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Encuentro digital con Yolanda Castaño

Encuentro digital con Yolanda Castaño y Andrea Costas celebrado el 8 de diciembre de 2011 en la Biblioteca Dámaso Alonso del Instituto Cervantes de Dublín.

Yolanda Castaño

David Carrión

Buenas tardes Yolanda. Pregunta obligada a todos nuestros entrevistados: ¿qué libro o autor la convirtió a usted en lectora y por qué? ¿Qué libro o autor le hizo escritora? Hemos oído nombrar en alguna entrevista a Gloria Fuertes.

Yolanda Castaño

…Mucho parece saber usted de mí…! Ha dado en el clavo: siendo muy niña cayeron en mis manos los libros de poemas de Gloria Fuertes (“Pío-Pío Lope, el pollito miope” junto a tantos otros títulos) y me deslumbró aquella manera de escribir sin llegar al borde del papel. Desde entonces, quise tratar de imitar aquella creativa forma de expresión y ya nunca dejaría de hacerlo.

DCarrión

Sus tres primeros libros de poemas “Elevar as pálpebras” (1995), “Delicia” (1998) y “Vivimos no ciclo das Erofanías” (1998) están recogidos en “Erofanía”, publicado en 2009. ¿Se sintió tentada de corregir los textos? ¿En qué ha cambiado su poesía desde entonces?

Yolanda Castaño

No podía no corregir los textos… pero tampoco era cuestión de reescribirlos: aunque actualmente me identifico bastante poco con los poemas que escribí con 17, 18 y 19 años, lo cierto es que tampoco me arrepiento de ellos. Los veo con distancia, pero también con cierta ternura.

Creo que cada ayer alimenta nuestro hoy, que los (o las) que fuimos en el pasado construyen también lo que hoy somos. Más allá de eso, el tiempo sigue, los aciertos y las meteduras de pata se olvidan para dejar paso a otros. Hay que seguir buscando, aunque de vez en cuando se encuentre.

DCarrión

El cuerpo, el amor, el erotismo… ¿Qué otros temas destacaría en “Erofanía”?

Yolanda Castaño

En realidad esos tres temas eran también un campo bien fértil para reflexiones de otro orden: a veces a partir de cómo somos en el amor revelamos también cómo nos comportamos ante el otro, incluso ante la vida. Además, significaba también un buen material para ejercicios literarios, para todos los objetivos de estilo que me proponía por aquel entonces. La metapoética (la reflexión sobre el sentido de la literatura) fue en esas primeras obras también un tema transversal.

DCarrión

En 2003 llega “O libro da egoísta”, traducido por usted misma y publicado en edición bilingüe en 2006. Premio Nacional de la Crítica en 2007 ¿Por qué ese título? ¿Es un reproche contra sí misma?

Yolanda Castaño

Es una ironía y a la vez una provocación. Por una parte la poesía constituye el género literario más egoísta: más directa o indirectamente, el yo poético acaba inevitablemente hablando desde si mismo. Por otra, ese libro surgió de una de esas etapas que los pedantes llaman de “crisis personal”, uno de esos momentos en los que -absurdamente- llegamos a creer que nos tenemos únicamente a nosotros mismos.

Ese quedarme a solas conmigo misma, frente al espejo, me devolvió las partes más favorecidas y también las más desafortunadas de mí. El “Libro de la Egoísta” reflexiona sobre la identidad, pero a través de la mía puede hablar también de la tuya o de la de aquel.

DCarrión

El “Libro de la egoista” es un libro sobre la identidad propia que usted se cuestiona “con autocrítica, mordacidad y desespero” ¿Qué tal se lleva Yolanda con esa “emigrante de sí misma”? ¿Llegará a convertirse esa emigración voluntaria en exilio forzado? ¿Quién huye de quién y quién se queda?

Yolanda Castaño

Ufff! a todas esas complicadas cuestiones espero haber contestado en el libro!, incluso cuando lo que hace la poesía para responder preguntas sea plantear nuevas interrogantes.

Pero sí: en el libro se plantea un constante diálogo entre los varios yos que todos tenemos: el que nosotros sentimos íntimamente, el que los demás ven, el que el Otro nos devuelve. Siempre hay un pulso entre la que asiente y la que cuestiona, entre aspectos de nosotros que quieren huir y a los que les compensa quedarse; y es así en todo!

DCarrión

Viendo su imagen, sus videos, uno piensa que está (o debería estar) encantada de haberse conocido. ¿Qué hay de impostura, de provocación, de actuación en todo ello?

