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Virtual interview with Juan Cruz

Virtual interview with Juan CruzInstituto Cervantes Dublin Library, 14th June 2011. Translated by Emer Cassidy.

Juan Cruz

Hector Barco Cobalea

Good afternoon,

I’d like to throw out a few questions, and chance being so lucky as to have them answered by Mr. Juan Cruz Ruiz:

– Do you think journalism is truly free, or is it subject to certain interests, not just political, but also economic, in that huge economic and/or political organisations buy advertising space from the main media providers, this being one of their main sources of income? 

– What is your take on billions of dollars being shifted in just a few days to save the banks, whilst at the same time, the Food and Agriculture Organization requested 12,000 million dollars to fight hunger across the planet and was turned down?

– Is the average citizen justified in feeling indignant?

Thank you to all involved for enabling me to send in my questions.



Juan Cruz
Héctor, I had written a long reply, but cyberspace swallowed it up.

In summary:
Journalism is free to the same extent that people are: within limits. We are all dependent on certain interests. Newspapers as well. Nobody is completely free. The press needs to have strong businesses behind them in order to withstand the pressures on their editorial policies. And that’s why advertising is so necessary; without advertising, newspapers would certainly be at the will of economic and political interests.

The banks were rescued with public money, and they must return that money. Without a doubt, the terms with which they were given the money could have been stricter, but it’s not true that it was given to them freely and lightly, that is just not the case. I agree that they should have been penalised for their insane dealings. But within the capitalist system, if such mechanisms weren’t possible, it would lead to global disaster. Should we change the system? Let’s change it. But, in the meantime, this is what we’re left with.

Of course citizens are justified in feeling indignant. And, not just that, but also, worried, questioning, doubtful. And to act on their indignation, so that it doesn’t anchor them down with futile feelings of powerlessness and depression.

David Carrión
Good afternoon, Mr. Cruz. What motivated Vargas Llosa to write The Dream of the Celt? Was it reading The Heart of Darkness, was it Casement’s link with Peru, or his studies of Adam Hochschild’s work…?

Juan Cruz
In my opinion, Vargas Llosa always begins writing a new project once his imagination is sparked, and after finishing the fiction work, The Bad Girl, he decided to follow the footsteps of Casement, an Irishman who lived a controversial but fascinating life.

Bringing this life to the masses required an enormous intellectual, literary, and even physical effort, on the part of Vargas Llosa. And the outcome reads like an adventure as told by a special envoy to hell itself.

The author himself explained that it was reading Conrad, in particular, that motivated him to write this spectacular narrative essay. He is a voracious reader; he wanted to really scrutinise the finer details of a character, and that’s where Roger Casement comes in, in full-body portrait, right to the depths of his misfortunes.

Laura Martín
Is The Heart of Darkness a racist book, or a damning report of European colonisation? What was the aim of The Dream of the Celt, if indeed there was one?

Juan Cruz
I don’t think Conrad’s book was racist; from our current perspective on racism, or inequality, we could equally be tempted to condemn Madame Bovary, for example; and I think Conrad’s literature should be read as a great voyage of the mind, rather than a sociological reflection on the author’s ideology or view of the world and himself at that particular moment in time.

Conrad knew Casement and he wrote in this diary that of all the people he had known during his stay in the Congo, it was Casement he admired the most. So why did Joseph Conrad not sign the petition for clemency for Roger Casement, unlike Yeats, Bernard Shaw and Conan Doyle who all signed it?

Juan Cruz
Vargas Llosa dwelled a lot on that incident; I think Conrad felt cornered and slightly envious and he bore Casement a grudge, being someone who tended not emphasise his own talents, he felt outshone by Casement during his time in Africa. That’s why he left him in the lurch, and frankly, that was very hurtful to Casement. Similar to other times in his life when he felt cast off.

What was the dream that was driving Roger Casement when he arrived in Congo?

Juan Cruz
It was a philanthropic dream. He truly wanted to play a part in the abolition of slavery there where it was actually taking place, and that’s exactly what he did. Every fibre of his being was devoted to helping people, that was what he lived for, to help others free themselves from the shackles of feudal despotism. It was then used as a symbol which some tried to make controversial by drawing tenuous parallels with his own issues with his sexuality. Vargas Llosa pays him heartfelt tribute, at pains to put right the controversy created by the British.

What does Mario Vargas Llosa have in common with Antonio Conselheiro from The War of the End of the World, Alejandro Mayta from The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta, and with Roger Casement?

Juan Cruz
I think the only thing Vargas Llosa has in common with those characters is that he worked out the minutest details of their lives with the same intensity he then gave to their lives within the storyline, so that they would live on, and stand the test of time, in the minds of his readers.

A critic once broke Vargas Llosa’s novels down into 4 broad categories: urbane, historical, dealing with rural Peru, and erotic novels. Could we consider The Dream of the Celt a historical novel?

Juan Cruz
I think putting The Dream of the Celt into the historical box would be to take away some of its power and impact. From my point of view, aside from being a novel which has its roots in history, it is more a great anachronistic, or even uchronic, report on a fascinating era by both Mario, the reporter, and Vargas Llosa, the novelist. And it is also a wartime plea for human rights, a book denouncing slavery in favour of romanticism, as man’s conviction to live in harmony with his fellow kind.

Are there any elements in The Dream of the Celt which are new to Vargas Llosa’s work?

Juan Cruz
I think what is new is the book in its entirety; Vargas Llosa always approaches a subject from a completely new standpoint. He could have put together an essay of the proportions of a novella, based on his readings, and he read widely around the subject. Instead, he honed in on the different areas of Roger’s biography, brought them together onto the one platform in his mind, and from there he went on to create a volume in which he demonstrated his skills as a reconstructor of stories, but also, as a great fiction author. He has never said so himself, never actually specified it, but Mario Vargas Llosa, the fiction author, is also present in The Dream of the Celt.

If García Márquez’s work could be seen as a portrayal of power, and its vestiges, could Vargas Llosa’s work be seen as a portrayal of the resistance to or the growing awareness of that power?

Juan Cruz
I think that’s a good analogy. But, actually, I think all of Mario Vargas Llosa’s work has to do with power, even when it seems more to do with other subjects. Particularly, A Fish in the Water, which despite having been written in the midst of the biographical journey he was undertaking at the time, it is like the mid-point in which all of his ambitions, tragedies, and the majority of his books converge.

Vargas Llosa, Cabrera Infante and José Saramago. These are perhaps the three authors, and friends, who have most influenced your literary life. Is that right? Are there any others you would add?

Juan Cruz
My life in particular? Perhaps. I would add Onetti and Borges. And also, Unamuno’s poetry. And Kafka. Well, literature is never-ending. Oh, and Cortázar.

In 1972, you published “Crónica de la nada hecha pedazos”. You said that all of your work published in book format originates from this book, because it was in this book you began using reality to narrate your obsessions, dreams, and how those dreams can be broken. Tell us about your broken dreams. Are there any still lingering around?

Juan Cruz
My broken dreams are still around. Those that aren’t are the ones I haven’t been able to break.

“Crónica de la nada…” is a sesentayochista chronicle [referring to the revolution of 1968] turned into a novel. Do you think one day there will be a 15M [common abbreviation for the mass protest held on the 15th May 2011, in Madrid, against political mismanagement of the economic crisis] chronicle, or would that be a book that would be worth writing?

Juan Cruz
It should be written. I’ve just interviewed Javier Cercas about the subject. He is very clear on how (extremely) important this phenomenon is. Something is changing, without a doubt, and for the better, despite this endless tide of injustice and corruption we are going through at the moment.

The presence of the sea is fundamental in “Retrato de un hombre desnudo” (2005). What does it symbolise? 

Juan Cruz
The sea is life, and thus, it is also death. I was writing a book about the sea as life, and then death turned up out of nowhere. Life has such gravity, it fells us all.

In reference to “Retrato de un hombre…”, imbued as it is with many’s a travel anecdote, you said that no matter how much a person travels, “they are always in the same place”. Which is the place in which you always find yourself? And would you ever like to escape?

Juan Cruz
That’s a phrase by Beckett, and actually he was talking about his relationship with Ireland: “poor me, I thought I had left the island behind me, but the island is always by my side”.

That’s the way it is. My book is based by the sea, so that I can escape, and all of sudden, I see myself as part of the sea, the sea comes with me.

Verne and Dickens are some of the authors you read in your teenage years as mentioned in “Retrato de un hombre desnudo”.  Were there other authors before those who also had an important effect on you? Which were the authors, or books, that made you a writer?

Juan Cruz
Before that there were the instruction leaflets that come inside boxes of pills, old torn newspapers my mother had, anything that was susceptible to being read, and an old book by Oscar Wilde, “The Nightingale and the Rose”.

