el sol. Si tu lengua nativa no es el español, también es una buena forma de practicarlo. Y lo mejor de todo es que lo tienes a un solo clic de distancia.

La buena letra cuenta la historia de Ana, que a su vez relata a su hijo fragmentos de una vida de pequeñas miserias con las que se han tejido las relaciones personales y familiares. No son grandes acontecimientos históricos los que nos narra su autor, Rafael Chirbes, sino hechos íntimos y cotidianos que suceden en las vidas de unos personajes heridos por la traición y la deslealtad

Rafael Chirbes nació en Tabernes de Valldigna, (Valencia), en 1949. A los 16 años se fue a vivir a Madrid, donde estudió Historia Moderna y Contemporánea. Vivió en Marruecos (donde fue profesor de español), París, Barcelona, La Coruña, Extremadura, y en el año 2000 regresó a Valencia.

Se dedicó a la crítica literaria durante algún tiempo y posteriormente a otras actividades periodísticas. Su primera novela, Mimoun (1988), quedó finalista del Premio Herralde y su obra La larga marcha (1996) fue galardonada en Alemania con el Premio SWR-Bestenliste. Con esta novela inició una trilogía sobre la sociedad española que abarca desde la posguerra hasta la transición, que se completa con La caída de Madrid (2000) y Los viejos amigos (2003). Con Crematorio (2007), un retrato de la especulación inmobiliaria, recibió el Premio Nacional de la Crítica y el V Premio Dulce Chacón. (Datos tomados de Wikipedia.org)


It seems we will not shee the sun until Sunday, so why not enjoy your Irish summer listening a good book at home? In fact, you can hear it anywhere with your MP3, on the bus, bike, or running through the park. If your native language is not Spanish, is also a good way to practice it. And best of all, you have only a click away.

La buena letra is the story of Ana, who tells her son fragments of a life of petty miseries with which they have woven the personal and family relationships. There are not big historical events in this fiction, but intimate and everyday events that happen in the lives of these characters wounded by betrayal and disloyalty.

Rafael Chirbes was born in Tabernes de Valldigna, (Valencia) in 1949. At age 16 he moved to Madrid, where he studied Modern and Contemporary History. He lived in Morocco (where he taught Spanish), Paris, Barcelona, A Coruña, Extremadura, and in 2000 he returned to Valencia. He devoted himself to literary criticism for some time and then to other journalistic activities.

His first novel, Mimoun (1988), was a finalist Herralde Prize and his novel La larga marcha (1996) was awarded in Germany. With this novel, he began a trilogy about Spanish society ranging from postwar to the transition, which is completed by La caída de Madrid (2000) and Viejos amigos (2003). With Crematorio (2007), a portrait of real estate speculation, received the Nacional de la Crítica Award and the 5th Dulce Chacón Award. (Data taken from Wikipedia.org)

Encuentro Literario con Mario Vargas Llosa / Literary evening with Mario Vargas Llosa

Premio Nobel de Literatura en 2010, Premio Cervantes en 1994, Premio Príncipe de Asturias de las Letras en 1986… éstos son tres ejemplos de los muchos reconocimientos que ha recibido a lo largo de su carrera como escritor Mario Vargas Llosa, uno de los más importantes novelistas y ensayistas contemporáneos. El Instituto Cervantes de Dublín se complace en invitarte a asistir a una conversación entre este magnífico escritor y Juan Cruz.

Mario Vargas Llosa, nuestro autor del mes de junio, nació en 1936 en Arequipa (Perú). En 1959 viajó a España gracias a una beca para hacer un doctorado en la Universidad Complutense de Madrid, donde obtuvo el título de Doctor en Filosofía y Letras.

Ese mismo año, vio la luz su primera publicación, Los jefes, un conjunto de cuentos que obtienen el Premio Leopoldo Alas. Sin embargo, no será hasta la década de 1960 cuando publique tres de las obras que lo lanzaron a la fama: La ciudad y los perros (1962), La casa verde (1965) y Conversación en La Catedral (1969).

En 2010, la editorial Alfaguara publica El sueño del celta, en la que se cuenta la peripecia vital de un hombre de leyenda: el irlandés Roger Casement, uno de los primeros europeos en denunciar los horrores del colonialismo. Esta novela, traducida al inglés, ha sido publicada por la editorial Faber and Faber a principios de junio de 2012 bajo el título The dream of the celt.

Mario Vargas Llosa conversará con Juan Cruz, periodista y escritor español que en la actualidad ocupa el cargo de adjunto a la dirección del diario El País. Su primera novela fue publicada en 1972 bajo el título Crónica de la nada hecha pedazos. Ha participado en radio y televisión y también en numerosas conferencias y cursos.

Para asistir a este encuentro es necesario presentar invitación. Para conseguirla, pregunta por favor al bibliotecario: bibdub@cervantes.es. ¡Pero date prisa, que se acaban!


Nobel Prize in Literature 2010, Cervantes Award 1994, Príncipe de Asturias de las Letras Award 1986… three examples of the many awards that Mario Vargas Llosa has received during his writing career. He is one of the most significant contemporary novelists and essayists. Instituto Cervantes Dublin is proud to invite you to a conversation with this outstanding author and the Spanish writer Juan Cruz.

Mario Vargas Llosa, our author of the month in june, was born in 1936 in Arequipa (Peru), travelled to Spain in 1959 thanks to a bursary to complete a doctorate by the Complutense University of Madrid where he was awarded a Doctorate in Philosopy and Literature.

On the same year, he published his first work, Los jefes (The leaders), a compilation of stories. He was awarded the Leopoldo Alas prize for this piece. It is not, however, until the 60´s when he published three of the works that launched him to fame: La ciudad y los Perros (The City and the Dogs) in 1962, La casa verde (The Green House) in 1965 and Conversación en La Catedral (Conversation in the Cathedral) in 1969.

Following a period of intense political activity, he returned to writing in 1993 with his book of memoirs El pez en el agua (A Fish in the Water).

Alfaguara publishing house launched El sueño del celta in 2010. This is Vargas Llosa’s latest novel where he tells the life story of a legendary man: the Irish Roger Casement, one of the first Europeans to denounce the horrors of colonialism. This novel has been translated into English and is due to be published by Faber and Faber at the beginning of June 2012 with the title The dream of the Celt.

Juan Cruz, Spanish journalist and writer,  is Assistant Director at the Spanish newspaper El País. His first novel was published in 1972 with the title Crónica de la nada hecha pedazos. He has participated in radio, television and in numerous conferences and courses.
Please remember: Strictly by invitation. Ask the librarian for details: bibdub@cervantes.es

Audiolibro de la semana / Audiobook of the week: La isla de los amores infinitos

La isla de los amores infinitos. Esta novela, de tan sugerente título, es nuestra propuesta de audiolibro para esta semana. La tienes a un solo clic de distancia.

El libro cuenta la historia de tres familias de orígenes y culturas dispares que recalan en Cuba y cuyos destinos a lo largo de más de 150 años correrán parejos con los de la bella isla.

Desde el Miami actual, la historia retrocede hasta 1856, cuando entran en contacto los personajes, procedentes de China, España y África, y surge el amor, que hallará una mágica continuidad un siglo más tarde. Una hermosa historia de esperanzas y sueños rotos, de nostalgia, exilio y amores unidos por el destino.

Su autora, Daína Chaviano, nació en La Habana donde se licenció en Lengua y Literatura Inglesa. En 1979 recibió el Premio David de Ciencia Ficción por Los mundos que amo, una colección de cuentos escritos entre los 15 y los 19 años.

En 1982, la autora fundó el primer taller literario de ciencia ficción de América Latina. Más tarde, trabajó como guionista de programas televisivos para niños, jóvenes y adultos. Fue presentadora de televisión y de radio. También participó como actriz en algunas películas de cine independiente.

Mientras vivió en Cuba, publicó varias obras de ciencia ficción y fantasía. Entre sus títulos se encuentran Amoroso planeta (1983), Historias de hadas para adultos (1986), Fábulas de una abuela extraterrestre (1988), La anunciación (1990) y El abrevadero de los dinosaurios (1990).

En mayo de 1991, Chaviano se estableció en Miami, Florida (Estados Unidos), donde aún vive.

Fuera de Cuba ha publicado Confesiones eróticas y otros hechizos (poemas), País de dragones (cuentos) y el ciclo de novelas «La Habana oculta», compuesto por El hombre, la hembra y el hambre, Casa de juegos, Gata encerrada y La isla de los amores infinitos, publicada en 25 idiomas y que se ha convertido en la novela cubana más traducida de todos los tiempos.


La isla de los amores infinitos. This novel, with such a suggestive title, is the audiobook we suggest for this week. Just a click away from you.

The book tells the story of three families of diverse backgrounds and cultures that arrive to in Cuba and whose lifes along more than 150 years will run hand in hand with the history of this beautiful island.

From Miami today, history goes back to 1856 when the characters come into contact, from China, Spain and Africa, and love emerges then and a century later it finds a magic continuation. A beautiful story of hope and broken dreams, nostalgia, exile and love united by fate.

The author, Daína Chaviano, was born in Havana where he graduated in English Language and Literature. In 1979 she received the David Award for Science Fiction for her collection of stories, Los mundos que amo, written when she was a teenager.

In 1982, she founded the first science fiction writing workshop in Latin America. Later she worked as a scriptwriter for television programs for children, youth and adults. She also participated as an actress in several independent films.

While living in Cuba, Daína published several works of science fiction and fantasy. Among his titles are Amoroso planeta (1983), Historias de hadas para adultos (1986), Fábulas de una abuela extraterrestre (1988), La anunciación(1990) y El abrevadero de los dinosaurios (1990).

In May 1991, Chaviano moved to Miami, Florida (United States), where she still lives.

Since then, she has published outside of Cuba Confesiones eróticas y otros hechizos (poems), País de dragones (short stories) and the cycle of novels «La Habana oculta», composed by El hombre, la hembra y el hambre, Casa de juegos, Gata encerrada y La isla de los amores infinitos, published in 25 languages. This novel has become the most translated Cuban novel of all time.

Entrevista con Miguel Aguilar

Miguel Aguilar: Las editoriales pequeñas, muchas veces, ejercen de cantera de las editoriales más grandes

Miguel Aguilar

 

Entrevista con Miguel Aguilar realizada el 29 de mayo de 2012 en la Biblioteca Dámaso Alonso del Instituto Cervantes de Dublín con motivo de su participación en el “Homenaje a Félix Romeo” junto a Luis Alegre, Malcolm Otero Barral, Ignacio Martínez de Pisón y David Trueba.

Miguel Aguilar (Madrid, 1976) es, desde el año 2006, director literario de la editorial Debate. Con anterioridad, ha sido editor de no ficción en Tusquets y editor en Random House Mondadori. Como traductor, ha publicado una antología del escritor británico Cyril Connolly, Obra selecta (Lumen, Barcelona, 2005), y otra de George Orwell, Orwell periodista (Global Rhythm Press, Barcelona 2006).

Sergio Angulo: —Miguel, me gustaría que nos explicases en qué consiste el trabajo de un editor.

Miguel Aguilar: —El trabajo de un editor tiene dos partes, creo yo. En una haces de filtro de todas las propuestas de libros, de todas las novelas, los ensayos, de todos los autores que hay en circulación y que se aproximan a ti o que te llegan a través de agentes. Tienes que seleccionar aquellos que te parecen más interesantes. Esa es solo la primera mitad. En la segunda mitad, haces de altavoz de aquello que has seleccionado, que has filtrado. Intentas difundirlo a la mayor cantidad de gente posible, intentas darle la mejor portada, la mejor edición, la mejor promoción en prensa, presentarlo de la mejor manera posible a los libreros. En definitiva, intentas proyectar a los lectores, que al final son quienes van a decidir si el libro les gusta o no, aquello que tú has seleccionado.

