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.
Dublin es ciudad de la literatura de la UNESCO desde 2010. No es de extrañar si tenemos en cuenta que no hay otro país que pueda presumir de tener un premio Nobel de literatura por cada millón de habitantes.
Dublín es además protagonista de una de las obras cumbre de la literatura universal, el Ulysses de Joyce. En su honor se celebra el Bloomsday cada 16 de junio. Ese día, se recorren las calles de Dublín como en la novela de Joyce lo hiciera Leopold Bloom.
Pero si Dublín tiene su Bloomsday, Madrid tiene su noche de Max Estrella, en honor al protagonista de Luces de Bohemia de Valle Inclán. Max Estrella vuelve a mirarse en los espejos deformados del Callejón del Gato y deambula por Madrid cada 26 de marzo, un día antes del día mundial del teatro.
Este mes os proponemos precisamente eso: callejear, deambular, viajar si queréis a Barcelona, Valencia, Oviedo, Venecia, París, Tokio, Dublín, Madrid… de la mano de los autores que han hecho de estas ciudades todo un personaje, entrañable, inolvidable.
A qué esperas para ver esos libros seleccionados en la biblioteca.
Dublin was nominated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2010. That shouldn’t surprise you if you consider that no other country can boast having one Nobel Prize for Literature winner per million inhabitants.
Dublin plays a leading role in one of the most celebrated novels of all time, Ulysses by James Joyce. Bloomsday is held in his honour on the 16th June every year. On that day, fans of Joyce retrace Leopold Bloom’s footsteps through the streets of Dublin just like in the novel.
But if Dublin has Bloomsday, then Madrid has Max Estrella Night, in honour of the main character in Luces de Bohemia (Bohemian Lights) by Ramón del Valle-Inclán. Max Estrella is brought to life on the 26th March each year, the day before World Theatre Day, to see his reflection deformed once more in the concave mirrors of the Callejón del Gato and wander the capital’s streets.
This month, that’s exactly what we’re inviting you to do: wander, travel, and lose yourself in Barcelona, Valencia, Oviedo, Venice, Paris, Tokyo, Dublin, Madrid….at the hands of the authors who have made these cities their protagonist, an intimate and unforgettable companion.
What are you waiting for? Come to the library to read them.
Todavía podéis enviar vuestras preguntas, en forma de comentario a la página del encuentro digital, hasta las 4 de la tarde. Manuel Vicent y Ángel Harguindey responderán 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.
We meet today Manuel Vicent and Ángel Harguindey
Following this, at 6pm Manuel Vicent and Ángel Harguindey will discuss journalism and literature in our Café Literario.
Los tres muros más famosos de la historia probablemente sean el muro de Berlín, el de Pink Floyd, y el muro de Facebook. Nosotros ya no llegamos a tiempo para derribar el primero, ¡pero lo hemos conseguido con el tercero!
Acabamos de abrir el muro para todos nuestros amigos. A partir de ahora, puedes compartir tus noticias sobre España y Latinoamérica en nuestra página de Facebook. A partir de hoy, más que nunca, la página del Instituto Cervantes de Dublín es vuestra página.
¡Allí nos vemos!
The three most famous walls of all times are probably the Berlin wall, Pink Floyd’s wall, and the Facebook wall. We’re too late to tear down the first one, but we’ve managed the third one!
We have just opened up our wall to all our friends. From now on, you can share your news on Spain and Latin America on our Facebook page. Now more than ever, Instituto Cervantes Dublin’s page is your page.
We’ll see you there!
Las novedades de la biblioteca pueden ser consultadas en nuestro catálogo en línea, como es habitual.
Para ello, seleccione ÚLTIMAS ADQUISICIONES, y elija el período de tiempo que le interesa, por ejemplo “los últimos 15 días, “el último mes”, o “los últimos tres meses”.
Ésta es nuestra selección para el mes de abril de 2011.
The latest additions to the library catalogue can be consulted on-line as usual.
Click ÚLTIMAS ADQUISICIONES, then select “Dublin”, and choose the time period, for example, the past 15 days, the past month, or the past 3 months.