In “Retrato de un hombre desnudo”, you pay homage to your mother, from whom you said you have learnt more than from any other person. “Ojalá octubre” (2007) is a homage to your father. Which questions, or desires, did Juan the boy inherit from him?

Juan Cruz
Uncertainty, things were always about to be either very miserable or very happy, and they were almost always miserable. But there were also wonderful moments in which he was happy. That’s the way I am, I come from him.

Was it your childhood from that October which you would have liked to have continued forever?

Juan Cruz
I would like the feeling of childhood to continue forever. To go through all stages of life with the feeling of harmony you capture as a child.

In “Muchas veces me pediste que te contara estos años” (2008), you reflect on time, memory, pain, and growing older. Has this reflection led to any conclusions?

Juan Cruz
It’s a triple reflection which merges into one: our lives are inside of us, on our interior, and inside everything is mixed together into one whole. I am my literature, it explodes inside me. Does that seem pedantic? I’m afraid that’s the way I see it, if you don’t like my answer then forget it, but what I mean is: for me, writing is all of those things, time, memory, pain, and fear of dying. And if what I write doesn’t respond to those precepts, then I feel like I am merely worthlessly distorting my thoughts.

Comparing your first book to your current work, it seems like you have given up a certain experimentalism for a lighter style. Is that one of the concessions caused by the commercialisation of the publishing world you mention in “Egos revueltos” (2009)?

Juan Cruz
Oh, not at all, LMartín. It’s simply that over the years I decided to write so that my brothers would read my work, ever since a particular text I wrote so that we would never forget the wonderful woman that was my mother. It’s deliberate, but my brothers don’t buy my books. They feature in them. Except “Egos revueltos”, for certain, although they’re in there somewhere, in some way or another.

Would any current publishers dare to publish a new James Joyce?

Juan Cruz
Of course they would. That’s what a publisher’s job should be. To wait for a James Joyce to come along.

On the subject of cultural journalism, there are those who insist that it generally displays a total lack of interest in culture. Do you agree with that? What is there left in the cultural pages of a newspaper if we take away the obituaries and press releases from the various publishers’ and institutions’ press departments?  

Juan Cruz
I think any maximalist views run the risk of being unfair. There are some great cultural journalists, particularly in Latin America, where this type of journalism has become a specialism. And there are some very good ones closer to home as well. And there are very good sources of information on culture out there, despite what you say. Don’t be unfair, my friend!

Thank you very much for your participation.

Related links:

Profile of Juan Cruz on elpais.com, with links to his articles and interviews

About Mario Vargas Llosa and “The dream of the Celt”

About Roger Casement

Juan Cruz is our author of the month throughout the month of June.

Entrevista con Anamaría Crowe Serrano

< Listado de entrevistas

Anamaría Crowe Serrano: Lo que quiero hacer en mi poesía es explorar el lenguaje


Entrevista con Anamaría Crowe Serrano realizada el 31 de mayo de 2011 en la Biblioteca Dámaso Alonso del Instituto Cervantes de Dublín con motivo de su participación en la mesa redonda «Más que poesía» junto a Diego Valverde Villena

Anamaría Crowe Serrano es escritora y vive en Dublín. Es profesora de lengua española y traductora de poesía contemporánea del español e italiano al inglés. Además de sus traducciones al inglés de los poetas mexicanos Gerardo Beltrán y Elsa Cross (Selected Poems, Shearsman, 2010), también ha publicado sus traducciones al español de los poetas irlandeses Brendan Kennelly y Seamus Heaney. Como poeta, es autora del poemario Femispheres (Shearsman, 2008).

Pilar Garrido: —Anamaría Crowe Serrano, poeta y traductora irlandesa, tu segundo apellido es español. ¿De qué parte de España es tu madre?

Anamaría Crowe Serrano: —Mi madre es de Zaragoza, aunque tengo familia en Bilbao. Se vino a Irlanda hace ya cuarenta años, para estudiar inglés, y aquí se quedó y se casó con mi padre. La parte Crowe del apellido es de mi padre.

Pilar Garrido: —¿Qué destacarías de tu trabajo como poeta?

Anamaría Crowe Serrano: —Para mí, en la poesía hay dos cosas principales: el tema, lo que quieres expresar e, igualmente importante, la manera en que lo expresas, la manera de manipular el lenguaje: cómo se crean efectos sonoros, cómo se puede ser original y creativo con el lenguaje. Para mí eso es muy importante en la poesía, a veces incluso más importante que el tema.

Pilar Garrido: —¿Cómo y cuándo empezaste a escribir poesía?

Anamaría Crowe Serrano: —Empecé de bastante pequeña. Cuando tenía once años tuvimos una profesora en la escuela que me inspiró el amor por la escritura. Luego continué en la universidad, porque como estaba estudiando Filología Hispánica y Francesa, estudiaba poesía, y me encantaba. Empecé a escribir poesía inspirada por los surrealistas latinoamericanos y franceses.

Pilar Garrido: —A esa temprana edad, once años, ¿escribías en inglés o en español?

Anamaría Crowe Serrano: —Siempre escribo en inglés. Lo domino mejor, en realidad, que el español. El inglés, como siempre he vivido aquí, me resulta más natural. He escrito cuatro o cinco poesías en español, pero no las he leído nunca en público.

Pilar Garrido: —¿Qué poeta o poetas han influido en tu obra?

Anamaría Crowe Serrano: —Muchísimos. De pequeña, más que poesía, eran los relatos de Oscar Wilde, por ejemplo. Me encantaban. Luego, como te decía, en la universidad, los surrealistas siempre me han gustado y siguen influyéndome. Cuando dejé la universidad empecé a leer a Joyce, al que no había estudiado nunca, y me encantó. Joyce también se ha quedado conmigo como una influencia. También me encanta El Quijote, de Cervantes. Me parece un libro maravilloso, que tampoco es poesía, pero es muy poético también.

Pilar Garrido: —Ya que estamos en el país de los escritores, de los poetas, de los músicos. ¿Cuáles son tus escritores irlandeses favoritos?

Anamaría Crowe Serrano: —En poesía, la que más me gusta es Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, que escribe en inglés a pesar de tener un nombre irlandés. Me gusta muchísimo su poesía. Yeats también, me encanta. A Yeats lo descubrí hace años y me fascinó. Heaney, claro, también es muy lírico. Pero también me gustan los experimentalistas, poesía mucho más contemporánea, más moderna digamos, que hace lo que yo quiero hacer en mi poesía, que es explorar el lenguaje. Hay por ejemplo un poeta que vive en Cork, que se llama Trevor Joyce, que escribe muy bien.

Pilar Garrido: —También has escrito relatos cortos. ¿Cuál destacarías?

Anamaría Crowe Serrano: —Los relatos hace muchísimo tiempo que los escribí, casi ni me acuerdo. Uno que destacaría se llama «The Barber’s Shop». Era sobre la vida de un castrato, de la época de los castrati. Sus padres los daban a la Iglesia para que se entrenaran como músicos, y a veces no sabían que les habían castrado hasta que ya eran mayores y no se habían desarrollado de manera normal. Me fascinó eso, me pareció espectacular, y escribí un cuento. Es la historia de un niño ficticio obviamente.

Pilar Garrido: —Aparte de ser poeta, también eres traductora. ¿Qué tipo de traducción haces?

Anamaría Crowe Serrano: —Casi siempre es traducción de poesía, del italiano, más que nada, al inglés, aunque también he traducido del español al inglés. Pero sobre todo poesía contemporánea italiana, de poetas vivos. Siempre puedo contactar con ellos para hacerles preguntas si tengo alguna duda. Para mí es muy importante poder tener esa colaboración con el poeta. Como sabes, hay muchísimas maneras de interpretar una poesía. Aunque sea en tu idioma nativo, a veces ni siquiera la entiendes. Creo que es importante poder preguntarle al poeta, si es posible.

Pilar Garrido: —Me imagino que los dos roles están muy relacionados.

Anamaría Crowe Serrano: —Sí. De hecho creo que es casi imprescindible ser poeta para traducir poesía. Y los poetas suelen preferir que los traduzca un poeta también. Porque uno está más acostumbrado a las técnicas de la poesía, las soluciones que se puede dar a algún giro difícil del idioma. Quizás un poeta tiene también el oído más agudo en cuanto a la sonoridad y el ritmo de la poesía.

Enlaces recomendados

  • [Vídeo] Entrevista realizada a Anamaría Crowe Serrano en el Instituto Cervantes de Dublín por Pilar Garrido.
  • [Audio] «El bilingüismo, una manera de sentir». Entrevista a Anamaría Crowe Serrano en CanalUNED.
  • Perfil de Anamaría Crowe Serrano en Shearsman Books.
  • One columbus leap Anamaría Crowe Serrano.