Sergio Angulo: —En una editorial, ¿qué tipo de trabajos hay? Traductores, correctores, editores…

Miguel Aguilar: —Bueno, hay muchas partes del engranaje que están externalizadas. Por ejemplo, traductores y correctores suelen estar fuera de la estructura. Los departamentos más importantes son el de Edición, que se encarga de la selección de los títulos y de supervisar todo el proceso. Está el Departamento de Derechos, que es muy importante porque se encarga de todo lo que es la contratación de los libros que vas a publicar, y en muchos casos también de la venta de derechos de traducción a otras editoriales de otros países de esas novelas, y también de cesiones a colecciones de quiosco, o colecciones de venta a plazos, o de clubs del libro…

Tienes el Departamento de Redacción, que es el que supervisa la maquetación de los libros, la corrección de los textos etc., para que no haya erratas, para que todo esté bien compuesto y bien maquetado. Está el Departamento de Diseño, que se encarga de la parte gráfica, de las portadas, las ilustraciones si las hubiera, etc. Y luego tienes el Departamento de Producción, que es la parte, digamos, más industrial, la que tiene que ver con el papel y la tinta, con las imprentas, con que los libros entren, sean fabricados. Y luego tienes la parte comercial y de marketing, que se encarga más directamente de la comercialización. El Departamento de Marketing tiene la función de estimular al librero, sobre todo, a que pida ejemplares de los libros y esté un poco encima de ellos. Comercial son los señores que van a las librerías y consiguen que el librero pida cinco ejemplares de este libro, o veinte del siguiente. Por último, está Prensa, que como su propio nombre indica, son los que hablan con los periodistas, intentan lograr el mayor eco posible de la publicación.

Sergio Angulo: —¿En cuánto valorarías el impacto que pueda tener un buen editor sobre la obra final de un autor?

Miguel Aguilar: —La calidad de la obra final es responsabilidad básicamente del autor. Hay relaciones muy famosas. Quizá Maxwell Perkins sea el ejemplo más claro, un editor mítico estadounidense que era el editor de Scott Fitzgerald. De hecho, el Premio de la Asociación de Editores Americanos se llama Premio Maxwell Perkins. Son editores que realmente entran mucho en el texto y son capaces de convencer al autor de cambiar cosas. Pero yo creo que lo que más puede aportar un editor, más que a la calidad en sí de la obra, es al eco que puede tener, a la difusión. Ahí yo creo que sí, que un editor puede ser capaz de hacer que un buen escritor llegue a un público muchísimo más amplio.

Hay un símil un poco cruel pero que sí que encierra algo de verdad, que es que las editoriales pequeñas, muchas veces, ejercen de cantera de las editoriales más grandes. Y eso es así porque una editorial más grande, por los recursos que tiene a su disposición, porque puede invertir más en marketing, porque tiene una red comercial más desarrollada, puede ser capaz de que un escritor con una obra interesante llegue a un público muchísimo más amplio. Porcentajes, no me atrevería a decirte, pero sí que puede ser bastante importante.

Sergio Angulo: —Ahora que has hablado de editoriales grandes, ¿qué te parecen estos premios literarios que ofrecen a veces las editoriales más grandes? Mueven un montón de dinero y tienen una difusión enorme, pero últimamente tienen mala reputación porque se entregan los premios antes de que falle el jurado…

Miguel Aguilar: —Pues mira, me hace gracia lo de «últimamente» porque hace poco, Malcolm Otero, que estaba en esta silla hace un rato, recordaba que se celebraban los 49 años (no sé por qué no esperaron a los 50) de las conversaciones de Formentor, que eran unas conversaciones poéticas y literarias que se celebraban en el Hotel Formentor, en Mallorca, y que tuvieron cierta continuidad y dieron pie al Premio Formentor y al Premio Internacional de la Edición, que fueron premios muy importantes a nivel internacional a finales de los 50 y principios de los 60. Y entre varias otras cosas, había una entrevista a Carlos Barral, abuelo de Malcolm. Yo creo que debía ser el año 63 o 64, y en ella ya arremetía contra los premios literarios como una vergonzosa plataforma de marketing y de ventas. Con lo cual, la mala reputación de estos premios no es reciente, es de hace mucho tiempo.

Creo que hay que distinguir entre los premios que son a obra publicada: el Premio Nacional de Ensayo, Premio Nacional de Literatura, el Premio Salambó, por ejemplo, que se concede en Barcelona… y los premios a obra sin publicar, que es un poco una peculiaridad de España. Otros países no tienen este tipo de premios. Los premios que se dan a obras sin publicar, hay que considerarlos más bien como una plataforma de lanzamiento, más que como un reconocimiento de una calidad intrínseca. Y como tal, yo creo que sirven para llamar la atención de los lectores sobre una obra determinada. ¿Es criticable? Pues hombre, yo personalmente creo que no. Siendo parte de la industria, me cuesta entender que sea problemático eso. Tampoco me parece que sea un engaño a los lectores. Los lectores saben lo que hay detrás del Premio Planeta, o detrás del Premio Torrevieja, etc. No creo que nadie pueda sorprenderse de que, año tras año, los ganadores sean gente muy conocida y con muchas perspectivas de venta. En ese sentido, me parece que lo que hay que saber es que, en cuanto a reconocimiento de la calidad literaria, no son las mejores guías y, sin embargo, sí que hay otros premios que aportan eso.

Sergio Angulo: —En tu faceta como traductor, has traducido ensayos de un autor que a mí me gusta mucho, George Orwell. En George Orwell, a veces es difícil ver esa línea entre lo que es ficción y lo que es periodismo. ¿Está ese tipo de periodismo volviendo a ponerse de moda?

Miguel Aguilar: —Es curioso porque en Orwell, en principio, (Kapuscinski es otro caso semejante) parece que todo es de una fidelidad absoluta a los hechos y a lo que ha ocurrido. Y luego, si empiezas a escarbar, siempre, inevitablemente, encuentras que hay algún detalle que ha limado. Tanto en Homenaje a Cataluña como en Sin blanca en París y Londres.Son dos libros que, si bien parecen testimonios totalmente reales de lo que ocurrió, los biógrafos de Orwell han ido encontrando pequeñas inexactitudes y pequeños detalles que no terminan de encajar del todo.

Pienso que es un periodismo que no necesariamente es que esté volviendo, es que nunca desapareció del todo, y quizá lo que sí que está volviendo es una necesidad de la gente de tener relatos de la realidad más verídicos. Yo creo que el ensayo ha pasado por una temporada bastante dura, poco atractiva para los lectores, y ese tipo de ensayo sí está volviendo ahora. Sospecho que tiene que ver con la crisis económica, con la situación de preocupación generalizada por el mundo en el que estamos y hacia el que nos dirigimos. Necesitamos voces que nos cuenten qué es lo que está pasando, y eso es algo que Orwell hizo muy bien en los años 30, que Kapuscinski, en sus maravillosas crónicas de América Latina de los 70, por ejemplo, o sus crónicas sobre África y la Unión Soviética, hizo muy bien también… Me parece que está volviendo a haber un público más amplio. No sé si es tanto porque antes no se hacía, o porque ahora sí que tiene más audiencia ese tipo de periodismo.

Sergio Angulo: —Con Internet, que hace que las noticias se actualicen cada minuto, a lo mejor ese tipo de periodismo tiene ahora más lugar en la prensa escrita y las noticias pasan a un lugar digital.

Miguel Aguilar: —Sí, yo creo que sin duda eso es una consecuencia lógica de lo que dices. Es imposible que un periódico dé una noticia, porque todo el mundo la conoce ya. Incluso, en muchas ocasiones, si consultas Internet por la noche, te despiertas a la mañana siguiente, lees el periódico y te da la sensación de que ya lo has leído todo. Y efectivamente, son esas crónicas, o esos artículos de opinión, los que deberían aparecer en los periódicos en papel, para aportar ese valor y ese carácter diferencial. Porque si no, no pueden competir. Es imposible competir contra un medio que tiene la inmediatez de la radio, más el carácter visual de la televisión. En fin, lo tiene absolutamente todo, y lo único que puedes hacer es aportar ese tipo de voces y de experiencias que en Internet se pierden por el maremágnum.

Sergio Angulo: —¿Y crees que llegará el momento en que habrá una diferencia total entre la prensa escrita, tirando hacia la literatura o hacia ese tipo de periodismo, y la digital, dedicada solo a las noticias?

Miguel Aguilar: —Creo que es posible que se especialicen, que aparezcan fenómenos en papel más cuidados, más seleccionados quizá. Pero lo que me cuesta ver es que nada que haya en papel no exista también en Internet. Por ejemplo, hay una revista que no sé si circula también por el Cervantes de Dublín que se llama Jot Down, que es una revista cultural española que tiene articulistas muy buenos. Ahí firma gente como Azúa, como Savater, como Enric González, como Manuel Jabois… Hasta ahora era solo digital, pero va a sacar un número en papel con lo mejor que ha aparecido en digital. Va a ser un número bastante amplio, como cuatrocientas páginas, y se va a vender como un libro. Yo sí veo ese tipo de edición para coleccionistas en papel de aquello que ha salido en digital. Pero por la propia facilidad de la tecnología, me cuesta ver que haya cosas en papel que no aparezcan también en digital.

Sergio Angulo: —Sobre tu faceta de traductor otra vez. ¿Cómo lidia un traductor con los aspectos culturales implícitos en el texto? ¿Tiene a veces que hacer una investigación?

Miguel Aguilar: —Sí, es conveniente. También estás traduciendo para el lector de tu propia época, con lo cual, muchas veces, es mejor tirar de notas al pie, intentar dar un poco el contexto más que reflejarlo en la propia traducción. En el caso de Connolly, que es probablemente el libro que más me ha gustado traducir, es una antología de casi 900 páginas con artículos sobre todo tipo de temas culturales y un marco referencial amplísimo porque era un licenciado en Clásicas en Oxford, con lo cual, las referencias clásicas, por ejemplo, eran frecuentísimas. Y probablemente, para el público al que él escribía esas crónicas, que era un público culto de los años 30 y 40, eran más familiares, pero para un lector español del 2005, que es cuando salió el libro, eran totalmente remotas e incomprensibles. Entonces yo creo que hay que intentar acompañar un poco al lector, darle un poco de apoyo, pero tampoco atosigarle con ese contexto cultural. Hay que dejar también que se defienda un poco, que si hay cosas que le interesan, pueda investigar. Además, antiguamente la Espasa solo la tenía cierta gente, pero ahora, entrar en Google es bastante sencillo y relativamente fiable.

Sergio Angulo: —Para un joven escritor que está empezando a escribir y quiere empezar a publicar, ¿qué le aconsejarías como editor? ¿Dirigirse a una pequeña editorial? ¿Empezar con premios?

Miguel Aguilar: —Bueno, hay muchos premios regionales y de ayuntamientos que están muy bien y que no suponen la plataforma de promoción de las que hablábamos antes, pero que siempre son un camino, y desde luego, todo lo que sea aproximarse a editoriales grandes o pequeñas está bien. Trabar contacto con ellas, poder colaborar como lectores o como correctores, o lo que sea, y ver un poco cómo es ese mundo, que no es particularmente hostil. Al revés, yo creo que es bastante acogedor. No sé si todo el mundo opina igual, pero es mi opinión. Eso siempre da un poco de confianza y de facilidad a la hora de presentar un manuscrito.

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Interview with Miguel Aguilar

Miguel Aguilar: Small Publishing Houses Often Act as a Source for Larger Publishers

Miguel Aguilar

Interview with Miguel Aguilar held on 29th May 2012 at the Dámaso Alonso Library of the Instituto Cervantes Dublin in connection with his participation in the “Tribute to Félix Romeo”, with Luis Alegre, Malcolm Otero Barral, Ignacio Martínez de Pisón and David Trueba.

Miguel Aguilar (Madrid, 1976) has held the position of Director of the Debate Publishing Company since 2006. He has previously been editor at Random House Mondadori and of non-fiction works at Tusquets. As a translator, he has published an anthology of Cyril Connolly, Selected Works (Lumen, Barcelona, 2005), and George Orwell, Orwell journalist (Global Rhythm Press, Barcelona 2006).