Yolanda Castaño

Un poco de las tres y aún más cosas: romper el patrón (también estético) que sigue existiendo para los poetas, especialmente para las poetas. Todavía opera un arquetipo, muy prejuicioso, rancio y tópico, sobre lo que una poeta “debería” y “no debería” hacer y parecer.

Los y las que escribimos poesía debemos tener el aspecto que libremente decidamos, y el ademán que se ve natural en un actor o en una cantante debería hacerlo también en una poeta. Más allá de ello, cuidar nuestro aspecto externo y expresarnos a través de él no implica que descuidemos otras cosas, ni tampoco ha de desviar la atención de lo que verdaderamente importa, que es nuestro trabajo.

DCarrión

Hablemos de otros temas: el paso del tiempo, la memoria… quizás no le preocupan mucho todavía. Quizás sean temas para poetas con canas (dicho sea con todos los respetos para los que tienen canas).

Yolanda Castaño

El paso del tiempo es otro de los temas que aparece siempre en mi trabajo, pero efectivamente más vinculado al “carpe diem”, o a la prisa por vivir, por aprender, por recorrer.

Es cierto que hay temas como la memoria lejana (pues con la cercana es obligatoriamente con la que operamos cuando hacemos “memoria emocional”) o la muerte que no han atraído todavía demasiado mi atención, pero su tiempo llegará. Mi momento poético siempre va vinculado al momento vital en el que me encuentro inmersa, y por eso sólo puedo escribir sobre aquello que de veras me toca.

En los últimos tiempos es una orientación más social la que me llama.

DCarrión

En “Profundidade de campo” (2007, en castellano en 2009) continúa la relación conflictiva con la imagen propia, con la identidad propia. Pero se añaden otros elementos morales, el libre albedrío… ¿Somos libres para decidir quiénes somos?

Yolanda Castaño

Ojalá! No somos libres para ser quienes somos desde el momento en el que no lo somos para contar con todas las opciones posibles, pero mucha menos libertad tenemos a la hora de que los demás decidan quiénes y cómo somos.

DCarrión

¿Qué es la videopoesía?

Yolanda Castaño

Una fusión de dos lenguajes creativos entre los que se pueden establecer expresivos diálogos: la poesía y el audiovisual.

Del mismo modo en que una novela deriva en una película, un poema puede dar lugar a una pequeña pieza audiovisual en la que lo narrativo no pesa tanto como la transmisión de unas emociones, una estética, un clima de sensaciones.

Así se genera una especie de “videoclip” en el que en lugar de una canción, es un poema el que se hace acompañar de metáforas visuales y otros recursos que entran en diálogo con él.

DCarrión

Ha tratado usted de fusionar otros lenguajes con la poesía: la música, la plástica, el audiovisual, la cocina… ¿qué le queda por probar?

Yolanda Castaño

¡Espero que muchas cosas!

En mi ansia por difundir la poesía, imbricarla en la vida real, acercarla a la sociedad actual y relacionarla con el mayor número de aspectos de la vida, siempre espero que surjan más oportunidades de aprender, de colaborar con otros artistas que me ayudan a saber más sobre mi propio oficio o a entender mejor mi propio trabajo, de sacarle más partido expresivo a los versos, de ampliar públicos, de confrontar ideas, de ocupar nuevos espacios y de vivir nuevas experiencias.

¡Ojalá quede mucho por explorar!

DCarrión

Hoy, usted y Andrea van a hablar de “Cociñando ao pé da letra” ¿Se puede decir “te quiero”, “te odio”, “te necesito” con un plato de comida?

Yolanda Castaño

No sé cuánta concreción puede alcanzar un mensaje dicho con comida, pero sí sé que un plato puede resultar enormemente expresivo, incluso mediante facetas que no puede implicar un mensaje de lenguaje racional.

No siempre todo lo que queremos expresar es expresable a través del pobre lenguaje hablado, tan limitado y estructurado. Es entonces cuando una imagen, un poema, un plato delicioso, echan los significados a volar.

Enlaces recomendados:

Interview with Javier Barreiro

Javier Barreiro: Aragon is particularly tough on its sons

Javier_Barreiro

Interview with Javier Barreiro held on 29th November 2011 at the Dámaso Alonso Library of the Instituto Cervantes in Dublin on the occasion of his lecture “Alcohol and literature”

Javier Barreiro (Zaragoza, 1953) studied Spanish Philology at the University of Barcelona. He has published 36 books and over 600 articles on literature and popular music of the twentieth century. Following his studies on tango, he was elected Honorary Member of the Academia Porteña del Lunfardo and of the National Tango Academy. He was vice president of the Aragonese Writers Association and director of the Dictionary of Contemporary Aragonese Authors (1885-2005). His interests also extend to studies on bohemianism, old Spanish discography, the stars of Spanish song, unconventional authors and themes in literature (alcohol, drugs, suicide …) and the search for forgotten works and authors.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Javier, when did you start writing?