< Listado de entrevistas

5 minutos con Ángel Harguindey

Continuamos nuestra serie de encuentros literarios en la biblioteca “5 minutos con… ” Ángel Harguindey

Alfonso Fernández Cid  charla con el periodista madrileño sobre literatura, periodismo, lecturas y aficiones. Ángel Harguindey nos visitó el pasado mes de abril junto a Manuel Vicent para presentar la novela “Aguirre el Magnífico”

Esperamos que os guste.

We continue our series of literary encounters in the library “5 minutes with…” Ángel Hargundey.

Alfonso Fernández Cid chats to the journalist from Madrid about literature, journalism, reading habits and hobbies.  Ángel Harguindey paid us a visit to present the las novel of Manuel Vicent “Aguirre el Magnífico”.

We hope you enjoy it.

5 minutos con Laura Freixas

Continuamos nuestra serie de encuentros literarios en la biblioteca “5 minutos con… ” Laura Freixas

Carmen Sanjulián  charla con la escritora barcelonesa sobre literatura, mujeres, lecturas y aficiones. Laura Freixas fue nuestra autora del mes de mayo. La autora de “Adolescencia en Barcelona hacia 1970” visitó nuestro café literario para hablarnos de la obra de Carmen Martín Gaite.

Esperamos que os guste.

We continue our series of literary encounters in the library “5 minutes with…” Laura Freixas.

Carmen Sanjulián chats to the writer from Barcelona about literature, feminism, reading habits and hobbies.  Laura Freixas, our author of the month in May, paid us a visit to talk about Carmen Martín Gaite.

We hope you enjoy it.

Tebeo, cómic y novela gráfica / Cartoons, comics and graphic novels

El día 18 de junio, con motivo de la celebración del Bloomsday, el asturiano Alfonso Zapico, premio autor revelación de 2010 en el Salón Internacional del Cómic de Barcelona, presenta en el Irish Writers’ Centre de Dublín su obra Dublinés, una novela gráfica centrada en la vida de James Joyce en la que Zapico ha invertido 3 años de su vida profesional.

Por ello hemos querido dedicar este mes de junio a promocionar una de nuestras secciones más queridas, la de tebeo, cómic y novela gráfica.

On the 18th June, as part of our Bloomsday celebrations, Asturian illustrator Alfonso Zapico, winner of the best newcomer award at the 2010 Barcelona International Comic Fair, will present his most recent publication “Dublinés” at the Irish Writers Centre, here in Dublin. “Dublinés”, fruit of 3 years’ work by Zapico, is a graphic novel which focuses on the life of James Joyce.

We’d like to celebrate this new release by promoting one of our most loved sections; the cartoon, comic and graphic novel section of course!

Juan Cruz: Autor del mes / Author of the month

Juan Cruz Ruiz, periodista, escritor y editor nacido en el Puerto de la Cruz (Tenerife) en 1948 es nuestro autor del mes de junio de 2011.

Juan Cruz estudió Periodismo e Historia en la Universidad de La Laguna y comenzó a escribir en prensa en el semanario Aire Libre con sólo trece años de edad.

Es miembro fundador de El País, donde ejerció también tareas muy diversas, entre otras, la de corresponsal en Londres, jefe de Opinión y redactor jefe de Cultura. Actualmente es adjunto a la dirección del periódico.

Juan Cruz nos visitará el próximo día 16 de junio para hablarnos sobre “El sueño del celta”, última novela del Premio Nobel Mario Vargas Llosa el martes 14 de junio, a las 18h, en nuestro Café Literario.

Con él celebraremos nuestra entrevista digital mensual. Ya podéis enviar vuestras preguntas sobre sus obras, o sobre Mario Vargas Llosa. Juan responderá a ellas el mismo día 14 de junio, de 16.30h a 17.30h, hora de Dublín.

Juan Cruz, journalist, writer and editor was born in Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, in 1948. He is our author of the month in June 2011.

He studied Journalism and History in the Universidad de la Laguna, Tenerife, and started writing for the press in the weekly sports newspaper Aire Libre, at just thirteen years of age.

He is one of the founding members of Spanish newspaper El País, where he has performed a wide variety of roles, amongst others, correspondent for London, head of the Opinion and Analysis section, and editor in chief of the Culture section. He is currently Assistant Director of the newspaper.

Juan Cruz will discuss “The Dream of the Celt”, the most recent novel, recently published in English, by Mario Vargas Llosa, 2011 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, on Tuesday 14th June, at 6pm in our Café Literario, here at Instituto Cervantes.

We will also be hosting a virtual interview with Juan on our library’s blog, whereby you can ask him questions about his own work or that of Mario Vargas Llosa. You can send in your questions as of now, Juan will answer them live on Tuesday 14th June, from 4.30pm to 5.30pm.

Diego Valverde Villena + Anamaría Crowe Serrano

Más que poesía

Recital literario / Literary reading con Diego Valverde Villena y Anamaría Crowe Serrano.

Poemas de / Poems by Diego Valverde Villena y Anamaría Crowe Serrano

31/05/2011 (18:00 h)

Instituto Cervantes – Café Literario
Lincoln House, Lincoln Place
2 Dublin

Diego Valverde Villena is a Spanish poet of Peruvian origin and Bolivian roots.

Anamaría Crowe Serrano is Irish and lives in Dublin. She works as a teacher of Spanish and translator of contemporary poetry from Italian and Spanish into English.

Más información / More info

¿Quién era Lois Pereiro?

Lois Pereiro, nacido en Monforte, Galicia, en 1958, y fallecido 38 años más tarde en su tierra, es “el poeta punk hecho clásico”, según titula el diario Público en un artículo muy interesante dedicado a su vida y a su obra.

Pereiro, víctima del aceite de colza desnaturalizado, de la heroína y del sida escribió que “El cuerpo es una poesía de batalla / una carnicería en el cerebro”.

Hoy el Día de las letras Gallegas está dedicado a él.

El poeta punk hecho clásico

Día das letras galegas

Collected poems by Lois Pereiro

Lois Pereiro en Galego, presentación SlideShare

Lois Pereiro en Blog Galiza

Real Academia Galega

Lois Pereiro, born in Monforte, Galicia, in 1958, and who died 38 years later in his home land, is the “classic punk poet”, according to the title of a very interesting article by Público daily newspaper dedicated to his life and work.

Pereiro, a victim of denatured rapeseed oil, heroin, and AIDS, wrote that “The body is battle poetry / a butcher’s in the brain”. / a slaughter in the brain”.

Today, Galician Literature Day is dedicated to him.

El poeta punk hecho clásico

Día das letras galegas

Collected poems by Lois Pereiro

Lois Pereiro en Galego, presentación SlideShare

Lois Pereiro en Blog Galiza

Real Academia Galega

Laura Freixas: Author of the month / Autora del mes

freixasLaura Freixas (Barcelona, 1958) estudió en el Liceo Francés de su ciudad. Se licenció en Derecho en 1980, pero se ha dedicado siempre a la escritura. Se dio a conocer en 1988 con una colección de relatos, El asesino en la muñeca.

En 1997 se publicó su primera novela, Último domingo en Londres, a la que siguieron Entre amigas (1998) y Amor o lo que sea (2005). Ha publicado también otro libro de relatos (Cuentos a los cuarenta, 2001) y una autobiografía: Adolescencia en Barcelona hacia 1970 (2007).

Paralelamente a su obra narrativa, Laura Freixas ha desarrollado una intensa labor como estudiosa y promotora de la literatura escrita por mujeres. En 1996 coordinó y prologó una antología de relatos de autoras españolas contemporáneas, Madres e hijas (que alcanzó 9 ediciones en el primer año), y en 2000 publicó el influyente ensayo Literatura y mujeres. En 2009 vio la luz otra antología de parecidas características, Cuentos de amigas, así como la obra La novela femenil y sus lectrices (Premio Leonor de Guzmán).

Ha sido editora, crítica literaria y traductora. Fundó y dirigió de 1987 a 1994 la colección literaria El espejo de tinta, de la editorial Grijalbo, donde publicó por primera vez en España a Amos Oz y Elfriede Jelinek, entre otros autores. Ha ejercido la crítica literaria en El País y traducido los diarios de Virginia Woolf y de André Gide, así como las cartas de Madame de Sévigné. Dirigió el número monográfico de Revista de Occidente consagrado al diario íntimo en España (julio-agosto 1996). Colabora regularmente en distintos medios: Babelia (suplemento cultural de El País), Revista de libros, Letras libres, Mercurio… y es columnista del periódico La Vanguardia.

Ha publicado libros de divulgación como Taller de narrativa (1999) y una biografía de la escritora brasileña Clarice Lispector bajo el título Ladrona de rosas (2010).