This is our selection for April 2011
Del dinosaurio deprimido al cerdito en bancarrota: Instrucciones para pasar el invierno
Antología de textos del Curso de escritura creativa y literatura en el Instituto Cervantes de Dublín. (Octubre a febrero 2011)
En esta antología se hayan recogidos textos de los alumnos del Curso de escritura creativa y literatura, realizado en el Instituto Cervantes de Dublín este invierno de 2010. Si hay frases con un tinte algo exótico es porque las editoras, Carmen San Julián y Patricia García, hemos decidido modificar lo mínimo posible los textos originales, y así mantener el estilo de cada autor.
Érase una vez… personajes, criaturas, palabras, escenarios, objetos mágicos, ilusión, gestos, sonrisas; historias de hoy, de ayer y del futuro. Cuentos clásicos, contemporáneos, y como no, todos ellos divertidos.
Tienes un cuentacuentos el sábado 2 de abril, a las 12:15h
Once upon a time… are characters, creatures, words, scenes, magic objects, gestures, smiles and excitement; stories from yesterday, today, and stories from the future; classic stories, contemporary stories, and of course, all of them, very entertaining stories.
Next storytelling on Saturday, 2nd April, 12:15h
See you there!
Hoy / Today 30/03/2011 6:00 pm.
Lincoln House, Lincoln Place
La exposición “Obras Maestras de la Colección Jacques y Natasha Gelman” presenta las pinturas icónicas de Frida Kahlo y Diego Rivera, las dos figuras centrales del modernismo mexicano. Pocos artistas han capturado la imaginación del público con la fuerza de la pintora mexicana Frida Kahlo (1907 – 1954) y su esposo, el pintor mexicano y muralista Diego Rivera (1886 – 1957).
Los mitos que los rodeaban en su vida no surgieron sólo de su importante obra, sino también de su participación activa en la vida de su tiempo, sus amistades (y conflictos) con figuras destacadas, su imponente apariencia física y su animoso carácter.
Continúa leyendo en inglés, en la página del IMMA
Masterpieces of the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, presents the iconic paintings of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, the two central figures of Mexican Modernism. Few artists have captured the public’s imagination with the force of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907 – 1954) and her husband, the Mexican painter and muralist Diego Rivera (1886 – 1957).
The myths that surrounded them in their lifetime arose not only from their significant body of work, but also from their active participation in the life of their time, their friendships (and conflicts) with leading figures, their imposing physical appearance and spirited natures.
Read more: IMMA website
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”:
Encuentro digital de Manuel Vicent con los lectores de El País el 2 de marzo de 2011.
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.
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”!
Virtual interview: Manuel Vicent and readers of El País, (2nd March, 2011)
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.
Para los que no pudisteis ir, aquí os dejamos unos enlaces de RTE Radio en los que se puede escuchar (tras unos minutos de noticias) un concierto anterior de Carlos Núñez, celebrado en 2009.
En estos enlaces, Carlos Núñez interpreta su repertorio acompañado de la orquesta del propio National Concert Hall.
Necesitaréis Real Media Player para escucharlo (la versión básica es gratis).
Que lo disfrutéis. Buen fin de semana.
It was wonderful to see Carlos Núñez at the National Concert Hall. The entire audience ended up on their feet, dancing to his music.
For those of you who weren’t able to attend, here are some links from RTE Radio through which you can listen (after a few minutes of news items) to a previous concert by Carlos Núñez, from 2009, in which he was accompanied by the National Concert Hall’s resident orchestra, the RTE National Symphony Orchestra.
You will need Real Media Player to listen to the podcast (The basic version is free).
Enjoy! Have a great weekend.
More news about Carlos: Carlos Núñez estrena documental en Play Doc
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.
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.
Almudena Grandes (Madrid, 1960) estudió Geografía e Historia en la Universidad Complutense. Se dio a conocer como novelista con Las edades de Lulú(1989). Sus novelas Te llamaré Viernes (1991), Malena es un nombre de tango (1994), Atlas de geografía humana (1998), Los aires difíciles (2002), Castillos de cartón (2004) y El corazón helado (2007), junto con sus volúmenes de cuentos, la han convertido en uno de los nombres más importantes de la literatura española contemporánea. Con Inés y la alegría (2010) inauguró la serie Episodios de una guerra interminable, cuya segunda entrega es El lector de Julio Verne (2012). Varias de sus obras han sido llevadas al cine, y han merecido multitud de premios.
