Alfonso Zapico (Blimea, Asturias, 1981) is a cartoonist and illustrator. He studied Illustration and Design at the School of Art in Oviedo and contributes regularly to various periodicals and publishers. His first professional work in the world of comics was published in France: La guerre du professeur Bertenev (2006), set during the Crimean War, and the collective volume Un jour de mai (2007). In 2008 he published Café Budapest, addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict. In 2009 he participated in another collective volume: Un buen hombre, on the daily life of SS officers. For his most recent work, Dublinés (2011), a biography of James Joyce, he received a residency at La Maison des Auteurs in Angoulême (France), and the Premio Nacional prize for comic books in 2012.
Carmen Sanjulián: —Alfonso, you’re a cartoonist, you do graphic novels… How do you prefer to be called?
Alfonso Zapico: —I call myself simply an illustrator or cartoonist. Then I write books, comics, stories which can be labelled in different ways depending on how you want to call them, but they are basically stories.
Carmen Sanjulián: —From Café Budapest to Dublinés only two years went by. What happened in that time?
Alfonso Zapico: —Well, I was looking for another story to tell. I didn’t really know what to do and then this biography of Joyce appeared. At first it was like a challenge, something new, and I didn’t know how it would end up. The publisher didn’t have much confidence in it but finally it has resulted in more than two years of work, travel and also changes. Besides, as this is also a travel book it has been a way of evolving for me, to some extent, a way of drawing all this.
Carmen Sanjulián: —What fascinated you about Joyce to the point that you wanted to make a book about him?
Alfonso Zapico: —When I started to draw Dublinés I didn’t know much about the author, I’m not an expert in literature. But, I don’t know why there is something about Joyce that grips you, that attracts your attention, that gives you the urge to find out about him. And that’s what inspired me to start Dublinés. In the end, I depicted the “surface” of this author, with his optimistic philosophy of life and his love for every detail… at the same time I was telling the real story of a guy full of contradictions, of course.
Carmen Sanjulián: —Do you also slide down the handrails like Joyce used to do after class?
Alfonso Zapico: —Not at all. I am very serious-minded compared to Joyce.
Carmen Sanjulián: —Do you think the entire story would be more interesting if it were told the same way as your biography of Joyce?
Alfonso Zapico: —I think so. At first, Joyce’s story or his literature may seem quite abstract, let’s say very distant, complicated. But the advantage of the graphic novel is that the strips induce the reader to soak up the story very fast and they create a certain complicity because the reader becomes the travelling companion of the protagonist and travels along the pages, goes around the cities together with the character, becomes part of his life until the end.
Carmen Sanjulián: —What comes first, the story or the drawings?
Alfonso Zapico: —For me, the story. Then I draw the strips with the story in mind. I’ve used grey colours for Dublinés, a realistic drawing style, because that’s what the story required. For Café Budapest, which is more of a caricature, I used black and white, which was more suitable for the story.
Carmen Sanjulián: —Which comics did you read in your childhood?
Alfonso Zapico: —The ones everybody else used to read: Tintin, Spirou, Asterix, Mortadelo y Filemón, Zipi y Zape… In short, I was a conventional comic reader. I devoured them all, those available at the library and others I found lying around.
Carmen Sanjulián: —Do you still read comics?
Alfonso Zapico: —I do. The thing is that as the comic sector has changed so much, there are so many new publications, the graphic novel, many foreign authors… The truth is that I don’t know much, now I’m starting to know more and read more comics. But paradoxically, being a comic author myself, I didn’t know much.
Carmen Sanjulián: —Tell us a secret: Have you dazzled many girls with your drawings?
Alfonso Zapico: —To be honest, I don’t think so. I don’t have the aura of the bohemian painters.
Carmen Sanjulián: —Do you take photographs?
Alfonso Zapico: —I don’t. I only took photos when I studied photography at the School of Arts and I wasn’t very skilled.
Carmen Sanjulián: —Asturias, beloved homeland… What can you say about Asturias?
Alfonso Zapico: —I live in France now and I haven’t been to Asturias in a long time. I really miss it. But coming to Dublin has made me feel a bit better because it’s pretty similar, you know. Because of the weather, the many pubs, the people talking very loud. I can feel the difference with respect to France.
Carmen Sanjulián: —Is there any difference between Asturias and Ireland?
Alfonso Zapico: —Yes, there are differences. I don’t know Ireland. For me, Asturias is special.
Carmen Sanjulián: —You write a blog with illustrations. Do you think the future of the comic, as with many other things, will be the Internet? Will we say good-bye to paper?