Imparte talleres literarios en diversas instituciones y ha sido profesora, conferenciante o escritora invitada en numerosas Universidades españolas y extranjeras (Estocolmo, Budapest, Londres, Edimburgo…), especialmente de Estados Unidos (Cornell, Virginia, Rutgers, City University de Nueva York, entre otras). En 2010 ha sido profesora visitante en la Universidad norteamericana de Dartmouth College.

Forma parte del Parlamento Cultural Europeo y preside la asociación Clásicas y Modernas para la igualdad de género en la cultura.Tras haber residido en Francia e Inglaterra, vive en Madrid desde 1991.

Laura Freixas charlará sobre Carmen Martín Gaite y con todos los asistentes al acto del martes 3 de mayo, a las 18h, en nuestro Café Literario.

También vamos a celebrar una entrevista digital con Laura en la bitácora de la biblioteca. Podéis enviar vuestras preguntas sobre sus obras, o sobre Carmen Martín Gaite. Laura responderá a ellas el mismo día 3 de mayo, de 16.30h a 17.30h, hora de Dublín.

Consulta la entrevista de los lectores con Laura Freixas

Laura Freixas (Barcelona, 1958) studied at the FrenchSchool in her home city. She got a BA degree in Law in 1980 but she has always been dedicated to writing. She was first known in 1988 for her collection of short stories, El asesino en la muñeca (The Wrist Murderer).

In 1997 her first novel Último domingo en Londres (Last Sunday in London) was published, followed by Entre amigas (Just between Friends, 1998) and Amor o lo que sea (Love or Whatever It Is, 2005). She has also published another collection of short stories (Cuentos a los cuarenta, Tales at the Age of Forty, 2001) and an autobiography: Adolescencia en Barcelona hacia 1970 (A Teenager in Barcelona Around 1970, 2007).

Along with her contribution to fiction Laura Freixas has developed an intense work both as a scholar and a promoter of literature written by women. In 1996 she compiled and wrote the prologue for an anthology of short stories by Spanish contemporary female authors, Madres e hijas (Mothers and Daughters, which reached nine editions during its first year), and in 2000 she published the influential essay Literatura y mujeres (Women and Literature).  In 2009, Cuentos de amigas (Women Friends), another anthology of similar characteristics was published, as well as the work La novela femenil y sus lectrices (Ladies’ Novels and Lady Readers, ‘Leonor de Guzmán’ Award).

She has also worked as a Spanish language assistant at two British universities, as a publisher, a literary critic for El País and a translator. At present she teaches literature workshops for different institutions, she writes as a columnist for the newspaper La Vanguardia and does literary reviews for its supplement “Cultura/s”. She is a contributor to literary magazines such as Mercurio, Letras libres, Revista de libros…

She has been a lecturer or a writer in residence at a large number of Spanish and foreign universities (Stockholm, Nottingham, Budapest, Cornell, Rutgers, CUNY…) and taught creative writing at the University of Virginia (UVA) in 2006 and at DarmouthCollege in 2010. She is a member of the European Cultural Parliament and the chair of the association Clásicas y Modernas for gender equality in Spanish culture.

After been living in France and England, she currently resides in Madrid since 1991.

We will also be hosting a virtual interview with Laura on our library’s blog, whereby you can ask her questions about her own work or the work of Carmen Martín Gaite. You can send in your questions as of now, Laura will answer them live on Tuesday 3rd May, from 4.30pm to 5.30pm. hora de Dublín.

Digital inteview with Laura Freixas

Virtual interview with Laura Freixas

Virtual Interview with Laura Freixas, Instituto Cervantes Dublin Library, 3rd May 2011. Translated by Emer Cassidy

Laura Freixas

Laura, which title would you recommend to the foreign reader as a good introduction to Carmen Martín Gaite’s work?

Laura Freixas
“El cuarto de atrás”(translated into English under the title “The Back Room”).

How does Carmen Martín Gaite’s work vary from that of peers?

Laura Freixas
In many ways… For example: she had a great capacity for analysis, reflection, and introspection.

Also: her ability to mix popular culture and daily life with high culture, and to do so in a very natural way.

Also: the great richness and plasticity of her language (which, similarly to the references she made, even geographical – New York with a town in Galicia -, flowed seamlessly between popular and high culture).

Another characteristic very much her own, and perhaps the most obvious difference between her work and that of her peers, whether male or female, is the variety of genres in which she worked: novels, short stories, plays, essays, daily newspapers, autobiography etc.

Kafka’s influence in Martín Gaite’s first novel, El balneario, is evident, as the writer herself agreed. Which other influences could we glean from her bibliography? Are any of them women?

Laura Freixas
Good question…I hadn’t thought about that. I think she was influenced by the novelists of the nineteenth century – Galdós, Balzac, Flaubert…-, also by Proust…and I’m not sure who else… I think like all good (male/female) writers, she was a voracious reader, and that means that there is no one single influence in her work; she drew from many wells.

Ignacio Aldecoa introduced Carmen Martín Gaite to his circle of friends upon her arrival in Madrid: there she met Medardo Fraile, and Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio, with whom she later became romantically-involved until 1970. How important was this circle to her training as a novelist?  

Laura Freixas
Without a doubt he gave her support, and security, two things which are hard to find in the case of female writers, given that they are normally more isolated than male writers. Both formal groups (academies) and more informal groups (literary gatherings), where writers exchange opinions and ideas etc., tend to be male-dominated.

The entire group took on quite a similar aesthetic approach, a realistic and critical portrait of Spanish society at that time, in contrast to later generations who opted for more experimental literature.

Carmen Martín Gaite spoke on the television programme A Fondo, in and around 1981, of a before and an after in her writing style brought on by a refinement of her style crucial to the writing of her essay on Macanaz. Is her work previous to this still valid?  

Laura Freixas
How interesting, I didn’t know that. But, of course, her previous work is still valid, to my eyes Entre visillos shows she had already acquired a definite personal style. I read it just a few years ago and I still think it’s wonderful, and the same goes for Retahilas, for example.

Some years after the aforementioned TV programme, Carmen lost her only daughter. Did this tragic loss also affect the style and subject matter of her writing?

Laura Freixas
That’s a good question, but I don’t know… In any case, don’t forget that she had already lost a son, who died just a few months after having been born. That provided the autobiographical basis for her short story “Lo que queda enterrado”, although, oddly enough, the protagonist in the story loses a baby girl, not a baby boy.

(I think the reason for that change is that the death of the baby girl in the story takes on a greater meaning: it represents the death of the little girl in the narrator, of her hopes and dreams).

You have mentioned before that very few women’s issues, such as pregnancy, are ever examined in literature. Which women’s issues did Carmen Martín Gaite explore in her work?

Laura Freixas
Lots of them: mother-daughter relationships, the profile of a housewife, feminine introspection, women’s various roles (comparing women who work outside the home, and those who don’t, for example), the creation of female characters rarely or never dealt with in literature (the “weird” girl, the artist etc.), the critical analysis of gender roles, inequality, the relationship between power and the lack of communication between the sexes…

What other subjects do you think still remain difficult to write about simply because they are never discussed in literature?

Laura Freixas
I think there are still subjects which are scandalously absent from literature because they are difficult to deal with, or could cause a backlash, and/or because they are associated with sub-culture (they are viewed as “women’s magazine” topics, and aren’t considered “serious”). For example, pregnancy, abortion, or the negative aspects of motherhood.

Are Ana Karenina, Madame Bovary, and La Regenta “real” women, or are they transvestite men who have tried unsuccessfully to reflect the interior world of women?

Laura Freixas
Ah, what a good question! When I read those novels, I had the feeling there was something the authors hadn’t quite captured, or weren’t aware of, something they didn’t manage to fully reflect. I didn’t feel they were able to construct characters as convincing or as complex as those by Carmen Martín Gaite, Virginia Woolf or Annie Ernaux.

But the difference is so subtle that it would be very difficult to pinpoint exactly. Perhaps it’s for the same reason that I never fully believe historic novels. If I’m interested in learning more about the 17th century, I would be more inclined to read Madame de Sévigné, for example.

How is the young Spanish woman from the ‘50s, the protagonist in “Entre Visillos”, different to the young woman from the ‘70s, the protagonist in “Adolescencia en Barcelona hacia 1970”?

Laura Freixas
The protagonist in Adolescencia… has had two or three times the luck of the young woman in Entre Visillos, to have been born in a more modern Spain (in terms of the era and the region, Catalonia), in a more cosmopolitan family, and to have studied in the French Lycée. All of those influences give her self-confidence, freedom, the ability to view things with a critical eye, and a clear ambition. She is more enterprising and more self-assured.

But what she does have in common with the protagonist in Entre visillos is a certain feeling of disorientation, that something isn’t right, but she can’t quite put her finger on what exactly.