Javier Barreiro: —When I was very young. It’s like a curse or a blessing, who knows… Some people are born with a particular ability and some are born with another. Some are born to make chairs, others are born to play football… And very soon you realise what you are good at. If you don’t, you’ll be told. What I was good at was writing.

From a very early age, I realised that I enjoyed writing, that it was easy for me. I won several awards. I even remember that when I was 13 or 14 years old, I used to write satirical poems to my classmates or even to my teachers and they were much appreciated. Or, in some cases, greatly feared.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Do you remember your first award?

Javier Barreiro: —It was the Sender Award in journalism, the very first year it was set up. I was about 20, and I was doing the military service. At that time, it was the most important award in journalism in Aragon, and it was my first piece of journalism.

I remember that I wrote it in my father’s car while we were travelling together. An idea came into my head. I wrote it down and to my surprise, I got this award. I reacted just like anyone who wins an award for the first time. I lost my head. I bought about twenty newspapers and I was very happy.

Carmen Sanjulián: —You are a prolific writer, but when you were 23 you stopped writing for a very long time. Why? What happened?

Javier Barreiro: —In the beginning, I mainly wrote poems. Poetry had a more prominent role in society back then than it does today. There’s no doubt about that.

I published several poetry notebooks and pamphlets. I won the first Premio Nacional de Poesía Universitaria (national university poetry prize). Everything was going well for me. The problem was that I was a “real” poet, even if that sounds arrogant: I was a poet who was angry with the world, who suffered and was in conflict with society.

But it wasn’t that bad, because it was a metaphysical kind of conflict. Not that my life was difficult. It wasn’t. I was a normal kid who almost had no problems of any kind. But I did have a heightened sensibility, I had problems adapting, which not only characterises the poet but also the creator, the artist in general, even if those words seem very transcendental.

It was the best time of my life, but I was suffering a lot, and one of the escapes from suffering, as we all know, is art, poetry, sublimation, so I decided not to suffer, to focus on enjoying myself and making the most of my youth. That’s what I did for eight years. It was a conscious decision.

Obviously, by doing that I destroyed my career, because a poet has to suffer, a creator can’t have a good time. What makes life good is not good for art and vice versa. I think I did the right thing because the truth is I don’t really care that much about posterity.

It’s true that you have to write the best literature you possibly can and, probably, if I had continued suffering, I would have written better poems than the ones I write now. I took that decision and I have no regrets so far.

Carmen Sanjulián: —You have written about tango, coplas, cuplés, jota… How did you develop that love for all these kinds of music?

Javier Barreiro: —I was hugely attracted to music since I was a child, I just liked it, I enjoyed it. It’s difficult not to enjoy music, but you could say that I enjoyed it more than other people. I loved singing and listening to music being sung…

The problem is that circumstances at that time, that sad time, maybe were not the best for me to study music. Today I would have done it for sure. Nowadays, children can choose from a range of possibilities. Parents offer them seven, eight or ten things to do or study. I even turned down the opportunity to join a choir as I was already spending a lot of hours in school. It was probably a mistake and in the end I didn’t study music. But I always liked music a lot.

Then I discovered tango and Gardel, which I became passionate about and which brought me many hours of enjoyment. One thing leads to another, and tango led to the copla… Besides, my speciality, as an academic, is the so-called “Silver Age”, between the end of the 19th century and the first third of the 20th century. During that period, which was so musical for so many reasons, and in which music had a much more important role in everyday life than it has now, it turns out that there was music everywhere, but absolutely nothing had been written about it. Regarding cuplé, almost all writers had relationships with the cuplé artists, with their music, but there was almost no information about this. So, to fill that gap a bit, I started to do some research, to look here and there, and that’s how this thing started and led to other things. I researched Spanish songs, the kind of music that I liked, like jota or zarzuela. And then there were others, like flamenco or jazz, maybe more complex music which takes you longer to get into and understand. But when you manage to understand something that’s difficult, your enjoyment of it is always greater, obviously.

Carmen Sanjulián: —You’ve always visited second hand bookshops. Have you rescued many jewels from oblivion?

Javier Barreiro: —I think I did, because to some extent rare books have become one of my specialities.

Jewels? Well, that’s a matter of opinion. Obviously, posterity is not exactly fair. Some people, probably optimists, try to justify what’s going on by saying the world is what it is, and if someone doesn’t transcend time it’s because they didn’t deserve it. But it’s not exactly like that.