Alfonso Zapico: —I think the future of the comic will be the Internet. However, I don’t think paper will disappear. I think it will happen the same way as with novels, and books. The electronic comic is already a reality and I think it will do well. But I think that paper comics with a hard cover, or hardback, will continue to be published and sold.
Carmen Sanjulián: —Do you have any other historical figure in the pipeline?
Alfonso Zapico: —Not for the moment. I’ve been working on this comic for a long time and I have other things to finish. I haven’t figured out yet what I’m going to do next.
Carmen Sanjulián: —Today is June 16th, Bloomsday. What does it mean to you to present your book Dublinés on such a special day and, on top of that, in Ireland, in Dublin?
Alfonso Zapico: —It’s quite quaint. If I had been told that this would happen when I started drawing this book, I wouldn’t have believed it. But look, I was lucky that the book was finished this year, it was published in May and here I am, on June 16th, the same day Joyce went for a walk with Nora, along the strand. So it’s a great ending.
Carmen Sanjulián: —Do you see life in cartoon strips?
Alfonso Zapico: —I do. I jot down things and retain faces and details that I use later as fuel for my drawings.
Alfonso Zapico (Blimea, Asturias, 1981) es historietista e ilustrador. Realizó estudios de Ilustración y Diseño en la Escuela de Arte de Oviedo. Colabora habitualmente con diversas publicaciones periódicas y editoriales. Sus primeros trabajos profesionales en el mundo del cómic fueron publicados en Francia:La guerre du professeur Bertenev (2006), ambientada en la guerra de Crimea, y el volumen colectivo Un jour de mai (2007). En 2008 publicó Café Budapest,que aborda el conflicto árabe-israelí. En 2009 participó en otro volumen colectivo: Un buen hombre, sobre la vida cotidiana de los oficiales de la SS. Para su obra más reciente, Dublinés (2011), una biografía de James Joyce, contó con una beca en La Maison des auteurs en Angoulême (Francia). Por esta misma obra recibió el Premio Nacional de Cómic en 2012.
Carmen Sanjulián: —Alfonso, eres dibujante de cómic, haces novelas gráficas… ¿Cómo te gusta que te llamen?
Alfonso Zapico: —Yo me considero ilustrador e historietista, así a secas. Hago los libros, hago mis cómics, hago mis historias que tienen una etiqueta u otra, dependiendo de cómo lo quieras llamar, pero que en el fondo son solo historias.
Carmen Sanjulián: —Dos años separan Café Budapest y Dublinés. ¿Qué ha pasado en ese tiempo?
Alfonso Zapico: —Buscaba otra historia que contar. No sabía muy bien por dónde tirar, y entonces apareció esta biografía de Joyce, que al principio era un reto, era algo nuevo, algo que no sabía cómo iba a acabar, algo en lo que el editor no terminaba de confiar. Al final, han sido dos años y pico de trabajo, de viajes, de cambios también, y como este libro es también un libro de viajes, ha sido una manera de evolucionar y de dibujar un poco todo eso.
Carmen Sanjulián: —¿Qué te fascinó de Joyce para pensar que querías hacer un libro sobre él?
Alfonso Zapico: —Cuando yo empecé a dibujar Dublinés, no sabía mucho sobre el autor. No soy experto en literatura. Pero no sé por qué Joyce tiene esa cosa que engancha un poco, que llama la atención, que provoca cierta curiosidad para hurgar en él. Eso es lo que me inspiró a mí para meterme con Dublinés. Al final, he retratado esta «superficie» del autor, con esta filosofía de vida tan optimista y tan amante de los pequeños detalles, a la vez que cuento la historia real de un tío que estaba lleno de claroscuros, claro.
Carmen Sanjulián: —¿Tú también te deslizas por las barandillas como Joyce cuando acababa sus clases?
Alfonso Zapico: —No, yo soy muy formalito, comparado con Joyce.
Carmen Sanjulián: —¿Tú crees que toda la historia, si fuese contada como tú cuentas esta biografía de Joyce, sería más interesante?
Alfonso Zapico: —Yo creo que sí. A priori, la historia de Joyce, o cuando hablamos de su literatura… todo suena como muy abstracto, muy lejano, muy complicado. Pero las viñetas permiten al lector empaparse de la historia rápidamente, generan cierta complicidad, porque el lector, cuando lee este álbum, también es compañero de viaje del protagonista y va viajando por las páginas, va pasando por las ciudades por las que pasa el personaje y es parte de su vida hasta llegar ya al final.
Carmen Sanjulián: —¿Qué viene primero, la historia o el dibujo?
Alfonso Zapico: —Primero la historia, para mí. El dibujo lo pongo luego al servicio de la historia. Para este Dublinés he dibujado con grises, dibujo realista, porque la historia lo pedía. En Café Budapest el dibujo era en blanco y negro, era más caricatura, porque también la historia lo era.