(If truth be told, to answer the question properly I’d need to reread both books, because it’s not something I had ever thought of before. Thank you LMartín, for giving me so many ideas…)

The back cover of that same book reads:  …an education ruled by the maxim “You must be ladies”. Are today’s young women in Spain still under pressure to be ladies, or have things become even more difficult for them, in that nothing is expected of young women any more, nor of young people in general?

Laura Freixas
I don’t know, to tell you the truth, because the only young woman I know well is my daughter, and I, along with her father, and her school (the French Lycée, cela va sans dire!), expect a great deal from her.

Is the biographical component also an important element in your other three novels “Último domingo en Londres”,”Amor o lo que sea” and “Entre amigas”?

Laura Freixas
Yes, absolutely. All my novels have an autobiographical core. I used to feel uncomfortable about that at the beginning, but not any more, for the following reasons:

1-Autobiographers are accused of having a lack of imagination, but I think I have proved that’s not the case with my books of short stories. Besides, it is possible to be a wonderful writer while not displaying much imagination (as with Proust, or Pla).

2- In revealing my life, I’m not revealing anything most people couldn’t relate to. My life is very similar to that of any other woman born in circumstances (generational, geographical, social etc.) similar to my own.

3- The autobiographical element is only the jumping-off point. It’s like the fabric from which I make a dress: first I have to cut out the pattern, sow it, add other materials and accessories, and so on. Multiple stories can be weaved from the one biography.

What happened with your first novel, “Último domingo en Londres”? Why was it such “an ordeal” to get published, given that you had already published your first book of short stories? Were you not able to convince Anagrama? I imagine they were your first choice.

Laura Freixas
That’s exactly it. I think it was a very ambitious (or complicated) novel for the little literary experience (or complete lack of, if we are talking specifically about novels) I had at the time.

Aside from that, I think that gender was something of a double-edged sword in the case of my initial success (Anagrama having published my first novel, given that I was unknown and that it was a book of short stories), in that, young women have a certain charisma and that affords them lots of opportunities… but then, when they are no longer so shiny and new, they are treated as “more of the same”…

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many female writers’ careers (I would interested in finding out if the same thing happened in other eras, and if it continues to happen in other fields, such as in politics, or painting) take off very early and with apparent ease, and then lose speed, or disappear completely, only to reappear (in some cases) years later, as the very same Carmen Martín Gaite, Carmen Laforet, Ana María Matute, Luisa Forrellad…

Regarding “Ladrona de rosas”, isn’t it a luxury to throw yourself into writing and publishing the biography of a Brazilian author who isn’t particularly well-known in Spain? How did the need, or the idea, to write this book come about?

Laura Freixas
It was all thanks to a happy coincidence. An editor (María Borrás, from La Esfera publishing house) contacted me to ask if I would be interested in writing an autobiography, which gave me the opportunity study a writer who had always intrigued and fascinated me, through her life as much as her work.

Is “Ladrona de rosas” to Laura Freixas what “Macanaz” was to Martín Gaite? Did the writing of this book change the way in which you approach your literary work?   

Laura Freixas
I haven’t thought about that, but it has changed my approach to life, or rather, it has reaffirmed one thing, namely: for years I thought being a (part-time) housewife was a good way of being able to devote oneself to writing, without the pressures inherent in having to make a living from a career (be that literature or not).

Now, through my own experience, and also because I have seen it as clear as day in the case of Lispector, I think that is a very dangerous was of thinking, and which comes at a high price. Through her letters, we see that when she was living abroad, disconnected from what was happening in literary circles in her country, she was so distressed and depressed she had great difficulty writing. And she wrote her best works when she divorced, returned to Brazil and had to earn a living. Of course there are lots of factors at work there, but that doesn’t stop it being a fact.

“A glass ceiling prevents many women from being published”, those are your words. What can we do to break through this glass ceiling?

Laura Freixas
The first thing we can do is be aware of it, talk about it, analyse it, research the figures, to try to understand why and how it occurs… In my association “Clásicas y Modernas”, that’s precisely what we do.

In 2009, you relayed some striking facts produced by the Spanish Ministry of Culture: “women read more than men, the number of men and women who write literature is equal – 8% of the population – however, only 20% of literature published in Spain is by women”. Has anything changed since then?

Laura Freixas
Unfortunately not. And neither have I observed a greater awareness of the situation… except in the case of those involved: female writers, painters, composers, film directors… as evidenced by the creation of various associations of women within the world of the arts in recent years, such as CIMA (association of women in film and audiovisual industries), MAV (Women in the Visual Arts) and Clásicas y Modernas (association for gender equality in the arts).

Your mother’s passion for reading was, as far as I’m aware, what led you to read and to write, “to turn yourself into a book” so that your mother would pay more attention to you. What did you read at that age? Which was the book that seeded your love of literature?

Laura Freixas
My love of literature began even before I could read. Oddly, I don’t remember a particular title which marked me greatly until the great discovery I made at 19: Proust.

You were recently selected as one of the most representative authors of contemporary Spanish fantastic narrative. Proof of that is the inclusion of your short story “Final Absurdo” in the anthology of contemporary Spanish fantastic short stories “Perturbaciones, Antología del relato fantástico español actual” (Salto de Página, 2009).

What is your relationship with the fantastic genre? What is it that attracts you to it? How would you define today’s fantastic literature?

Laura Freixas
Well, I should confess that it’s a genre which interested me when I was younger, mainly as an influence of the Latin American boom, and now it doesn’t interest me so much…

Laura, I think men are more group-oriented than women, making it much more difficult for women to achieve important positions within society. I don’t understand why it is like that. What is your view on the subject?

Laura Freixas
You’re right, women are more fragmented, living their lives at home, not making as much use of public spaces, and tending to spend their time with family and friends more so than with colleagues or competitors.

That has to do with power: men play power games much more than we do, and that happens through men tending to relate mostly with other men, through negotiations and exchanges. As for women, I’m not sure whether it’s that we don’t know how to play those games, we’re not able to, or we don’t want to. And I think being excluded from that interplay, whatever the reason may be (which I honestly don’t know), is a price we pay dearly.

Do you think men and women write about different subjects in their work?

Laura Freixas
Although it may be rather brash of me to make sweeping generalisations, I do think there are certain areas which are dealt with more by male writers (for example, war) and others which are more common among female writers (for example, relationships between women: friends, mothers and daughters, sisters etc.).

I also think that female writers tend to construct female characters which are varied and complex, with interests and ambitions not solely focused on love, whereas male writers are inclined to present female characters purely as the lover, mother, or wife of the male character, rather than the protagonist of her own life.

Laura, a few months ago you were interviewed on the radio for the classical music programme “Juegos con espejo”, in which the person being interviewed picks their favourite music. You chose only foreign composers. Why were there no Spanish composers among your selection? Thank you.

Laura Freixas
Thank you for pointing that out, I hadn’t noticed.

It’s purely down to my musical ignorance. The little musical knowledge I have has been almost entirely handed down from my parents, who were both great fans of classical music. As far back as I can remember they would listen to Bach, Handel, Mozart, Schubert… I added more modern composers (Janacek, R. Strauss…), and apart from that, my friends influenced me as a teenager, by introducing me to Janis Joplin, for example.

Although, if truth be told, now that you mention it, I think that like many of my generation, I had certain anti-Spanish prejudices in my formative years, which carried over to my tastes in literature (I started to get out of that mind-set quite late, in the ‘90s, when I began reading the Spanish classics, of my own accord), and I suppose also in music.

Do you think that men and women’s roles in society are the same in every country? Thank you.

Laura Freixas
Not in the slightest. Fortunately so, for those of us who live in the West, which proves that gender roles are a social fabrication and may be modified.

Good afternoon, Laura. What does Carmen Martín Gaite’s “Caperucita en Manhattan” represent to you? Thank you very much.

Laura Freixas
Yikes, that’s one of the very few, perhaps the only, of her books I haven’t read… I’m sorry. I’ll make sure to read it.

Thank you to all of you for taking part.

Related links:

Laura Freixas is our author of the month throughout the month of May.

El día de Cervantes, la Noche de los Libros / Cervantes’ Day, The Night of the Books

El 27 de April de 2011 en Literature, World Book Day por | Sin comentarios

Tras el 23 de abril, las celebraciones del “Día mundial del libro y del derecho de autor” y de Sant Jordi, en España continúa celebrándose la fiesta del libro y de la lectura.

Hoy recibe su Premio Cervantes, en la universidad de Alcalá de Henares, Ana María Matute. La entrega del premio se puede seguir por en directo a través de Radio Nacional de España y por televisión en CervantesTV.

Posteriormente, ella misma dará comienzo a la lectura continuada del Quijote que cada año se celebra en el Círculo de Bellas Artes.