Sergio Angulo: —Miguel, I’d like you to explain to us what the work of an editor entails.

Miguel Aguilar: —The work of an editor has two parts. On the one hand, you act as a filter for all the different book proposals, novels, essays, for the different authors who are in circulation and approach you directly or come through agents. You have to select those that seem most interesting. That’s just the first half. On the second hand, you act as a spokesperson for what you have selected, what you have filtered. You try to spread it to as many people as possible, try to create the best cover, edit it well, give the best press coverage and present it in the best possible light to booksellers. In short, you try to reach the readers, who are ultimately the ones who will decide if they like the book or not – the things that you’ve selected.

Sergio Angulo: —What kind of jobs are in a publishing house? Translators, proofreaders, editors…

Miguel Aguilar: —Well, there are many tasks that are outsourced. For example, translators and editors are often freelance. The most important section is the Managing Editorial Department, which is responsible for the selection of titles and overseeing the whole process. There’s also the Contracts and Legal Department, which is very important because it’s responsible for all the legal paperwork of the books that are being published and also, in many cases, for the sale of the translation rights to other publishers in other countries, the transfer of collections to newstands, hire-purchase contracts or book clubs…

You have the Editorial Department which oversees the layout of books and the editing of texts to avoid misprints, so that everything is well written and well formatted. The Creative Department is responsible for the graphics, the covers, the illustrations etc. Then you have the Production Department, which is more industrial and has to do with paper and ink, with printing, with the production and making of books. The Sales and Marketing Department is directly in charge of marketing. Marketing has a role in encouraging the booksellers, especially, to sell them copies of the books and stay on top of things. The Sales Department are the people who go to bookstores and get the bookseller to buy five copies of this book, or twenty of the next. Finally, there’s the Press Department, which, as its name suggests, deals with the media in order to achieve as much publicity as possible for publications.

Sergio Angulo: —What’s the impact of a good editor on the final work of an author?

Miguel Aguilar: —The quality of the final work is basically the author’s responsibility. There are very famous relationships. Maxwell Perkins may be the finest example. He was an American editor who was the editor of F. Scott Fitzgerald. In fact, the prize of the Association of American Publishers is named the Maxwell Perkins Award. They are editors who become really involved with the text and are able to convince the author to change things. But I think an editor contributes mostly, not to the quality of the work itself, but to the impact it can have. I think an editor is able to ensure that a good writer reaches a much wider audience.

There is a simile which is a bit cruel but it does contain some truth, which is that small publishing houses often act as a source for larger publishers. This is because a larger publisher has more resources at its disposal, can invest more in marketing, and because it has a more developed commercial network, it is able to ensure that a writer with interesting work reaches a much wider audience. I wouldn’t dare tell you about percentages, but they can be quite significant.

Sergio Angulo: —Now that you’ve mentioned big publishers, what do you think of these literary prizes sometimes offered by the larger publishers? They involve a lot of money and have a vast reach, but lately they’ve gotten a bad reputation because the winners are known before the jury has made its decision…

Miguel Aguilar: —Well, I think it’s funny to say “lately” as not long ago, Malcolm Otero, who was sitting in this chair, remembered that the 49th anniversary of the Formentor Talks was commemorated (I’m not sure why they didn’t wait to celebrate the 50th anniversary). They were poetic and literary talks that were held at the Hotel Formentor in Mallorca and continued on from there, giving rise to the Formentor Award and the International Editing Award, which were major international awards in the late ’50s and early ’60s. And amongst other things, there was an interview with Carlos Barral, Malcolm’s grandfather. I think it was around 1963 or 1964, when he criticized literary prizes as a shameful platform for marketing and sales. So you can see, the bad reputation surrounding the awards is not recent, it goes way back.

I think you have to distinguish between awards that are given to books that have already been published: the National Essay Prize, the National Book Award, the Salambó Award, for example, awarded in Barcelona… and awards for unpublished work, which is a bit of a peculiarity in Spain. Other countries have no such awards. The awards given to unpublished works are to be regarded as a launching pad, rather than a recognition of an intrinsic quality. In this way, I think they suceed in drawing the attention of readers to a particular work. Is it something questionable? Well, I don’t think it is. Being part of the industry, I don’t find it problematic. Nor do I think it is misleading to readers. Readers know what is behind the Planeta Award or behind the Torrevieja Award, etc. I don’t think anyone can be surprised that, year after year, the winners are well known writers with many sales prospects. In that sense, I think that what you need to know is that, in terms of literary quality, they are not the best guides and yet, there are other awards that provide that.

Sergio Angulo: —In your role as a translator, you have translated essays of an author that I like a lot, George Orwell. In George Orwell, it is sometimes difficult to see the line between what is fiction and what is journalism. Is this kind of journalism coming back into fashion?

Miguel Aguilar: —It’s funny because in Orwell, in principle, (Kapuscinski is a similar case) it seems that everything is an absolutely faithful to the facts and to what happened. But then, if you start digging, you always, inevitably, find that there is something that has been polished. It happens both in Homage to Catalonia and Down and Out in Paris and London. These are two books that even though they seem completely real testimonies of what happened, Orwell’s biographers have found small inaccuracies and small details that do not quite fit.

I think it’s a kind of journalism that’s not necessarily coming back. It never disappeared completely. Perhaps, what is coming back is people’s need to have stories of true reality. I think the essay has gone through a pretty tough time, as it was unattractive to readers, but this kind of essay is certainly coming back. I suspect it has to do with the economic crisis, the situation of general concern about the world in which we are living and where we are headed. We need voices that tell us what is going on, and that’s something that Orwell did very well in the ’30s. Kapuscinski did well too in his wonderful chronicles of Latin America of the ’70s, for example, or in his book on Africa and the Soviet Union. I think it’s gaining a wider audience again. I don’t know if it’s because it wasn’t done before or because now there is an audience for that kind of journalism.

Sergio Angulo: —With the Internet, the news is updated every minute. Maybe this kind of journalism is more common in the press now and the news has moved to the digital space.

Miguel Aguilar: —Yes, I think that’s definitely a logical conclusion. It’s impossible for a newspaper to break a story, because everybody knows about it already. More and more often, even if you check the Internet at night, you wake up the next morning, read the paper and you get the feeling that you’ve already read everything. And of course, those chronicles or opinion pieces should appear in the newspapers, on paper, to provide that value and distinct character, because if they don’t, they can’t compete. It’s impossible to compete against a media that has the immediacy of radio plus the visual character of television. In a nutshell, it has everything, and all you can do is bring to the Internet the kind of voice and experiences that are lost in thewelter.

Sergio Angulo: —Do you think this will eventually lead to a total separation between the printed press, focussed on literature or that kind of journalism, and the digital press focussed only on the news?

Miguel Aguilar: —I think they might specialise and new paper products will be produced, more selective perhaps. But what I don’t envision is that there are things that exist on paper that don’t appear on the Internet as well. For example, there is a magazine called Jot Down. It’s a Spanish cultural magazine that has very good writers. These include Azúa, Savater, Enric González, and Manuel Jabois… Until now, it was only digital, but they plan to publish a collection of their best digital content. It will be a fairly big issue of around four hundred pages and will be sold as a book. I forsee this type of collector’s edition of digitally published material, but because technology is so easy to work with, it’s difficult for me to comprehend that there are things made of paper that don’t exist in the digital world as well.

Sergio Angulo: —In connection with your role as a translator, how do you deal with the cultural aspects implicit in a text? Do you ever have to do some research?

Miguel Aguilar: —Yes, it is advisable. You’re also translating for the reader of your own time so it’s better to include footnotes and try to give a little context instead of basing it on the translation itself. This was the case with Connolly, which is probably the translation I enjoyed the most. It’s an anthology of nearly 900 pages with articles on all kinds of cultural issues and a huge frame of reference. As he had a degree in Classics from Oxford, the classical references, for example, were numerous. Also, the audience he was writing for in the ’30s and ’40s was probably more familiar, but for a Spanish reader in 2005, when the book came out, the stories were totally remote and incomprehensible. So I think we should try to accompany the readers a little, give them a little support, but not overwhelm them with too much cultural context. We should also give them more freedom to explore things that they find interesting. Before only certain people had the Espasa (Spanish encyclopedia), but now it’s quite simple to use Google and it’s relatively reliable.

Sergio Angulo: —What would you recommend for a young writer who is starting out to write and wants to publish? What would you advise as an editor? Going to a small publishing house? Trying to win prizes?

Miguel Aguilar: —Well, there are many regional and municipal awards that are very good. They are not the promotional routes we were talking about before but they are still an option and whatever way it’s used to approach big or small publishing companies, it’s a good thing. Making contact with them, being able to collaborate as readers or proofreaders, and seeing how that world works a little bit – a world that’s not particularly hostile. On the contrary, I think it’s quite welcoming. I don’t know if everybody has the same opinion but that’s my opinion. That always gives you a little confidence and ease when submitting a manuscript.

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Interview with Ignacio Martínez de Pisón

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: A Writer Seeks to Explain Conflicts

Ignacio Martinez de Pison

 

Interview with Ignacio Martínez de Pisón held on 29th May 2012 at the Dámaso Alonso Library of the Instituto Cervantes in Dublin in connection with his participation in the “Tribute to Félix Romeo”, with Miguel Aguilar, Luis Alegre, Malcolm Otero Barral and David Trueba.

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón (Zaragoza, 1960) holds a degree in Italian and Hispanic Studies and has lived in Barcelona since 1982. He writes novels and short stories, as well as screenplays, articles for different newspapers and literary criticism. His novels have been translated into a dozen languages​​. These include La ternura del dragón (1984), Carreteras secundarias (1996), Enterrar a los muertos (2005; To Bury the Dead, Parthian, 2009), Dientes de leche(2008), and El día de mañana (2011), which won the Premio de la Crítica prize for Spanish fiction 2011 and the City of Barcelona award in 2012. In 2011, he also received the Premio de las Letras Aragonesas prize.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Ignacio, let’s start by remembering Félix’s character. What was he like as a person as a writer?

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —When I met Félix, he was a boy. He was already a gigantic boy, a boy who knew everything and had read everything. He was about seventeen years old, I think. Even then, he collaborated with newspapers in Zaragoza, as well as magazines, and wrote reviews. I was surprised that a guy so young had read so many books, and so I didn´t trust him. I thought, “This boy can’t have read everything”. But gradually I discovered that he actually had read everything, everything he said and much more. There were many more books he didn’t talk about, that I would later discover he had read. In time, I came to think he had some mental illness, that one guy couldn’t have the head to read so much – so much to know, so much to master, so many fields of knowledge. And he was like that. I really think he had, like Valle-Inclán said, “a privileged skull”.

Carmen Sanjulián: —What do you miss the most about his absence?

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —I miss the person. Félix was very invasive, in the best sense of the term. He was someone who entered your life, your work, who changed you. He changed you for the better. He intervened in the lives of others to make us as good as we were capable of being. And also, he was a great friend. He was one of those guys you could always trust. Truly, the void someone leaves is felt. The pain Félix’s death left was tremendous. There are many people, many writers, many friends, many intellectuals who felt his death because he was like a reference, the person you could always turn to if you had questions about a title, about a topic, about reading material or a movie. Félix always had answers, answers for everything. His ideas were always very clear. Faced with the usual uncertainties of others, Félix was there and always had a straightforward answer to help you clear your head.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Félix was one of the people you used to give your manuscripts to, and you have admitted that he changed, or helped you to change, the ending of El día de mañana.