Carmen Sanjulián: —¿Qué cómics leías de pequeño?
Alfonso Zapico: —Los que leía todo el mundo: leía Tintín, leía Spirou y leía Asterix y Mortadelo y Filemón, y Zipi y Zape… o sea que yo fui un lector convencional de tebeos. Me los tragué todos, todos los que había en la biblioteca, y los que había por ahí.
Carmen Sanjulián: —¿Y ahora también lees cómics?
Alfonso Zapico: —Ahora leo, lo que pasa es que como el mundo del cómic ha cambiado tanto y hay tantas publicaciones nuevas, la novela gráfica, muchos autores extranjeros… La verdad es que no conozco mucho. Ahora estoy empezando a conocer más y a leer más cómic. Pero para ser un autor de cómic, paradójicamente, yo no conocía mucho cómic.
Carmen Sanjulián: —Confiésanos un secreto: ¿has encandilado a muchas chicas con tus dibujos?
Alfonso Zapico: —Pues no, la verdad, yo creo que no. No tengo yo ese aura de los pintores bohemios.
Carmen Sanjulián: —¿Tú haces fotos?
Alfonso Zapico: —No, hice fotografía solo cuando estudié arte en la escuela de arte y era un fotógrafo bastante malo.
Carmen Sanjulián: —Asturias, patria querida. ¿Qué nos cuentas de Asturias?
Alfonso Zapico: —Ahora vivo en Francia y hace mucho que no paso por Asturias y sí que lo echo mucho de menos. Pero por ejemplo, al venir a Dublín, me he quitado un poco esa espina porque esto es un poco como aquello, ¿sabes? Por el clima y porque hay muchos bares, y porque la gente habla muy fuerte. En Francia sí que se nota la diferencia.
Carmen Sanjulián: —¿Y hay alguna diferencia entre Asturias e Irlanda?
Alfonso Zapico: —Sí, hay diferencias. Esto no lo conozco. Asturias para mí es algo especial.
Carmen Sanjulián: —Mantienes un blog con ilustraciones. ¿Tú crees que el futuro del cómic, como otras tantas cosas, va a estar en Internet? ¿Le decimos adiós al papel, o no?
Alfonso Zapico: —Yo creo que el futuro del cómic va a estar en Internet, pero yo creo que no va a haber adiós al papel. Creo que pasará un poco como con la novela, con los libros. El cómic digital ya es una realidad y yo creo que funcionará bien. Pero yo creo que los tebeos de papel con tapa dura, con cartoné, van a seguir publicándose y van a seguir vendiéndose.
Alfonso Zapico: —Pues no, de momento no. Tengo que terminar todo lo que me queda pendiente después de este, que me ha llevado mucho tiempo. Todavía no he pensado lo que voy a hacer después.
Carmen Sanjulián: —Hoy es 16 de junio, Bloomsday, ¿qué supone para ti presentar tu libro Dublinés en un día tan especial como este? Y además en Irlanda, en Dublín.
Alfonso Zapico: —Es algo pintoresco. Si alguien me lo hubiera dicho cuando empecé a dibujar el álbum, me hubiera parecido una cosa increíble. Pero mira, he tenido la suerte de que se ha terminado el libro este año, hemos publicado en mayo y aquí estoy, el 16 de junio. El mismo día que Joyce salía con Nora por ahí de paseo, por la playa. Ha sido fantástico para cerrar.
Carmen Sanjulián: —¿Tú ves la vida en viñetas?
Alfonso Zapico: —Yo sí. Apunto cosas y me quedo con las caras y con los detalles, y de ahí saco petróleo luego para dibujar mis historias.
Hector Barco Cobalea
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.
Héctor, I had written a long reply, but cyberspace swallowed it up.
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.
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…?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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)?
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
31/05/2011 (18:00 h)
Instituto Cervantes – Café Literario
Lincoln House, Lincoln Place
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.
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.
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.
Laura 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.
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.
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.
Laura, which title would you recommend to the foreign reader as a good introduction to Carmen Martín Gaite’s work?
“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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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”?
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?
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”?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Laura Freixas is our author of the month throughout the month of May.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Good afternoon Mr. Vicent. Which book or author turned you into a reader and why? Which book or author turned you into a writer?
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.
Mr. Vicent, do you remember the first story you were ever told, and the first you yourself told?
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?
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”?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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.
I think that’s exactly right.
Beauty masks destruction. Beauty and corruption go hand in hand. Which one wins in the end?
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)?
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.
No, not ever. And I’m not sure how the digital sales are going.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Ask the editors. I don’t know, honestly.
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,
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
Manuel Vicent will also be our author of the month throughout the month of April.