La lectura, que ocupa unas 36 horas en total, se puede seguir por radio en Radio Círculo, y una vez más, por televisión en el canal del Instituto Cervantes CervantesTV.

Para los que lleguen tarde, o los que quieran comenzar a escuchar el Quijote por cualquier capítulo de su interés, existe desde el pasado 22 de marzo el Canal El Quijote en Youtube, gestionado por la Real Academia Española de la lengua y por la Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española. Fueron 2149 hispanohablantes los que participaron en esta lectura universal del Quijote.

Y al anochecer, llega la sexta edición de La noche de los libros en la que participarán más de 450 escritores y artistas por las calles de la Comunidad de Madrid. La noche de los libros también se celebra, cómo no, en la sede del Instituto Cervantes en Madrid.

Felicidades a todos.

The 23rd April having just passed, along with the “World Book and Copyright Day” and Sant Jordi festivities, Spain’s celebration of books and reading is still underway. Today, Ana María Matute will be awarded the Cervantes Prize, in the university of Alcalá de Henares. You can follow the prize-giving ceremony live with Spanish national radio, Radio Nacional de España, and on TV with CervantesTV.   

Following the ceremony, she will officially initiate the continuous reading of Don Quixote which is held every year in the Círculo de Bellas Artes.

You can follow the reading, due to last some 36 hours in total, with the Círculo de Bellas Artes’s radio station, Radio Círculo, or, again with Instituto Cervantes’s television channel, CervantesTV.

If you are unable to follow the event live, or if you wish to listen to a particular chapter of Don Quixote, you can also watch the event on the YouTube channel “ElQuijote”, created recently on the 22nd March by the Royal Spanish Academy and the Association of Spanish Language Academies. 2149 Spanish-speakers have participated in this universal reading of Quixote.

And if that isn’t enough, in the evening, the sixth edition of La noche de los libros gets underway, with over 450 writers and artists participating in various activities on Madrid’s streets, all in celebration of reading. Book night will also, of course, be celebrated in Instituto Cervantes‘s headquarters in Madrid.  

Let the proceedings begin!


Manuel Vicent: Author of the month / Autor del mes

Manuel Vicent, escritor y periodista, nació en La Vilavella, Castellón, en 1936.

Tras licenciarse en Derecho y Filosofía por la universidad de Valencia, realizó y completó estudios de periodismo en la escuela oficial de Madrid.

Comenzó su carrera como periodista en la revista Triunfo y como columnista político en el diario Madrid. En la transición, tras la fundación del diario El País, comenzó a colaborar con este periódico realizando esa misma labor de columnista político. Hoy en día sigue escribiendo para este medio.

Compagina su labor periodística y literaria con su trabajo como galerista de arte.

Su obra literaria comprende novelas, teatro, relatos, biografías, libros de viajes, apuntes gastronómicos y entrevistas, además de los ya citados artículos periodísticos.

Más en nuestra página de autor del mes

Consulta la entrevista de los lectores con Manuel Vicent

Manuel Vicent, writer and journalist, was born in La Vilavella, Castellón, Spain, in 1936.

After graduating in Law and Philosophy from the University of Valencia, he studied Journalism at the Official School of Journalism in Madrid.

He started his career as a journalist in the magazine Triunfo and as a political columnist in the daily newspaper at the time, Madrid. During the transition to democracy, which saw the founding of El País, he starting working there, again, as a political columnist. He remains an active and regular contributor to El País to this day.

He also combines his journalistic and literary work with running an art gallery.

His literary work comprises novels, plays, short stories, biographies, travel books, food writing and interviews, not forgetting of course his articles written for the press.

More about him in our author of the month section

Digital inteview with Manuel Vicent


Virtual interview with Manuel Vicent and Ángel Harguindey

Virtual Interview with Manuel Vicent and Ángel Harguindey, Instituto Cervantes Dublin Library, 7th April 2011. Translated by Emer Cassidy

Manuel Vicent

Laura Martín
Good afternoon Mr. Vicent. Which book or author turned you into a reader and why? Which book or author turned you into a writer?

Manuel Vicent
For me, comics where what first turned me on to reading. After that, adventure books by Salgari and Jules Verne.  Later on, with Azorín and Baroja, I was hooked. But the authors who made me a writer, if I can say such a thing, were Albert Camus and André Gide.

David Carrión
Mr. Vicent, do you remember the first story you were ever told, and the first you yourself told?

Manuel Vicent
The first story was one of the tales in Heart, by Edmundo de Amicis. Another book which had a big impact on me was one given to me by my school teacher on the day of my first holy communion: “Lo que puede más que el hombre”. Those stories of an engineer, who regales a man from the country with the latest technological advances, had a big effect on me.

The first story I made up… On a footpath, with a crowd of children around me, around 8 or 9 years old, I invented a story about a crime, and that’s as much as I can remember. A gruesome, passionate crime.

Good afternoon, Mr. Harguindey. The same question as before: which book or author turned you into a reader and/or a writer?

Ángel Harguindey
I have only written one book of conversations with Azcona and Manuel Vicent, and there wasn’t one single book which made me a reader, but rather, several, from the “Just William” series to Jules Verne, and Stevenson.

Mr. Harguindey, why would you recommend M. Vicent’s books to readers who are not native Spanish-speakers? In particular, his most recent novel, “Aguirre, el magnífico”?

Ángel Harguindey
Because it is a wonderful fusion between reality and imagination. In my opinion, the interest in Vicent’s most recent novels lies in that they are excellent chronicles of our time and our country.

Especially Aguirre, el magnífico, given its subject matter as a fictionalised biography of Javier Aguirre, it also stands alone as a wonderful and much-documented chronicle of the latter half of the 20th century in Spain

“Aguirre el magnífico” is pure theatre of the grotesque, or esperpento, and its protagonist like a character straight out of Valle-Inclán’s court of miracles. How could we explain that to a foreigner?

Manuel Vicent
Esperpento is a literary genre created by Valle-Inclán, which isn’t so much a caricature as a literary distortion which aims to portray the essence of the character in that distortion. For a foreigner, that distortion… I’m not sure if they could fully understand it.

We mentioned Valle-Inclán, however, I was under the impression, Mr. Vicent, that you were more akin to the sobriety of Baroja. Is that right?

Manuel Vicent
Although I lean towards a baroque style, I find I am moving away from it. As the years go by, I tend to write in a more concise way, placing all the importance on the verb, and not the adjective, and that’s Baroja.

Is it possible to understand the history of the 20th century in Spain just that little bit better after reading “Aguirre, el mágnífico”, or will the foreign reader end up more confused than before they had started?

Manuel Vicent
It’s possible they could end up more confused, but that also means that they have understood it, because the history of the 20th century in Spain is an utter labyrinth.

Mr. Vicent, in “Aguirre, el magnífico” you recount how the duke introduced you to the king as his biographer. Is that how the idea came to you to write this book? What sparked the idea?

Manuel Vicent
He was just being witty. But as time passed, and the years went by, that notion became the stimulus to write this Iberian triptych. It isn’t intended to be his biography so much as an Iberian portrait, a sort of triptych, where this character carries the central role.

Mr. Vicent, who would you like to be your biographer? Perhaps Mr. Harguindey would like to volunteer, or will you write your own autobiography? Or, perhaps it is already in print, with a little portion in each of your novels?

Manuel Vicent
I have written quite a lot in a genre which, these days, is known as autofiction, even though it has been around since literature first came into existence. The idea isn’t to write a biography as such, it’s more the retelling of personal experiences. And the reason to share them with the reader is that they are experiences which express worlds, feelings and dreams common to us all.

Mr. Vicent, how do you feel about the screen adaptations of your books: Tranvía a la Malvarrosa and Son de mar? Are there more to come?

Manuel Vicent
I have no idea whether there’ll be any more, but I’m happy with them in any case. I haven’t been involved in the making of either film.

Do you think “Aguirre, el magnífico” would be good subject matter for a film by Berlanga and Azcona?

Manuel Vicent
I think it’s more Visconti territory.

Two Irish authors feature in your book “Póquer de ases”, I presume they are two of your favourites: Samuel Beckett and James Joyce.

Manuel Vicent
Yes, one of them because he stretched the boundaries of literature. If I were to name three authors who stretched the limits of literature, nullifying the old style of bourgeois novel, one would be Joyce, who analysed the average man’s sub-conscious, spilling his thoughts, dreams and desires through the streets of Dublin over the course of a day, and that, when you look at it, is translating the world of Freud over to fiction. The other two I’d name are Kafka and Proust.

Beckett, who in some respects was a scholar of Joyce, expressed the humour in chaos and the absurd, as our last defence against chaos itself and death.