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —His influence was felt in the books of many friends, and certainly in mine. When writing To Bury the Dead, he was one of my regular advisers, who gave me references for my bibliography and provided ideas and points of view. In Dientes de leche, I made use of a story of his, a story about his father, who was a city policeman in Zaragoza, and was obliged to act as an extra in a movie that was filmed there. The mayor forced all the policemen to act as extras in that movie. Félix told me a very nice story about how, many years later, he went with his then-girlfriend, Cristina Grande, and his parents, to see the movie, in which Zaragoza looked like a city in Northern Europe. As they were alone in the cinema, his parents commented aloud on certain things in the movie, “Look, that person is dead”, “that poor creature is sick”, “that guy, we don’t know anything about”, “this one stole some money”. And they kept on making comments about his former colleagues. As Félix was not going to make use of this anecdote in any of his books, I borrowed it for a little story in Dientes de leche.

El día de mañana is a novel I gave to him to read, before handing it over to my editor, and he said to me, “It’s very good, but the ending is superfluous. Those final explanatory pages are not very useful”. So naturally, I reduced it to a minimum. I took out about eight or ten pages because of what he said.

Carmen Sanjulián: —When someone starts reading about Ignacio Martínez de Pisón, one of the first things you read is “Ignacio Martínez de Pisón, writer from Zaragoza, belongs to the new narrative or the new narrators”. Do you feel comfortable with that label?

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —The new narrative is a phenomenon created in the eighties as a kind of historic fact. It was important to have a different type of literature than the kind written during Francoism. The democracy had to produce new names, new titles and new aesthetics. So the term stuck, and that term took in many of us writers, even though we had little in common. But the truth is, it was good for making us known.

I was lucky because it was a moment in which it was hoped a new generation would appear. So when I took some stories to Anagrama, they immediately said yes because of that need for new writers, writers emerging after Franco’s death. But it was one of those fleeting labels that is useful at a certain moment in time, for making a group of writers known, Then the label disappears. However, many of those writers have remained. Soledad Puértolas, Julio Llamazares, Enrique Vila-Matas and myself, were all with that label. There was a group of writers who continued on, but others ended up disappearing along the way, as often happens in the world of literature.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Family is one of the constant topics in your books, and you speak about family with conflicts. Are there any families without conflicts?

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —I doubt such a thing exists. Not even the concept seems imaginable. I get the feeling that family is the sphere in which conflicts multiply or amplify, and therefore, it´s the ideal sphere for a writer, because a writer strives to discuss conflict.

Carmen Sanjulián: —So the idea about happy families…?

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: No, Tolstoy already covered that.

Carmen Sanjulián: —You have been writing and publishing for over 25 years. The topics are endless.

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —It’s been a long time – my first book came out in 1984. It’s been almost 28 years since my career as a writer began. It’s true that, even though you never know what your next book is going to be, the ideas come to you. There are many things that have to be told, that expect to be told, and the only thing you have to do is be alert, be vigilant the moment an idea crosses your path and offers itself to you. Even now, I don’t know what my next novel will be, the one after the novel I’m writing now – what it´s about or how it will turn out ?.Nevertheless, I’m sure when I finish the novel I’m writing, an idea will come to me immediately.

Carmen Sanjulián: —How have you evolved from when you started up to now?

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —When I started, discussing realism was like speaking about transient literature, literature from the past, fluffy literature, and no writer from the eighties wanted to be a realist writer. In time, I came to realize that I actually was a realist writer. I had a tendency to write stories well rooted in reality, close to my life, close to the places I live or have lived, and more and more, my books started resembling me and my own life. So the biggest change in my biography as a writer is that my literature began strongly resembling the realist tradition.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Have you experienced the same evolution as a reader?

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: I’m much more open as a reader. There are many kinds of books I like, that I would never be able to write or even attempt. I find the aesthetics of many writers, that differ from mine, interesting too. Although it´s something alien to me, it´s also quite interesting. In spite of everything, it’s true that you always seek to nourish yourself with the voices closest to you. Maybe that’s why, in the past ten or fifteen years, I´ve mostly read North-American literature, which probably has the most powerful realist tradition.

Carmen Sanjulián: —What does Zaragoza mean to you?

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —Zaragoza is the city where I was born, where I spent my formative years as a person, and therefore, it’s the most important city of my life, even though it’s not necessarily the city I’ve spent most of my time in. In fact, I’ve been living in Barcelona for many more years. But it’s inevitable for my characters to go back to Zaragoza. I constantly return to Zaragoza through my books and through my characters.

Carmen Sanjulián: —There are some writers who say they refuse awards. Is that only act? Deep down, does everybody like to get recognition in the form of awards?

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —Well, you always like it. You always like when you get told that someone liked one of your books. If it’s one of those awards where you don’t present yourself but you get a phone call and they tell you, “Look, we decided to give out this award or that one. We have come together, and we decided your book is the one we liked the best in the past few months, or the past year”. It’s one of those things that helps you to keep going. There’s another reason to keep on writing.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Javier Barreiro was here a few months ago and he said Aragón is particularly tough on its sons. But not in your case.

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —No. I don’t think it’s like that. I think Aragón has been very kind to its artists. The fact that some of them had to leave in order to develop their careers away from Aragón is part of the logic. I mean, the fact that the best filmmakers from Aragón have made their careers outside of Aragón is logical, because there is no film industry in Aragón. I think there are very good writers from Aragón who still live there, and there are some who live away, but I don’t think there is any reason to think Aragón is that bad. No. On the contrary, I feel very well treated and very loved in Aragón, and indeed, very rewarded by the awards I’ve received there.

Recommended links

About Félix Romeo

< List of interviews

Interview with Luis Alegre and David Trueba

Luis Alegre and David Trueba: Ireland Proves that the Great Legacy of a Country is its Culture

Luis Alegre David Trueba

 

Interview with Luis Alegre and David Trueba held on the 29th May 2012 at the Dámaso Alonso Library of the Instituto Cervantes in Dublin in association with their participation in the “Tribute to Félix Romeo”, with Miguel Aguilar, Malcolm Otero Barral and Ignacio Martínez de Pisón, and the film screening Fernando’s Chair.

Luis Alegre (Lechago, Teruel, 1962) is a versatile writer, journalist, film maker and television presenter. Since the ’80s, he has worked with different types of media. As an essayist, he has published Besos robados. Pasiones de cine (1994), El apartamento; Belle Époque (1997), Vicente Aranda: la vida con encuadre (2002), Maribel Verdú: la novia soñada (2003); and as an editor, Diálogos de Salamina: un paseo por el cine y la literatura (2003), among others works. In 2006 he directed the documentary film La silla de Fernando, a conversation with Fernando Fernán Gómez, with David Trueba, which was nominated in 2007 for Best Documentary Film at the Goya Awards.

David Trueba (Madrid, 1969) is a writer, journalist, screenwriter and film director. He started out as a screenwriter with Amo tu cama rica (1991) and Los peores años de nuestra vida (1994), he directed his first film, La buena vida, in 1996, followed by Obra maestra (2000), Soldados de Salamina (2002), the film adaptation of the novel by Javier Cercas, Bienvenido a casa (2005), La silla de Fernando (2006) with Luis Alegre, Madrid 1987 (2011), and Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados (2013). As a novelist, he has published Abierto toda la noche (1995), Cuatro amigos (1999) and Saber perder (2008), winner of the National Critics Award that same year. His novels have been translated into more than fifteen languages.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Let’s start with the tribute to Félix Romeo. When a friend passes away, he obviously leaves an emptiness that is extremely difficult or impossible to fill. I would like you to tell me what kind of hole Félix has left in your life?

Luis Alegre: —Félix left an enormous hole, immense, but even more so, because it was a traumatic loss, it was totally unexpected, I think we haven’t wrapped our minds around the idea that he’s gone. When someone who’s eighty-something years old, who you love very much, passes away, you perceive it as a normal part of life, and you accept it in a way. But in the case of Félix Romeo it has been a kind of nightmare for all of us who loved him. And also, I think it’s a very significant loss for Spanish culture because he was one of the most original, freest, overwhelming personalities that existed.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Yesterday you mentioned that one of Felix’s vindications was love, that you had to vindicate love and that he had the mantra “¡viva el amor!”. Do you carry on that legacy of vindicating love?

David Trueba: —Especially Luis.

Luis Alegre: —It’s very easy to share that vindication, but the thing is that Félix did it so vehemently, with such passion, such constancy and such joy that it was really impressive. He loved love very much, loved joy, loved life, loved freedom, loved beauty, culture, loved the best things in this world, the best things in people, as we all love them, but he did it with his own personality and with his style, that was very peculiar and very attractive and very funny as well.

David Trueba: —Yes, I think there is a misunderstanding in a certain part of society about culture, art, in the sense that it has to be something boring, tiresome, that provokes a certain seriousness, a certain solemnity in people who approach it from the outside, or in those who create it. But we always shared the same vision about that, which was that we dedicated ourselves to these things because they brought us enormous pleasure, they brought us enormous joy. We thought the best thing we could offer and dedicate to society, was our work, our inventions, our films, our books, our passion for something we read or heard or discovered in an exhibition. We never understood the association of culture with the tiresome, the boring, with complaints.

He represented exactly that, a calling for joy, for pleasure – to give that pleasure to others and not have any complex regarding other professions or dedications, which may have more emotional stability, more work stability, but in spite of that, they certainly can’t provide the moments of happiness that we experienced. In this way, he was truly and absolutely a militant and an apostle of joy, of happiness, of the need to love each other, caring, preaching it and at the same time, streesing the need to do our job as a manifestation of that joy. In this way, I think we are still faithful to it, it won’t be easy to take it away from us.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Let’s move on to another friend, to Fernando Fernán Gómez. You both directed La silla de Fernando, a film that was made in several months.

Luis Alegre: —Those who know a little about Spanish culture know that Fernando Fernán Gómez was one of the key personalities of Spanish cultural history of the 20th Century from many different points of view – as an actor (his most popular facet) but also as a film director, writer, theatre director, stage actor, as a memoir writer, as a television producer and scriptwriter and TV actor. Ultimately, he is one of the most multi-faceted personalities who has contributed to a significant part of the arts of the 20th Century. He’s a kind of synthesis of everything.

In each one of those genres he has created key works: in film, in theatre, television and literature. We are among the many admirers he has, those who recognize the importance of Fernando Fernán Gómez in terms of Spanish culture. But there was something that especially seduced David and myself, as it did for many of his friends. It was his wonderful way of seeing life and his incredible way of explaining it. We could see he had a gift for communicating the ways in which he experienced life and  the things that happened to him. We thought his art could only be enjoyed by those of us who knew him and enjoyed his friendship. We got the idea of making a film to try and convey our fascination to everybody who watched it. We wanted to communicate the very unique art of speaking, of sharing things about life, and to acknowledge a way, which for us is almost revolutionary, of understanding the world and life itself.

David Trueba: —Yes, it’s a film that has brought us enormous enjoyment. A big box office success wouldn’t have brought us as much satisfaction as this movie. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, we can see the pleasure it evokes in the people who watch it, which is what we were ultimately looking for – to recreate the experience of talking with Fernando, of having a long talk with him across the table, about the divine and the human. Also, because it was a project of ours for a long time, an idea we fantasized about, but there was always some reluctance. We thought, “Well, a film about a man talking, we won’t do that”. At the same time, we thought “We have to do it because we´ll regret not doing it for the rest of our lives when Fernando is gone”. And the satisfaction of now being able to say, “We did it”, was worth it. We didn’t abandon a project, we didn’t leave it only as an idea, we didn’t leave it as something we talked about and never accomplished – we did it. Even better, he came to see it himself and I think it brought him great joy to see it with us that day. That’s how I can tell you, if we counted all our achievements, there are few things we’ve accomplished in life that have brought so much joy.

Carmen Sanjulián: —And it was very well received. I was recently reading a review and the critic gave you nine out of ten and said “nine because it’s short”. Did you have to cut a lot of material? Do you have enough footage for another movie?

Luis Alegre: —We recorded, more or less, twenty hours of conversation with him.  No matter how fascinating, we had to keep in mind that it was just a guy talking, so in the end we settled for a duration of eighty-five minutes, which is the average length of a conventional film. Of course, we left out a lot of footage. Some of that footage was included in the extras on the DVD, but we were forced to leave out a lot of footage.