Carmen Sanjulián: —Almudena, ¿cómo eras de niña?
Almudena Grandes: —Era muy gorda. Tanto que yo creo que mediatizaba bastante mi forma de ser. Era una niña gorda que leía mucho. Yo creo que los grandes lectores infantiles, los niños que son muy lectores, a menudo son gordos, cojos, o llevan gafas o hierros en los dientes, porque la literatura es «vida de más», y lo que te permite es vivir vidas mejores que la que tienes. A mí me gustaba mucho leer. Me gustaba mucho el chocolate, y me sigue gustando mucho, aunque ya no lo como, y era bastante estudiosa. Era una niña normal.
Carmen Sanjulián: —De todos los lugares que has visitado, ¿existe «un lugar en el mundo» como decía la película?
Almudena Grandes: —A mí, la parte del mundo que más me gusta es Latinoamérica. Mira que está muy lejos, y que cuando estoy escribiendo no me gusta viajar, porque me separa mucho de mis libros… Pero hay lugares para mí irresistibles: Buenos Aires es una ciudad irresistible, México o Colombia son países irresistibles, Nicaragua… Sin embargo, un lugar en el mundo… Quizás para mí son los más cercanos, porque yo vivo en Madrid y no me gustaría vivir en otro lugar. En verano me voy a un pueblo pequeñito de Cádiz, que se llama Rota, que es una especie de «paraíso anual» y tampoco lo cambiaría por ningún otro. Tengo muchas raíces, y no me gustaría vivir en otros sitios distintos de donde vivo.
Carmen Sanjulián: —Lulú, Malena o Inés, ¿con quién nos quedamos?
Almudena Grandes: —Ahora mismo, desde luego con Inés, porque es la última. Siempre nos quedamos con el último libro.Las edades de Lulú para mí siempre será un libro muy importante, porque fue el libro que me permitió vivir como yo quería vivir, el libro que me permitió convertirme en escritora. Malena también es muy importante, porque fue mi tercera novela. Yo creo que un escritor deja de ser un principiante dubitativo en la tercera. De alguna manera, la tercera es la que consagra, y yo le debo a Malena la tranquilidad. Tengo una relación muy buena con las tres.
Carmen Sanjulián: —Un corazón helado, ¿tiene remedio?
Almudena Grandes: —En eso estamos: El corazón helado. Yo le puse ese título porque los españoles siempre repetimos los versos de Machado: «una de las dos Españas ha de helarte el corazón», y la idea era escribir un libro para explicar qué era lo que había pasado. Yo creo que sí, yo creo que tiene que tener solución. Yo creo que España tiene que normalizar antes o después su relación con su pasado.
Carmen Sanjulián: —¿Todo tiene perdón o hay cosas imperdonables?
Almudena Grandes: —Creo que hay cosas imperdonables. No todo tiene perdón, pero creo que todo puede ser comprendido. Hay cosas imperdonables, pero creo que cuando miramos hacia los sucesos terribles de la guerra y de la posguerra, afortunadamente estamos demasiado lejos como para tener una avidez justiciera. Se trata más bien de entender lo que pasó, de poner a cada uno en su sitio y de sentar, digamos, las bases de un futuro diferente, en la medida en la que reconocemos el pasado del que venimos. En ese sentido, no soy partidaria de las revanchas histéricas, ni de las posiciones radicales.
En España, hay mucha gente que critica ahora la transición. Yo no la critico, porque creo que aquel proceso fue lo mejor que una generación, que creía honradamente que tenía que hacer eso, pudo hacer. La cuestión es que ahora deberían dejarnos hacer lo que nosotros honradamente creemos que tenemos que hacer, pero no se trata de atacar frontalmente al pasado.
Carmen Sanjulián: —¿Un sueño?
Almudena Grandes: —Por supuesto ser feliz, que la gente que me rodea sea feliz y, aunque parezca mentira, dentro de unos años, ser abuela. Me encantaría ser abuela. Mis hijos mayores no lo entienden, pero yo me veo muy bien de abuela.