Mr. Vicent, quoting Samuel Beckett you have said “Life is a chaos between two silences”. Do you think literature can bring order and sense to chaos?

Manuel Vicent
No, I think literature adds more chaos to the general chaos. But high literature makes that chaos easier to dance to.

Mr. Vicent, in “Viajes, fábulas y otras travesías” you take us on a journey across Europe in 1985. Speaking about Ireland you say “I began to love this country the following day [after my arrival] at 9 o’clock in the morning”. Why? What has become of that love 25 years on?

Manuel Vicent
Without a doubt it was discovering the characters on Grafton Street.

It felt like I had seen all those people before in films set in the west: those red-heads that  take shots at outlaws… and Maureen O’Hara making a turnip tart.

You mentioned recently in the Juan March Foundation that as we get older, the only thing we remember is our childhood. I have happy memories, but I wouldn’t go back “to that place” if you paid me. Would you?

Manuel Vicent
It’s not necessarily about going back, but as we lose our memory, the brain’s hard-drive takes over, the cogs still clogged up with the slime that is our childhood.

Mr. Vicent: tell me if I am quoting this correctly: Literature is memory rotted down with imagination over time.

Manuel Vicent
I think that’s exactly right.

Beauty masks destruction. Beauty and corruption go hand in hand. Which one wins in the end?

Manuel Vicent
Well, I think it’s a question of dialectics. The synthesis will always win. A moment of beauty is worth a lifetime and we should make the most of it.

Mr. Vicent, where is your abode at the moment? Closer to Villa Alegría (Happy Town) or Ecce Homo on the corner of Virgen de los Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows)?

Manuel Vicent
I’ve made a mammoth effort to leave behind Ecce Homo on the corner of Virgen de los Dolores and return to Villa Alegría. I’d say it’s closer to Villa Alegría.

Mr. Vicent, your most recent book has come out in print and in digital format at the same time. How are you finding the experience? I imagine the majority of sales are still from print. Do you buy electronic books? Thank you very much.

Manuel Vicent
No, not ever. And I’m not sure how the digital sales are going.

Helen Cunningham
Good afternoon Mr. Vicent,
It’s not possible to visit Spain without coming across the Duchess of Alba in the gossip magazines and on various TV shows. Now you have written a book in which Jesus Aguirre, the duchess’s second husband, is the protagonist. Is the duchess happy with the book?

Manuel Vicent
It appears not, but what I can say is that from my point of view as the author of the book, the part with Jesús Aguirre as the Duke of Alba is the book’s least interesting and most insipid side.

Manuel Vicent, welcome to Ireland. Which Irish writers do you like? Thank you.

Manuel Vicent
The answer is very nearly topical: Joyce and Beckett essentially. There are more writers here per square metre than anywhere else in the world. Obviously beer is a highly literary product.

Manuel, in your short story “El caballo amante”, the protagonist writes verses of poetry whilst listening to the cries of passion of his wife and her lover in the downstairs bedroom. What do you do to stimulate your imagination whilst writing?

Manuel Vicent
It depends on what I want to write and on my mood, but what really gets me writing is having a storyline which prompts me to waste time.

Eduardo José
Dear Mr. Vicent, I have just seen your film “Son de mar”. I really like the actress. Do you think I could have a role in your next film, obviously, alongside that actress? Thank you. Thank you very much.

Manuel Vicent
I’ll suggest it to Leonor, as long as you are tall, slim and have green eyes.

Hello. I like cookery books. Why have you written about food? Thank you.

Manuel Vicent
Because in a way eating is like a mystical deed, from a literary perspective. And because there has always been great literary tradition around what we eat.

Hello Vicent, what is the life of a writer like? Is it very lonely? Thank you.

Manuel Vicent
Loneliness is the writer’s landscape from within which the writer observes the outside world.

Ángel, what are your criteria for deciding what to publish? Do you like Dublin? Thank you.

Ángel Harguindey
From all the possible topics, I usually choose the ones that interest me the most, personally. If I have just one criterion, it’s to always write in favour of the subject or the person. At this stage of the game, if something doesn’t interest me I have the privilege of not having to write about it.

I find Dublin a very welcoming city, with very friendly people, and civilised dimensions. For those of us coming from a city of speculators such as Madrid, it’s very attractive.

Manuel, why have your books not been translated into English?

Manuel Vicent
Ask the editors. I don’t know, honestly.

Anna Bajor-Ciciliati
Good afternoon!

I have five questions for Mr. Manuel Vicent:
1. Where does journalism end and literature begin? Which of the pairs of opposing ideas: objectivity-subjectivity, fact-fiction, or transience-universality do you see as the most important in marking the dividing line?

2.. Is there room for fiction in journalism? Or is being faithful to the facts an absolute obligation for a journalist?

3. Do you identify yourself with the idea of “literary journalism”?

4. Are there higher authorities in the world of journalism to whom you look up to? If so, who? As for your literary inspirations – who do you consider the most important?

5. Are we currently experiencing a “crisis” in journalism?

Thank you very much,

Manuel Vicent
1- Literature begins when a writer, or a journalist, takes three seconds to choose between one adjective or another.

2- There is a faithfulness to the facts which, with time, and as memory fades, becomes  fiction.

3- I think journalism is the literary genre of the latter half of the 20th century, and including up to the present moment.

4- In journalism, the only higher authority I have are the facts, the stance of reflecting reality with little in the way of adjectives and lots of verbs. My literary maestros would be Camus, Stevenson, Scott Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Tomas Mann. In article writing, the genre in which I work the most, Josep Plá and Julio Camba.

5- As regards analogue, or print, journalism, probably. But as regards journalism as an attitude, in reflecting the facts as they come about and reflecting them to the reader as a chronicle, that will never go out of fashion because it’s embedded in our dreams.

Thank you all for participating in this interview

Related links:

Manuel Vicent will also be our author of the month throughout the month of April.

Encuentro digital con Manuel Vicent y Ángel Harguindey

El 28 de March de 2011 en Books, Cultural Activities, Library, Literature, Spanish writers, Virtual interviews, Writers por | Comments Off on Encuentro digital con Manuel Vicent y Ángel Harguindey

Comenzamos una nueva serie de encuentros digitales en la bitácora de la biblioteca del Instituto Cervantes de Dublín.

Podéis enviar vuestras preguntas, en forma de comentario a la página del encuentro digital, desde hoy, día 28 de marzo hasta el día 7 de abril. Manuel Vicent y Ángel Harguindey responderán a ellas el mismo día 7 de abril, de 4:30 a 5:30 hora de Dublín.

Posteriormente, a las 6:00, Manuel Vicent y Ángel Harguindey mantendrán una conversación sobre periodismo y literatura en nuestro Café Literario.

Bibliotecarios: ¡animad a vuestros lectores a participar!

Profesores: ¡animad a vuestros estudiantes!

Muchas gracias a Manuel Vicent y a Ángel Harguindey por su disponibilidad y amabilidad. Muchas gracias a todos vosotros por participar.

Aquí os dejamos algunos materiales para preparar la “entrevista”:

Podcast del diálogo celebrado en la Fundación Juan March de Madrid entre Manuel Vicent y Ángel Harguindey (10 de marzo de 2011): escuchar la conferencia, descargar MP3

Podcast de la conferencia de Manuel Vicent “Una travesía literaria” celebrada en la Fundación Juan March de Madrid (8 de marzo de 2011): escuchar la conferencia, descargar MP3

Encuentro digital de Manuel Vicent con los lectores de El País el 2 de marzo de 2011.

Textos de Manuel Vicent en EL PAÍS

Ángel Harguindey en el Foro Complutense

Manuel Vicent es además nuestro autor del mes en abril. En Lecturalia encontraréis su biografía y reseña de todas sus obras.

Las preguntas serán moderadas antes de su publicación. Solo podrán ser publicadas aquellas que, durante la hora de duración del encuentro, Manuel Vicent y Ángel Harguindey alcancen a responder.

Para cualquier duda, estamos a vuestra disposición en bibdub(at)cervantes.es, @icdublin o Facebook.

¡Os esperamos!

We are launching a new series of virtual interviews through the library’s blog here at Instituto Cervantes Dublin, whereby the audience asks the questions.

You can send in your questions, starting from today, Monday 28th March, until Thursday 7th April. Manuel Vicent and Ángel Harguindey will answer them on the 7th April, from 4:30pm to 5:30pm local Dublin time.

Following this, at 6pm Manuel Vicent and Ángel Harguindey will discuss journalism and literature in our Café Literario.

Teachers: encourage your students to take part!

Librarians: invite your readers to get involved!

Sincere thanks to Manuel Vicent and Ángel Harguindey for their generosity and good humour. And thank you to all of you for taking part.

Here is some material so that you can prepare your “interview”!