David Trueba: —It was a very hard film to edit because we were very demanding. We had to make sure that it didn´t become boring or tiresome for the viewer. We wanted it to be a movie were people would be left, like the critic said, wanting more. We wanted them to come out saying, “well, I could have watched that for an hour longer”.

The person who gives us an hour and a half of their time, to watch something we make, deserves the best possible treatment. So the editing was very hard. We were asking ourselves for a long time, “Should this piece be cut or not?”, “Let’s think about it, because this goes well here, but this is too long”, etc. So we spent a lot of time polishing it and left out things out about Fernando’s profession because we didn’t want it to dominate the film. So thanks to very careful editing of the DVD, we were able to include two extra hours of footage, for those (and luckily there were many) who watched the hour and a half of La silla de Fernando and thought, “I’d like to hear more of Fernando’s opinions about this or that”. They now have the option of watching it there.

But for us, the film is the way it is and that’s the way it has to be. We always said, when we were presenting it, that it was a very spectacular film for us, because Fernando was a spectacle that was extremely difficult to recreate. Fernando was a juggler of words, of conversation, and also a person who recounts 20th Century Spain in a completely indirect way in this film, and yet it’s as clear, if not more so, than most history books.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Do you have another protagonist you’d like to put in the spotlight?

David Trueba: —That’s extremely difficult because that spot is unique. What we do have, since we had such a good time working together, is a another project, with Luis and myself collaborating again but in a format that exploits all of Luis’s qualities as a collaborator, his skill as a great interviewer, a person with enormous curiosity, who people naturally trust.

Every now and then we think about the idea of getting together again and working with one of those rare characters in Spain, who can not only tell us something interesting about themselves but also shed some light on our world, our country, our culture, the way we are now or our evolution over the last few years. What happens with those projects in the end? Well, the best thing to do is not to mess with them until you actually do it. The one with Fernando Fernán Gómez, for example, was something we never mentioned. It was something we had inside but until you do it, the best thing is not to mention it.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Since we´re in Ireland, a country where many movies have been made, maybe you could even come here?

David Trueba: —Of course, Ireland is a mythical place for us. Not only for the great literature, great music and great cinema it has given us, which has also inpired countless directors in the US. But it also proves something we have been insisting on for a long time in Spain, that the great legacy of a country is its culture, nothing else. It’s not its economy, which is ambivalent as it rises and falls. It’s not, of course, its military prowess, nor its industry, The great legacy of a country, its big personality or large flag, is what it leaves behind culturally.

When you visit Ireland, or Dublin, which has been a pleasure for us, , you discover that the thing the Irish can probably be proudest of is their poets, their writers and the sense of identity they have as a country, much more than other ideas the world of politics or the media try to sell to us.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Speaking of Ireland, a few days ago, I was listening to the radio and heard the question “If anyone had ever been stuck in a bathroom?”. Oddly enough, you can’t imagine how many people called in saying that they had. There were all kinds of anecdotes.

Luis Alegre: —I got stuck in a bathroom once as a child, now that you mention it. Yes, I think we all have in our history a moment in which we have been stuck in a bathroom.

Carmen Sanjulián: —It reminded me, of course, of your movie, Madrid 1987, which has been really successful. Is it based on a real story, did somebody tell you this?

David Trueba: —It’s based on a real anecdote about two people who got stuck in a bathroom, similar to the characters in the film. After that, everything was recreated, invented, the characters are completely fictitious. But it´s curious because in Spain, as well, after the movie, loads of people told me their experiences, not only about getting stuck somewhere, but also about the relationships between two people of very different ages. It’s very interesting how movies urge people to tell you their personal experiences and one of the things I´ve enjoyed most is that the film conveys the experiences of many people. Sometimes people say to you, “that’s impossible”, “that can’t happen”, “that can’t be”, and you say “if I told you the number of stories I’ve been told over the last few months…”

Carmen Sanjulián: —Lastly, I love the beginning of the book Cuatro amigos, about things that are overrated. Should we add anything else to that fantastic list? Should we cross anything off? What do you think?

David Trueba: —Well, I think, unfortunately, there are many overrated things in life. The ones that worry me the most are those that make people’s lives difficult. Because in the end, overvaluing something becomes a part of a person´s way of life. It´s true that you give importance to some things and that’s how it should be, but what worries me is when overvaluing something makes us unhappy, makes life difficult. In that sense, I think the last few years have taught us that money, as much as everybody insisted on it, from the stories we were told, from our parents, etc… well, it´s obviously been proven that money is not the most important thing in life. It´s more important to fill your life with things that make you feel alive.

It´s true that everyday I find more overrated things, as well as things that are undervalued. People don’t realize how important friendship is, how important giving pleasure to others is, how important it is to have a culture, an interior life that allows you to bear the loneliness, that allows you to bear the path of life that typically leads to decline, etc. People pay little attention to all these values in life, and in the end, they are everything.

Recommended links

·        About Félix Romeo
·        About Fernando Fernán Gómez

< List of interviews

Interview with Malcolm Barral

Malcolm Barral: We would love Everyone to Read Ulysses

Malcolm Barral

 

Interview with Malcolm Barral, on the 29th May 2012, at the Dámaso Alonso Library of the Instituto Cervantes in Dublin, in association with his participation in the “Tribute to Félix Romeo”, with Miguel Aguilar, Luis Alegre, Ignacio Martínez de Pisón and David Trueba.

Malcolm Barral (Barcelona, 1973) is an editor, columnist and writer. He began his publishing career in a number of small publishing houses in Madrid, moving onto Ediciones del Bronce and Columna Edicions. Within the Planet Group, he managed the fiction collection of Destino and, later, the Spanish fiction collection of RBA. In 2008, he left RBA to create Barril & Barral with the publisher Joan Barril. He is a member of the Finnegans’ Order, which aims to appreciate James Joyce’s masterpiece, Ulysses.

Sergio Angulo: —Welcome to the Instituto Cervantes. Have you been here in Dublin before?

Malcolm Barral: —Yes I have, several times. In fact, I’m part of an absurd literary order that comes to Dublin every year for Bloomsday and we’ve performed here a few times – an act that was strange enough to be from our order.

Sergio Angulo: —To put this order into context, tell us about Joyce’s Ulysses and its transcendence in literature.

Malcolm Barral: —Our order has the purpose of venerating James Joyce’s Ulysses, which is one of the literary masterpieces of the 20th Century, but it also contains different elements from other notable works. Recently I saw an interview about Ulysses, where someone said “It’s a book of books, It’s a book with many different ways to be read.” But you can say that about almost any good work of literature.

I think Ulysses has its own unique elements. One is that the author is playing, romping or challenging the reader all the time, and then he is what you would call in English a “phonetic fanatic”. He is a fanatic of wordplays, so you are constantly trying to discover what play is there. It’s a book that requires special effort and promises a unique reward as sometimes it´s hilarious and sometimes clever. Obviously it’s a book, as I said before, with many different ways to be read and that is comforting from a literary point of view. But what I like, what we like particularly, is that humorous side, and so we created a somewhat humorous order around this book.

Sergio Angulo: —Bloomsday, which is June 16th, is the day when the events from the book take place and it’s celebrated here in Dublin, where people get involved, they dress up as the characters and all that. So you make a sort of pilgrimage to Dublin every year?

Malcolm Barral: —Every year, yes. Ulysses is the story of Leopold Bloom and his journey through Dublin on one day, the 16th of June. So every year Dublin dresses up in Edwardian clothing and celebrates the book with commemorative acts. We do everything backwards. The story of Ulysses begins at the Martello Tower in Dalkey, which is where we finish. We always begin at the James Joyce Centre, and then there’s a sort of public reading, where people from each country read, or actors read passages, fragments from Ulysses and we just come here in unison every year and say the last phrase of the sixth chapter that reads “Thank you. How grand we are this morning!”

Sergio Angulo: —What does it take to be a knight in this order?

Malcolm Barral: —It´s essential to be a little idiotic, It´s ultimately a literary order of friends. It’s a little like the Toledo Order of Buñuel, as it’s partly a parody of  other orders. It requires a love for the book, a commitment to come to Dublin every year for Bloomsday, an affinity for our sense of humour and being able to laugh at yourself a little.

Sergio Angulo: —I heard you have a ritual – the macabre practice of visiting Dublin cemetery?

Malcolm Barral: —Yes. We invented the order, so we invent the rituals too. One year we went to the cemetery, because it´s in Joyce’s Ulysses. We discovered the Gravediggers’ Pub, the pub where the gravediggers go, and instead of being a dismal and gloomy place, it had some terrific waitresses and was really fun. This contrast between a pub for gravedigger’s and how it really is, has made it an indispensable stop on our journey every year, in our Bloomsday odyssey.

Sergio Angulo: —How many members are there at the moment?

Malcolm Barral: —There´s 7 of us now. We usually add a new person every year, but this year we´re thinking of going on strike and not appointing anyone, because we like contradictions and we want to contradict ourselves all the time.

Sergio Angulo: —Are you all writers or related to it in some way?

Malcolm Barral: —Well, all but our last recruit. We found an Irish woman, dressed as an Edwardian, in the park and the six of us got on our knees and asked her to be part of the Order. She said yes. She’s Irish, and she’s a woman who dresses as an Edwardian on Bloomsday, and she’s a teacher.

Sergio Angulo: —But do you keep in touch?

Malcolm Barral: —Only through our writing. The others, they´re more than writers…yes, they are writers and people of culture, but the bond is one of friendship. We all knew each other before.

Sergio Angulo: —Do you have any missionary ambition? Do you want to preach the Ulysses doctrine?

Malcolm Barral: —Honestly, no. It doesn´t have that much importance. We´re simpy a group of eccentrics who go to Dublin every year to worship a book of six hundred pages, and that’s all we are. We would love if everybody read Ulysses, because that would mean the average reading comprehension level of Spanish people was very high. That’s not going to happen, but as long as the book industry doesn’t disappear, we’re happy.

Sergio Angulo: —In 2009, a journalist from The Irish Times carried out a field study to find out how many people who participated in Bloomsday, had actually read the entire book. Out of all the people he interviewed, he discovered only one person had read Ulysses from start to finish.

Malcolm Barral: —In our order it’s a requirement to have read it completely. But as we´re people of culture, this is no great feat. We´ve all read Ulysses. Some of us have even read it in two languages, no doubt. But I mean, if you ask in Spain, how many people have really read Don Quixote….it’s a famous story so, of course, everybody knows the details, but how many people have actually read the whole Don Quixote?

Sergio Angulo: —Do you think that Joyce’s work in general, but Ulysses particularly, is inaccessible to people?

Malcolm Barral: —Yes, it has a certain complexity because of its many cultural jokes, which makes reading it difficult in general. It also has wordplays. Especially in Spanish, as there are two translations and neither of them is perfect, because sometimes the wordplay are lost in transaltion, and it’s a really difficult book. Joyce was complicated. For example, Joyce wrote Finnegans Wake, which still hasn’t been translated, but can’t be understood in any language anyway. It’s incomprehensible. The challenge Joyce presents in Ulysses is not as extreme, but there are still little inside jokes and wordplays and obscure references. To get something out of a book like Ulysses you need a lot of time and concentration. I don’t know how many copies of Joyce have been sold in Spain, pobably a lot because it´s well recommended, but it’s definitely a difficult book.

Sergio Angulo: —Have you read it in both languages, English and Spanish?

Malcolm Barral: —Yes.

Sergio Angulo: —For a Spanish reader who speaks English, which do you recommend?

Malcolm Barral: —I read it in English, after reading it in Spanish, and had already explored some of the wordplays, which made it easier. There are two translations – one is from Valverde and the other from Salas Subirat. The latter, the first edition published by Santiago Rueda, is the best one. I think Valverde’s translation loses resonance, and because it doesn’t have that ”phonetic” quality I mentioned, that lyricism and phonetic purity, it loses something. It’s more literal, and perhaps more accurate, but it loses its charm.

Sergio Angulo: —Do you do anything else, as members of the Order? You know that you wrote a book of short stories. Have you done anything else apart from that?

Malcolm Barral: —We´re writing another book of short stories at the moment, which will be published next year. Besides this, we´ve done nothing else. Although we see each other during the year, it´s hardly ever all together. Eduardo Lago, who is one of the founders, lives in New York. Enrique Vila-Matas lives in Barcelona. I live in Barcelona too. Antonio Soler and Garriga Vela live in Málaga. Marcos Giralt lives in Madrid. Some of us see each other when we’re in the same place, at a festival or something. We’re all friends who see each other fairly frequently, but it’s difficult for us all to get together at the same time.

Sergio Angulo: —Do the short stories you have written have any relation to Ulysses?

Malcolm Barral: —That depends. The last one had a connection, more or less. In the short story I wrote, the character was named Leopoldo, a Joyce expert who travelled to Ireland and wanted to hook up with a girl that was with him on the plane. He was a hopeless guy, who was a little like me. But it’s not like a school essay, where you´re given the topic. The book simply served as a template.

At the moment, we´re writing a book about childhood, which I find more difficult to relate to Joyce. I don’t know if we’ll get there or not, but with a novel where so many things happen, you can always find a connection, of course, There’s alcoholism, the Jewish issue, infidelity… There are so many topics that you can always tell a story that has something in common.

Sergio Angulo: —Is Dubliners the easiest of Joyce’s books to begin with?

Malcolm Barral: —Yes, because Dubliners is a collection of short stories, I think it would be the easiest. The best initiation book for Joyce, let´s say. What you shouldn’t try is Finnegans Wake, because that really is… well we can´t be sure if it was a joke to leave us wondering for decades, what the hell Joyce wanted to say with that book?

Sergio Angulo: —Next Saturday, on June 16th, it’s Bloomsday. Will you be here?

Malcolm Barral: —Yes, of course.

Recommended links

< List of interviews

 

Interview with Luis Alegre and David Trueba

Luis Alegre and David Trueba: Ireland Proves that the Great Legacy of a Country is its CultureLuis Alegre David Trueba

Interview with Luis Alegre and David Trueba held on the 29th May 2012 at the Dámaso Alonso Library of the Instituto Cervantes in Dublin in association with their participation in the “Tribute to Félix Romeo”, with Miguel Aguilar, Malcolm Otero Barral and Ignacio Martínez de Pisón, and the film screening Fernando’s Chair.

Luis Alegre (Lechago, Teruel, 1962) is a versatile writer, journalist, film maker and television presenter. Since the ’80s, he has worked with different types of media. As an essayist, he has published Besos robados. Pasiones de cine (1994), El apartamento; Belle Époque (1997), Vicente Aranda: la vida con encuadre (2002), Maribel Verdú: la novia soñada (2003); and as an editor, Diálogos de Salamina: un paseo por el cine y la literatura (2003), among others works. In 2006 he directed the documentary film La silla de Fernando, a conversation with Fernando Fernán Gómez, with David Trueba, which was nominated in 2007 for Best Documentary Film at the Goya Awards.

David Trueba (Madrid, 1969) is a writer, journalist, screenwriter and film director. He started out as a screenwriter with Amo tu cama rica (1991) and Los peores años de nuestra vida (1994), he directed his first film, La buena vida, in 1996, followed by Obra maestra (2000), Soldados de Salamina (2002), the film adaptation of the novel by Javier Cercas, Bienvenido a casa (2005), La silla de Fernando (2006) with Luis Alegre, Madrid 1987 (2011), and Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados (2013). As a novelist, he has published Abierto toda la noche (1995), Cuatro amigos (1999) and Saber perder (2008), winner of the National Critics Award that same year. His novels have been translated into more than fifteen languages.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Let’s start with the tribute to Félix Romeo. When a friend passes away, he obviously leaves an emptiness that is extremely difficult or impossible to fill. I would like you to tell me what kind of hole Félix has left in your life?

Luis Alegre: —Félix left an enormous hole, immense, but even more so, because it was a traumatic loss, it was totally unexpected, I think we haven’t wrapped our minds around the idea that he’s gone. When someone who’s eighty-something years old, who you love very much, passes away, you perceive it as a normal part of life, and you accept it in a way. But in the case of Félix Romeo it has been a kind of nightmare for all of us who loved him. And also, I think it’s a very significant loss for Spanish culture because he was one of the most original, freest, overwhelming personalities that existed.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Yesterday you mentioned that one of Felix’s vindications was love, that you had to vindicate love and that he had the mantra “¡viva el amor!”. Do you carry on that legacy of vindicating love?

David Trueba: —Especially Luis.

Luis Alegre: —It’s very easy to share that vindication, but the thing is that Félix did it so vehemently, with such passion, such constancy and such joy that it was really impressive. He loved love very much, loved joy, loved life, loved freedom, loved beauty, culture, loved the best things in this world, the best things in people, as we all love them, but he did it with his own personality and with his style, that was very peculiar and very attractive and very funny as well.

David Trueba: —Yes, I think there is a misunderstanding in a certain part of society about culture, art, in the sense that it has to be something boring, tiresome, that provokes a certain seriousness, a certain solemnity in people who approach it from the outside, or in those who create it. But we always shared the same vision about that, which was that we dedicated ourselves to these things because they brought us enormous pleasure, they brought us enormous joy. We thought the best thing we could offer and dedicate to society, was our work, our inventions, our films, our books, our passion for something we read or heard or discovered in an exhibition. We never understood the association of culture with the tiresome, the boring, with complaints.

He represented exactly that, a calling for joy, for pleasure – to give that pleasure to others and not have any complex regarding other professions or dedications, which may have more emotional stability, more work stability, but in spite of that, they certainly can’t provide the moments of happiness that we experienced. In this way, he was truly and absolutely a militant and an apostle of joy, of happiness, of the need to love each other, caring, preaching it and at the same time, streesing the need to do our job as a manifestation of that joy. In this way, I think we are still faithful to it, it won’t be easy to take it away from us.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Let’s move on to another friend, to Fernando Fernán Gómez. You both directed La silla de Fernando, a film that was made in several months.

Luis Alegre: —Those who know a little about Spanish culture know that Fernando Fernán Gómez was one of the key personalities of Spanish cultural history of the 20th Century from many different points of view – as an actor (his most popular facet) but also as a film director, writer, theatre director, stage actor, as a memoir writer, as a television producer and scriptwriter and TV actor. Ultimately, he is one of the most multi-faceted personalities who has contributed to a significant part of the arts of the 20th Century. He’s a kind of synthesis of everything.

In each one of those genres he has created key works: in film, in theatre, television and literature. We are among the many admirers he has, those who recognize the importance of Fernando Fernán Gómez in terms of Spanish culture. But there was something that especially seduced David and myself, as it did for many of his friends. It was his wonderful way of seeing life and his incredible way of explaining it. We could see he had a gift for communicating the ways in which he experienced life and  the things that happened to him. We thought his art could only be enjoyed by those of us who knew him and enjoyed his friendship. We got the idea of making a film to try and convey our fascination to everybody who watched it. We wanted to communicate the very unique art of speaking, of sharing things about life, and to acknowledge a way, which for us is almost revolutionary, of understanding the world and life itself.

David Trueba: —Yes, it’s a film that has brought us enormous enjoyment. A big box office success wouldn’t have brought us as much satisfaction as this movie. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, we can see the pleasure it evokes in the people who watch it, which is what we were ultimately looking for – to recreate the experience of talking with Fernando, of having a long talk with him across the table, about the divine and the human. Also, because it was a project of ours for a long time, an idea we fantasized about, but there was always some reluctance. We thought, “Well, a film about a man talking, we won’t do that”. At the same time, we thought “We have to do it because we´ll regret not doing it for the rest of our lives when Fernando is gone”. And the satisfaction of now being able to say, “We did it”, was worth it. We didn’t abandon a project, we didn’t leave it only as an idea, we didn’t leave it as something we talked about and never accomplished – we did it. Even better, he came to see it himself and I think it brought him great joy to see it with us that day. That’s how I can tell you, if we counted all our achievements, there are few things we’ve accomplished in life that have brought so much joy.

Carmen Sanjulián: —And it was very well received. I was recently reading a review and the critic gave you nine out of ten and said “nine because it’s short”. Did you have to cut a lot of material? Do you have enough footage for another movie?

Luis Alegre: —We recorded, more or less, twenty hours of conversation with him.  No matter how fascinating, we had to keep in mind that it was just a guy talking, so in the end we settled for a duration of eighty-five minutes, which is the average length of a conventional film. Of course, we left out a lot of footage. Some of that footage was included in the extras on the DVD, but we were forced to leave out a lot of footage.

David Trueba: —It was a very hard film to edit because we were very demanding. We had to make sure that it didn´t become boring or tiresome for the viewer. We wanted it to be a movie were people would be left, like the critic said, wanting more. We wanted them to come out saying, “well, I could have watched that for an hour longer”.

The person who gives us an hour and a half of their time, to watch something we make, deserves the best possible treatment. So the editing was very hard. We were asking ourselves for a long time, “Should this piece be cut or not?”, “Let’s think about it, because this goes well here, but this is too long”, etc. So we spent a lot of time polishing it and left out things out about Fernando’s profession because we didn’t want it to dominate the film. So thanks to very careful editing of the DVD, we were able to include two extra hours of footage, for those (and luckily there were many) who watched the hour and a half of La silla de Fernando and thought, “I’d like to hear more of Fernando’s opinions about this or that”. They now have the option of watching it there.

But for us, the film is the way it is and that’s the way it has to be. We always said, when we were presenting it, that it was a very spectacular film for us, because Fernando was a spectacle that was extremely difficult to recreate. Fernando was a juggler of words, of conversation, and also a person who recounts 20th Century Spain in a completely indirect way in this film, and yet it’s as clear, if not more so, than most history books.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Do you have another protagonist you’d like to put in the spotlight?

David Trueba: —That’s extremely difficult because that spot is unique. What we do have, since we had such a good time working together, is a another project, with Luis and myself collaborating again but in a format that exploits all of Luis’s qualities as a collaborator, his skill as a great interviewer, a person with enormous curiosity, who people naturally trust.

Every now and then we think about the idea of getting together again and working with one of those rare characters in Spain, who can not only tell us something interesting about themselves but also shed some light on our world, our country, our culture, the way we are now or our evolution over the last few years. What happens with those projects in the end? Well, the best thing to do is not to mess with them until you actually do it. The one with Fernando Fernán Gómez, for example, was something we never mentioned. It was something we had inside but until you do it, the best thing is not to mention it.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Since we´re in Ireland, a country where many movies have been made, maybe you could even come here?

David Trueba: —Of course, Ireland is a mythical place for us. Not only for the great literature, great music and great cinema it has given us, which has also inpired countless directors in the US. But it also proves something we have been insisting on for a long time in Spain, that the great legacy of a country is its culture, nothing else. It’s not its economy, which is ambivalent as it rises and falls. It’s not, of course, its military prowess, nor its industry, The great legacy of a country, its big personality or large flag, is what it leaves behind culturally.

When you visit Ireland, or Dublin, which has been a pleasure for us, , you discover that the thing the Irish can probably be proudest of is their poets, their writers and the sense of identity they have as a country, much more than other ideas the world of politics or the media try to sell to us.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Speaking of Ireland, a few days ago, I was listening to the radio and heard the question “If anyone had ever been stuck in a bathroom?”. Oddly enough, you can’t imagine how many people called in saying that they had. There were all kinds of anecdotes.

Luis Alegre: —I got stuck in a bathroom once as a child, now that you mention it. Yes, I think we all have in our history a moment in which we have been stuck in a bathroom.