Podcast of the conference between Manual Vicent and Ángel Harguindey in the Juan March Foundation in Madrid (10th March, 2011): listen to the conference, download the MP3

Podcast of the Manuel Vicent conference “Una travesía literaria” (A literary crossing) held in the Juan March Foundation (8th March, 2011): listen to the conference, download the MP3

Virtual interview: Manuel Vicent and readers of El País, (2nd March, 2011)

Articles by Manuel Vicent in EL PAÍS

Ángel Harguindey on the Complutense University of Madrid’s online forum: Foro Complutense

Manuel Vicent will also be our author of the month throughout the month of April.

Questions will be moderated before being posted online. Only those questions to which Manuel Vicent and Ángel Harguindey are able to respond during the hour-long discussion will be uploaded.

If you have any queries, we’re only too happy to help at bibdub(at)cervantes.es, @icdublin and Facebook

We’ll meet you there!


Luís García Moreno: Writing is having an awareness of the other reality…

Luis Garcia Montero

Interview with Luis García Montero held on 24rd March, 2011 at the Dámaso Alonso Library of the Instituto Cervantes in Dublin on the occasion of his participation in the round table discussion “More than poetry” with Almudena Grandes.

Luis García Montero (Granada, 1958) is Professor of Spanish Literature. Among his poetry collections we can highlight Y ahora ya eres dueño del Puente de Brooklyn (1980), Tristia (a collaboration with Álvaro Salvador, 1982), El jardín extranjero (1983), Diario cómplice (1987), Las flores del frío (1991), Habitaciones separadas (1994), Completamente viernes (1998), La intimidad de la serpiente (2003), Vista cansada (2008) and Un invierno propio (2011). The poems he wrote in his youth were collected in Además (1994). His poems have been extensively anthologised, and he has received numerous awards. He is also the author of essays, fiction and newspaper articles.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Luis, is this your first time in Dublin?

Luis García Montero: —It’s my first time. I was really looking forward to it, because apart from being an important European capital, it’s also a very literary city.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Granada is also a literary city. And if there’s anyone that knows Granada well, it’s you. What would you recommend? What should we not miss when we go to Granada?

Luis García Montero: —Granada is a city with a lot of life, it’s a small city with a population of 350,000, it has a university with 70,000 students. I would recommend, of course, the must-see tourist sites. We never get tired of speaking about the Alhambra, it’s simply a wonder. The Royal Chapel, where the Catholic Monarchs are buried, is the other Granada, not the Islamic one, the Christian Granada, with a very important collection of paintings. But what I would advise is to take in the city’s atmosphere, especially at night. There are lots of cultural events, lots of bookshops and lots of bars. And at night, culture and life merge into one in the bars, because the students go out, have a few drinks, have some amazing and very cheap tapas in the bars and then, at every table, there’s a discussion about culture, about art, about literature, about politics, about everything. It’s something I associate strongly with my education and my youth.

Granada was García Lorca’s city, of course. When I started out writing, to me, Lorca was that poet who had been executed in the Civil War and when he was killed the modern city of the 1920s and ’30s was wiped out. For me, growing up, getting an education, studying at university meant trying to discover that city that had disappeared with García Lorca’s death. And there was a lot of that city in the bars and in the conversations, waiting to be served at the bar, and at the tables where people lived and drank, discussing politics and literature at the same time.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Who do you remember fondly?

Luis García Montero: —Lots of people. I had a good relationship with my parents and a family life which was something of a paradox, because my personal and political beliefs were very different from my family’s traditional ideas, but, even so, we always got on in a very caring and kind way.

And from the point of view of literature, I’ve been lucky in that some maestros have come down from their pedestals, where they were in my mind, like mythical figures, and through their generosity they’ve become friends of mine. The first was Rafael Alberti, a friend of Lorca’s, a poet in exile, and a republican poet. And I had a very close friendship with him while I was doing my doctoral thesis. And after that, other writers who have been important to me have been Francisco Ayala, Ángel González, and Jaime Gil de Biedma. I remember each of them particularly fondly.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Cincuentena is a book for which you have selected 50 poems, to coincide with your birthday. Was that difficult? How did you choose them?

Luis García Montero: —It was very difficult. I like to think about literature as a reader. As a reader I still try to please the adolescent in me, who was blown away by the book in his hands and who devoted himself to writing because he had huge admiration for what he had read by García Lorca, Neruda, Machado, Cernuda, by so many poets. But, as a writer it’s very hard, because when I read my own work I don’t look at it through the same admiring eyes which enable me to enjoy literature. My eyes see things to be corrected, I’ve made a mistake with this, or I could have written that in a different way…

If you manage to hold on to a critical conscience, it’s just as important to hold on to the sense of wonder you had as a teenager. Reading your own work isn’t an enjoyable experience, because you end up discovering more mistakes, or different possibilities, than parts you like. And in this anthology, Cincuentena, I chose the 50 poems not which I like the most, but which worry me the least, they leave me feeling calmer when I read them, my corrector’s eyes scold me less than with others. And that’s what I did when I reached my 50th birthday, I put together a collection of 50 poems.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Does the passing of time frighten us?

Luis García Montero: —I think it does. The passing of time is something which is inevitable to the human condition, because it’s not just that time passes for us, but rather, we’re aware of its passing. Other creatures that follow their instincts, aren’t aware of it. And I mention instincts because I think we’re living in a time in which too much emphasis is placed on having an instinctive relationship with time. We surround ourselves with euphemisms, we want to hide the fact that we’re destined to grow older, that we’re destined to die. It’s as if contemporary life encourages euphemisms, to help us forget about old age, illness, and death. And I think an important role of literature is to provide a space for memory, and for the idea that life isn’t all inane joy and superficial exaltation of youth.

Writing is listening to your elders, something which happens less and less these days, writing is having an awareness of the other reality, which isn’t wrapped up in fancy paper, which has to do with pain, with loss, and from that point of view, one of the fundamental themes in literature is the passing of time.

Carmen Sanjulián: —“Aunque tú no lo sepas” is a poem which really made headway.

Luis García Montero: —You know what parent-children relationships are like. As soon as kids get a bit older, they’re desperate to get rid of their parents. That’s just the way it is, we’ve all done it. I published “Aunque tú no lo sepas” in the bookHabitaciones separadas. Enrique Urquijo, the singer, was interested in the poem and he asked Quique González, a singer-songwriter I admire a lot, to do a version of the poem. He did it, and the poem became a song, later it became the title of a film and appeared in a film, later on it also appeared quoted in some other books.

It’s been very lucky, but what I’m most pleased about is that one day, my daughter, who admires Quique González, was looking up his website with some friends of hers, and she saw the story of “Aunque tú no lo sepas” and how Enrique Urquijo had asked Quique to write the song. She came to me with a very serious face and said: “Dad, did that song by Quique González come from one of your poems?” And I said to her, “Well, yes dear, what the website says is true.” And since then she looks at me differently. She has that little bit more respect for me now.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Luis, what makes you happy?

Luis García Montero: —I think in the middle of winter and the recession and in a world full of insecurities and cut-backs, happiness is too formal a word. But I don’t give up on joy, because the ability to enjoy life, to not give in and wallow in pain but search out the good things in life, I think that’s the only watchword we can accept with a little decency.

There are areas of warmth in life. I like friendship, I like literature, and sometimes the two go together because some of my best friends are writers and I admire what they write. But, of course, there are other friends with whom I like to watch a match, go out for a few drinks, have a beer. In an Irish pub in Madrid, O’Connor’s, we have two weekly meet-ups, and something very serious would have to happen for me not to go, because I like being in a good mood, and being happy with my friends. And love, of course, I think literature, friendship and love are my sources of happiness.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Words are part of our daily lives. Do we have favourite words?

Luis García Montero: —Well, yes, we have favourite words and we have to take special care of them because sometimes our favourite words are changed and turned into something strange.

Actually, I could talk to you about words which fascinate me because of how they sound, like “damajuana” (demijohn) which to me is wonderful, I also think “ojalá” (let’s hope so!) is wonderful. But recently, when I’ve been asked that, I always say my favourite word is “despertador” (alarm clock), and I’ll explain why: because the word “amanecer” (dawn) has been manipulated a lot, it’s one of those words that, if you’re not careful, it escapes and ends up in a hymn. They are far too solemn words, by meaning “the world is beginning”, “life will change”, “the future will arrive”. On the other hand, the word “despertador” seems less solemn to me and more humane.

I really enjoy staying up late, but I also like seeing the light of day. Keeping your head above water is hard work. After a long night you have to wake up, get up early and go to work, and that’s keeping your head above water. For me, that idea is closer to the word “despertador” than “amanecer”. You arrive home and set the alarm so that the next day you’ll be able to get up, open your eyes and keep making your way in the world.

Recommended links

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