Carmen Sanjulián: —It reminded me, of course, of your movie, Madrid 1987, which has been really successful. Is it based on a real story, did somebody tell you this?

David Trueba: —It’s based on a real anecdote about two people who got stuck in a bathroom, similar to the characters in the film. After that, everything was recreated, invented, the characters are completely fictitious. But it´s curious because in Spain, as well, after the movie, loads of people told me their experiences, not only about getting stuck somewhere, but also about the relationships between two people of very different ages. It’s very interesting how movies urge people to tell you their personal experiences and one of the things I´ve enjoyed most is that the film conveys the experiences of many people. Sometimes people say to you, “that’s impossible”, “that can’t happen”, “that can’t be”, and you say “if I told you the number of stories I’ve been told over the last few months…”

Carmen Sanjulián: —Lastly, I love the beginning of the book Cuatro amigos, about things that are overrated. Should we add anything else to that fantastic list? Should we cross anything off? What do you think?

David Trueba: —Well, I think, unfortunately, there are many overrated things in life. The ones that worry me the most are those that make people’s lives difficult. Because in the end, overvaluing something becomes a part of a person´s way of life. It´s true that you give importance to some things and that’s how it should be, but what worries me is when overvaluing something makes us unhappy, makes life difficult. In that sense, I think the last few years have taught us that money, as much as everybody insisted on it, from the stories we were told, from our parents, etc… well, it´s obviously been proven that money is not the most important thing in life. It´s more important to fill your life with things that make you feel alive.

It´s true that everyday I find more overrated things, as well as things that are undervalued. People don’t realize how important friendship is, how important giving pleasure to others is, how important it is to have a culture, an interior life that allows you to bear the loneliness, that allows you to bear the path of life that typically leads to decline, etc. People pay little attention to all these values in life, and in the end, they are everything.

Recommended links

About Félix Romeo

About Fernando Fernán Gómez

< List of interviews

Entrevista con Malcolm Barral

Malcolm Barral: Nos encantaría que todo el mundo leyera el Ulises

Malcolm Barral

Entrevista con Malcolm Barral realizada el 29 de mayo de 2012 en la Biblioteca Dámaso Alonso del Instituto Cervantes de Dublín con motivo de su participación en el “Homenaje a Félix Romeo”, junto a Miguel Aguilar, Luis Alegre, Ignacio Martínez de Pisón y David Trueba.

Malcolm Barral (Barcelona, 1973) es editor, columnista y escritor. Empezó su carrera de editor en pequeñas editoriales madrileñas y, posteriormente, en Ediciones del Bronce y Columna Edicions. Dentro del mismo grupo Planeta, dirigió la colección de ficción de ediciones Destino y, más tarde, la de ficción española de RBA libros. En 2008, abandonó RBA para crear junto con Joan Barril la editorial Barril y Barral. Es miembro de la Orden del Finnegans, que tiene como objeto la veneración del Ulises de James Joyce.

Sergio Angulo: —Malcolm, ¿habías estado alguna vez en el Instituto Cervantes de Dublín?

Malcolm Barral: —Sí, he estado varias veces. De hecho formo parte de una absurda orden literaria que cada año viene a Dublín para el Bloomsday, y un par de veces hemos hecho algún acto aquí, un acto lo bastante absurdo como para ser de nuestra orden.

Sergio Angulo: —Para contextualizar un poco esa orden, ¿qué es el Ulises de Joyce?, ¿cuál es su trascendencia en la literatura?

Malcolm Barral: —Nuestra orden tiene como objeto la veneración del Ulises de James Joyce, que es conocida como una de las obras maestras de la literatura del siglo XX, pero que además tiene elementos diferenciales con otras obras maestras. Hace poco, en una entrevista sobre el Ulises, alguien decía: «es un libro de libros, es un libro que tiene diferentes lecturas». Pero eso se puede decir de casi todas las buenas obras de la literatura.

Yo creo que Ulises tiene elementos propios, diferenciales. Uno es que el autor está jugando o retando al lector todo el rato, y luego, que es lo que en inglés uno llamaría un phonetic fanatic. Joyce es un fanático de los juegos de palabras, con lo cual estás todo el rato intentando descubrir qué juego hay. Es un libro que requiere un esfuerzo especial y que tiene una recompensa única, que a veces es hilarante, a veces es inteligente. Obviamente, es un libro, como decía antes, con muchas lecturas y que es muy reconfortante desde el punto de vista literario. Pero particularmente a nosotros nos gusta esa parte jocosa. Por eso creamos una orden un tanto jocosa en torno a este libro.

Sergio Angulo: —El Bloomsday es el día en el que transcurre la historia del libro, que es el 16 de junio, que se celebra aquí en Dublín, donde la gente se involucra, se disfraza de los personajes… y vosotros hacéis una especie de peregrinación a Dublín cada año.

Malcolm Barral: —Cada año, sí. Ulises es la historia de Leopold Bloom. Es un viaje de un día, un 16 de junio. Entonces, cada año, ese dia Dublín se viste de eduardiano y celebra esta obra de James Joyce con algunos actos conmemorativos. Nosotros lo hacemos todo al revés. Es decir, el Ulises empieza en la Torre Martello de Dalkey, donde nosotros acabamos, y empezamos siempre en el James Joyce Centre. Luego hay una especie de acto público, donde lee cada uno de un país, o diferentes actores leen fragmentos del Ulises, Pero nosotros, únicamente, al unísono, cada año, venimos y decimos la última frase del capítulo sexto que reza: «Gracias. ¡Qué grandes estamos esta mañana!»

Sergio Angulo: —¿Qué hace falta para ser caballero de esa orden?

Malcolm Barral: —Ser un poco idiota, eso es fundamental. Y nada, lo que hace falta realmente… Es una orden literaria de amigos. Es un poco como la Orden de Toledo de Buñuel. Es un poco una parodia misma de las órdenes. Entonces, lo que hace falta es que te guste, que te puedas comprometer a venir cada año a Dublín para cada Bloomsday, sintonizar con el humor que hacemos y ser capaz de reírte de ti mismo un poquito.

Sergio Angulo: —Tengo entendido que también tenéis un cierto ritual, una práctica siniestra, que vais al cementerio de Dublín.

Malcolm Barral: —Sí. Como nos inventamos la orden, nos inventamos también los ritos. Entonces un año fuimos, porque aparecía en el Ulises de Joyce, al cementerio. Y descubrimos ahí el Gravediggers’ Pub, que es el pub de los enterradores, y descubrimos que en vez de ser un sitio tétrico y sombrío, tiene unas camareras estupendas, llenas de felicidad. Entonces, por ese contraste entre el pub de los enterradores y lo que realmente es, se ha convertido en un punto imprescindible en nuestro viaje de cada año, en nuestra odisea del Bloomsday.

Sergio Angulo: —¿Cuántos miembros sois actualmente?

Malcolm Barral: —Ahora somos siete. En principio añadimos uno cada año, pero este año creemos que vamos a estar en huelga y no vamos a nombrar a nadie, porque nos gusta la contradicción y queremos contradecirnos a nosotros mismos todo el rato.

Sergio Angulo: —¿Sois todos escritores, o estáis todos relacionados de alguna manera?

Malcolm Barral: —Bueno, menos la última incorporación. Fue una irlandesa vestida de eduardiana que encontramos en el parque. Nos pusimos de rodillas los seis y le preguntamos si quería formar parte de la orden. Dijo que sí. Es irlandesa y es una señora que se disfraza de eduardiana el día de Bloomsday. Es profesora.

Sergio Angulo: —¿Pero mantenéis relación?

Malcolm Barral: —Epistolar, ligeramente epistolar. Los otros, más que escritores… Sí, son escritores, gente de la cultura, pero el vínculo es la amistad. Todos nos conocíamos.

Sergio Angulo: —¿Tenéis algún tipo de ambición evangelizadora? ¿Queréis transmitir la doctrina del Ulises?

Malcolm Barral: —La verdad es que no. La verdad es que no tiene más trascendencia que lo que parece. Esto parece que es un grupo de anormales que se van cada año a Dublín a venerar un libro de seiscientas páginas y exactamente eso es lo que somos. Nos encantaría que todo el mundo leyera el Ulises, porque eso supondría que el nivel medio de comprensión de lectura de los españoles sería muy alto. Eso no va a suceder, y con tal de que no desaparezca la industria del libro nos conformamos.

Sergio Angulo: —En 2009 hubo un periodista del Irish Times que quiso hacer un pequeño estudio de campo de cuánta gente que participaba en el Bloomsday había leído el libro de cabo a rabo y descubrió que, de todas las personas que había entrevistado, solo una había leído el Ulises desde el principio hasta el final.

Malcolm Barral: —En nuestra orden es condición sine qua non haberlo leído entero. Pero somos gente de cultura. No tenemos mérito. Todos nosotros hemos leído el Ulises. Algunos incluso lo hemos leído en dos lenguas. Y en eso no hay duda. Pero bueno, también en España si tú preguntas cuánta gente ha leído realmente El Quijote… Es una historia conocida, todo el mundo conoce los detalles, pero ¿cuánta gente ha leído realmente todo El Quijote?

Sergio Angulo: —¿Crees que el Ulises, y la obra de Joyce en general, es algo inaccesible al público?

Malcolm Barral: —Sí. Digamos que tiene cierto hermetismo. Primero porque tiene mucha broma culta y eso dificulta la lectura en general. Tiene juegos de palabras. Sobre todo en español… Hay dos traducciones, ninguna es perfecta, porque algunas veces respetan mejor que otras los juegos de palabras, y realmente es un libro difícil. Joyce era difícil. De hecho Joyce hizo Finnegans Wake, que es un libro que todavía no está traducido al inglés. No se entiende en ninguna lengua. Es incomprensible. Pero esa provocación de Joyce aquí, en Ulises, no es tan extrema. Sin embargo, ya empiezan a existir pequeñas bromas internas y referencias oscuras. Para sacarle partido a un libro como Ulises se necesita mucho tiempo, mucha concentración. En fin, no sé cuántos libros de Joyce se han vendido en España, supongo que muchos porque está recomendado, pero entiendo que es un libro difícil.

Sergio Angulo: —¿Tú lo has leído en los dos idiomas, en inglés y en español?

Malcolm Barral: —Sí.

Sergio Angulo: —Para un español que sabe inglés, ¿cuál le recomiendas?

Malcolm Barral: —Yo lo leí en inglés habiéndolo leído en español y habiendo ya jugueteado con algunos juegos, con lo cual es más fácil. Hay dos traducciones. Una creo que es de Valverde y la otra de Subirats. Esta, la edición de Rueda, es la mejor. La de Valverde a mí me parece que pierde musicalidad y entonces, si no tiene esa cosa que llamaba antes «fonética», si no tiene esa musicalidad y pureza fonética, entonces pierde. Es más literal y quizás sea más perfecta, pero pierde la gracia.

Sergio Angulo: —¿Hacéis algún tipo de actividad como miembros de la Orden? Me consta que habéis escrito un libro de relatos.

Malcolm Barral: —Ahora estamos escribiendo otro libro de relatos. Se publicará el año que viene. Pero no, nada aparte de eso. De hecho nos vemos durante el año, pero casi nunca juntos. Eduardo Lago, que es uno de los fundadores, vive en Nueva York. Enrique Vila-Matas vive en Barcelona. Yo también vivo en Barcelona. Antonio Soler y Garriga Vela viven en Málaga. Marcos Giralt vive en Madrid. Es decir, todos nos vemos, somos todos amigos, nos vemos con cierta frecuencia, pero todos juntos es casi imposible.

Sergio Angulo: —¿Y esos relatos que escribís tienen relación con el Ulises?

Malcolm Barral: —Depende, bueno, este último libro sí tenía relación, más o menos. En el relato que yo escribí, el personaje se llamaba Leopoldo, un experto en Joyce que viajaba a Irlanda y quería ligarse a la chica que iba con él en el avión. Era un chico desastroso que se parecía un poco a mí. Pero no es una redacción de colegio en la que te dan el tema. El título era este y el título nos marcó a todos un poco la pauta. De hecho hay quien lo hizo más relato y quien lo hizo más no-ficción.

Ahora estamos escribiendo uno sobre la infancia y me cuesta más vincular la infancia con Joyce. No sé exactamente si llegaremos a buen puerto o no. Siempre se puede vincular, claro, con una novela en la que pasan tantas cosas. Hay alcoholismo, el asunto judío, infidelidad… En fin, hay tantos temas que puedes contar una historia que tenga un punto en común.

Sergio Angulo: —Una obra de Joyce, la que consideres más accesible para empezar con él. ¿Dublineses?

Malcolm Barral: —Sí, Dublineses, porque son relatos, yo creo que sería el más fácil, como, digamos, el libro de iniciación en Joyce. Lo que no se puede intentar es Finnegans Wake, porque realmente eso ya es… De hecho no se sabe bien si fue una broma para dejarnos durante decenas de años pensando qué quería decir.

Sergio Angulo: —El día 16 de junio que viene, que es sábado, es el día del Bloomsday, ¿vendréis?

Malcolm Barral: —Sí, claro.

Enlaces Recomendados

< Listado de Entrevistas

Entrevista con Ignacio Martínez de Pisón

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: Lo que busca un escritor es contar conflictos

Ignacio Martinez de Pison

Entrevista con Ignacio Martínez de Pisón realizada el 29 de mayo de 2012 en la Biblioteca Dámaso Alonso del Instituto Cervantes de Dublín con motivo de su participación en el “Homenaje a Félix Romeo” con Miguel Aguilar, Luis Alegre, Malcolm Otero Barral y David Trueba.

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón (Zaragoza, 1960), licenciado en Filología Hispánica e Italiana, reside en Barcelona desde 1982. Escribe novelas y cuentos, asi como guiones cinematográficos, articulos de prensa y critica literaria. Sus novelas han sido traducidas a una docena de idiomas. Entre ellas, cabe destacarLa ternura del dragón (1984), Carreteras secundarias (1996), Enterrar a los muertos (2005), Dientes de leche (2008), y El día de mañana (2011), novela con la que obtuvo el Premio de la Crítica de narrativa castellana 2011 y el Premio Ciutat de Barcelona 2012. En 2011 recibió, asimismo, el Premio de las Letras Aragonesas.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Ignacio, vamos a empezar recordando la figura de Félix. ¿Cómo era como persona, como escritor?

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —Cuando yo lo conocí él era un niño. Un niño gigantesco, un niño que lo sabía todo y que lo había leído todo. Él tenía unos diecisiete años, creo yo. Ya entonces él colaboraba en los periódicos de Zaragoza, en revistas, y hacía reseñas. A mí me sorprendía que un chaval tan joven hubiera leído tantos libros, y por tanto desconfiaba. Yo pensaba: «es que no puede ser que este chico se haya leído todo». Pero poco a poco iba descubriendo que sí, lo había leído todo, todo lo que decía y mucho más, muchos más libros de los que no hablaba y que yo descubría después que había leído. Con el tiempo yo llegué a pensar que tenía alguna enfermedad mental, que un tío no podía tener una cabeza que diera para tanto, para leer tanto, para saber tanto, para dominar tantos ámbitos del saber. Y era así. Realmente, a mí me parece que era, como decía Valle-Inclán, «un cráneo privilegiado».

Carmen Sanjulián: —¿Qué es lo que más echas de menos en su ausencia?

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —Echo de menos a la persona. Félix era muy invasivo en el mejor sentido del término. Era alguien que entraba en tu vida, en tu obra, que te cambiaba. Te cambiaba para mejor. Intervenía en las vidas de los demás para hacernos ser tan buenos como fuéramos capaces de ser. Y luego era un gran amigo. Era uno de esos tipos en los que siempre podías confiar. Realmente, el vacío que deja alguien se nota. El dolor que causó la muerte de Félix fue tremendo. Hay muchísima gente, muchos escritores, muchos amigos, muchos intelectuales que notaron su muerte, porque era como un referente, la persona a la que siempre podías acudir cuando tenías dudas sobre un título, sobre algún tema, sobre alguna lectura o alguna película. Ahí Félix siempre tenía respuestas para todo. Tenía siempre las ideas muy claras. Frente a las incertidumbres habituales de los demás, ahí estaba Félix, que siempre tenía una respuesta clara que te ayudaba a aclarar tu cabeza.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Félix era una de las personas a las que tú les dabas tus manuscritos. Y tú has confesado que en El día de mañana él cambió el final o te ayudó a cambiar el final.

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —Él influyó en los libros de muchos amigos y desde luego en libros míos. En Enterrar a los muertos, él era uno de mis consejeros habituales, de los que me daban bibliografía y me aportaban ideas, puntos de vista. En Dientes de leche, aproveché una historia suya, que es una historia de su padre al que, siendo policía municipal en Zaragoza, lo obligaron a hacer de extra en una película que se rodó allí en 1965. El alcalde mandó a todos los policías a hacer de extras en esa película. Félix me contó una historia muy bonita sobre cómo, muchos años después, él fue con su novia de entonces, Cristina Grande, y con sus padres a la filmoteca a ver esa película, en la que Zaragoza parecía como una ciudad del norte de Europa. Y como estaban solos en la filmoteca, los padres comentaban en voz alta cosas sobre la película: «Mira, este ya se ha muerto», «el pobre ese ha quedado fatal», «este…, no sabemos de él», «este echó mano a la caja»… Como Félix no la iba a aprovechar para ningún libro suyo, de esa anécdota saqué yo una pequeña historia.

Por otro lado, El día de mañana es una novela que yo le pasé para leer antes de entregársela a mi editor y él me dijo «está muy bien, pero el final sobra. Esas páginas finales explicativas no sirven de mucho». Y efectivamente, las reduje a una mínima impresión. Quité como ocho o diez folios por lo que él me dijo.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Cuando uno empieza a leer sobre Ignacio Martínez de Pisón, una de las primeras cosas que lee es: «Ignacio Martínez de Pisón, escritor zaragozano, perteneciente a la nueva narrativa…» ¿Tú te sientes cómodo con esa etiqueta?

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —La nueva narrativa es un fenómeno creado en los años ochenta como una especie de hecho histórico. Es decir, hacía falta una literatura distinta de la que se escribía durante el franquismo, la democracia tenía que producir nombres nuevos, títulos nuevos y estéticas nuevas. Entonces se acuñó el término y ese término nos acogió a muchos escritores que teníamos muy poco en común. Pero la verdad es que sirvió para darnos a conocer.

Yo tuve la suerte de que era un momento en que se esperaba que apareciera una generación nueva, y cuando yo llegué con unos cuentos a una editorial, a Anagrama, inmediatamente me dijeron que sí, porque había esa necesidad de escritores nuevos, de escritores surgidos tras la muerte de Franco. Pero fue una de esa etiquetas efímeras, que sirven en un momento para dar a conocer a una serie de escritores y luego la etiqueta desaparece. Muchos de esos escritores han permanecido activos. En esa misma etiqueta estaban englobados, junto a mí mismo, Soledad Puértolas, Julio Llamazares, Enrique Vila-Matas… Una serie de escritores que siguen ahí. Otros quedaron por el camino, como ocurre muchas veces en el mundo de la literatura.

Carmen Sanjulián: —La familia es uno de los temas constantes en tus libros y tú hablas de la familia, pero con conflictos. ¿Hay familias sin conflictos?

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —Dudo que tal cosa exista. Ni siquiera el concepto me parece imaginable. Me da la sensación de que la familia es el ámbito donde los conflictos se multiplican o se amplifican y, por tanto, un ámbito ideal para un escritor, porque un escritor lo que busca es contar los conflictos.

Carmen Sanjulián: —O sea que eso de las familias felices…

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —No, eso ya lo dijo Tolstoi.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Llevas más de veinticinco años escribiendo y publicando. Los temas son inagotables.

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —Llevo un montón. Llevo desde el 84, que saqué mi primer libro. Ya voy para los veintiocho años de carrera de escritor. Es verdad que, aunque uno nunca sabe cuál va a ser su próximo libro, las ideas acuden a ti. Hay muchas cosas que deben ser contadas, que esperan ser contadas, y lo único que tienes que hacer es estar atento, a ver en qué momento esa idea se cruza en tu vida y se te ofrece. Ahora mismo no sé cuál será mi siguiente novela, la siguiente a la que estoy escribiendo, ni cómo va a ser, ni sobre qué idea va a ir, sin embargo, estoy seguro de que cuando acabe la que estoy escribiendo, inmediatamente alguna idea me vendrá.

Carmen Sanjulián: —¿En qué has evolucionado desde que empezaste hasta ahora?

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —Cuando yo empecé a escribir, hablar de realismo era hablar de una literatura caduca, una literatura del pasado, una literatura casposa, y ningún escritor surgido en los años ochenta quería ser un escritor realista. Con el tiempo, me fui dando cuenta de que yo sí era un escritor realista. Tengo tendencia a escribir historias bien ancladas en la realidad, cercanas a mi vida, cercanas a los lugares en los que yo vivo o he vivido, y poco a poco mis libros se han ido pareciendo más a mí mismo y a mi propia vida. El mayor cambio en mi biografía de escritor ha sido que mi literatura ha acabado acercándose bastante a la tradición realista.

Carmen Sanjulián: —¿También se ha producido la misma evolución como lector?

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —Como lector soy bastante más abierto. Hay muchos tipos de libros que me gustan pero que jamás sería capaz de escribir. Las estéticas de muchos escritores que no se parecen a la mía me interesan también, como algo ajeno, pero algo interesante. A pesar de todo, es verdad que uno siempre busca alimentarse, nutrirse de las voces más cercanas, y quizá por eso en los últimos diez, quince años, la literatura que más he leído es la norteamericana, que es probablemente la que tiene la tradición realista más poderosa.

Carmen Sanjulián: —¿Qué significa Zaragoza para ti?

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —Zaragoza es la ciudad en la que nací, en la que pasé los años de mi formación como persona, y por tanto es la ciudad más importante de mi vida, aunque no necesariamente la ciudad en la que más tiempo he pasado. De hecho, llevo muchos más años en Barcelona. Pero es inevitable que mis personajes vuelvan a Zaragoza. Es como un retorno mío constante a Zaragoza, a través de mis libros y de mis personajes.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Hay escritores que dicen renegar de los premios. ¿Es solamente una pose, o a todo mundo le gusta recibir reconocimientos en forma de premios?

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —Bueno, siempre te gusta. Siempre te gusta que te digan que a alguien le ha gustado un libro tuyo, cuando son premios a los que no te presentas, sino que un día te llaman y te dicen «mira, te hemos dado este premio… Nos hemos reunido y hemos decidido que tu libro es el que más nos ha gustado de los últimos meses, o del último año». Es de esos reconocimientos que te ayudan a seguir. Un motivo más para seguir escribiendo.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Javier Barreiro estuvo aquí hace unos meses y decía que Aragón es una tierra especialmente dura con sus hijos. Pero ese no es tu caso.

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón: —No. Yo no creo que sea así. Yo creo que Aragón ha tratado bastante bien a sus creadores. Que algunos de ellos hayan tenido que irse para desarrollar su carrera fuera de Aragón, forma parte de la lógica. Es decir, que los mejores cineastas aragoneses hayan hecho su carrera fuera de Aragón es lógico, porque en Aragón no hay una industria cinematográfica. Pero creo que hay muy buenos escritores aragoneses que viven en Zaragoza o viven en Aragón y al mismo tiempo hay muy buenos escritores que viven fuera, y yo no creo que haya motivo para pensar que Aragón está tan mal. No. Al revés. Desde luego, mi caso es el de alguien que se siente muy bien tratado y me siento muy querido en Aragón, muy recompensado por los premios que me han dado allá.

Enlaces Recomendados

Sobre Félix Romeo

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