I’m sure that at some point, some Cervantes or Shakespeare just felt frustrated, because they were illiterate. I haven’t rescued any geniuses but I have discovered people who are much less valued than others who undoubtedly are better than them. And I think it’s a cleansing exercise even if it’s not personally very convenient for you, because it is more profitable to stick to established value systems. But it does bring personal satisfaction, although no one will ever worry about those rescued from the dust of oblivion.

My next two books are going to be anthologies on two completely unknown writers: Guillermo Osorio, an alcoholic poet from the ’50s generation in Madrid, the generation that met around the Café Varela, about which almost no one has written anything even though it had many good poets. The other one is an anthology of gnomic short stories by Tomás Borrás. He was one of the great figures of the Spanish avant-garde. He appears in the famous painting La tertulia del Café de Pombo, by Solana. He was a very important man in Spanish theatre and journalism. But he was a Falangist, and that probably damaged his reputation, though he distanced himself from Franco, as did many others. Even though he was a great writer, since his death in 1976 none of his books has ever been reprinted and no further attention has been paid to him.

Carmen Sanjulián: —You are a great collector. Is there anything that you’re especially fond of?

Javier Barreiro: —I’m obsessive and compulsive but not as a collector. I’m not so interested in finishing collections either. I like to acquire things that are difficult to get, because you can keep them at home, and then when you need them, you don’t have to look for them too hard. If I had to choose something from my collection, it would be the music scores, as it’s quite unusual to have that kind of collection. Traditional folk music scores, in particular, which is what I collect the most. From the 1910s, ’20s, ’30s… They’re really beautiful. It so happens that a postcard with the portrait of the singer can cost about €20. And the score, which is much bigger, and apart from the postcard contains more information, like the drawing on the cover, the music, the lyrics, etc., can cost just half the price. I feel very proud of my score collection, and maybe I’ll organise an exhibition in the near future. Because you could organise all kinds of exhibitions from the material in it.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Many of your works talk about Aragon or Zaragoza. Is it a way of expressing your love for your homeland?

Javier Barreiro: —I’m not nationalist at all, but what happens is that you are who you are. In my case, I’m Aragonese. I don’t really believe in love that’s close to hand. It seems to me that the love for your family, and love for what is close to you doesn’t require too much thought. So, how do you explain love for your homeland? It’s probably a form of narcissism. What you drank, what you tasted in your youth, the way people talked, a particular kind of music, a way of feeling. And that’s especially the case in a place that’s not very respectful towards itself, like Aragon.

In my case, one of the ways to express my love for my homeland has been to dedicate myself to doing what others should have done: compiling a dictionary of contemporary Aragonese literature. The last one was done in 1885. Aragon is particularly tough on its sons. There are thousands of anecdotes from Buñuel, even Goya, who said “I get burnt just thinking of Aragon”. When Buñuel went to Zaragoza, he was told “your last film is pretty poor”.

As I mentioned before, it’s the same with the rare books, it’s not productive at all. Maybe there is no justification for it either. Why Aragon and not some other place? Well, that’s what’s in you and what comes out of you. That’s what happens with nationalisms: if I really want to write about Espronceda, I’ll have to go to Extremadura to see if the government of Extremadura gives me a grant to study Espronceda. Because someone has to pay you something, or help you when you’re researching. I won’t get a grant to study Espronceda in Aragon, but I will get some money to study the people from Aragon. Then you’re just part of that dynamic which I’m not justifying. I’m just explaining it.

Recommended links

Entrevista con Javier Barreiro

Javier Barreiro: Aragón es particularmente duro con sus hijos

Javier_Barreiro

Entrevista con Javier Barreiro realizada el 29 de noviembre de 2011 en la Biblioteca Dámaso Alonso del Instituto Cervantes de Dublín con motivo de su conferencia «Alcohol y literatura».

Javier Barreiro (Zaragoza, 1953) estudió Filología Hispánica en la Universidad de Barcelona. Ha publicado 36 libros y más de 600 artículos sobre literatura y música popular del siglo XX. A raíz de sus estudios en torno al tango, fue elegido académico correspondiente de la Academia Porteña del Lunfardo y de la Academia Nacional del Tango. Fue vicepresidente de la Asociación Aragonesa de Escritores y dirigió el Diccionario de Autores Aragoneses Contemporáneos (1885-2005). Sus actividades se centran también en el estudio de la bohemia, la antigua discografía española, las figuras de la canción, los autores y temas heterodoxos en la literatura (alcohol, drogas, suicidio…) y la búsqueda bibliográfica de obras y autores olvidados.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Javier, ¿cuándo empezaste a escribir?

Javier Barreiro: —Muy temprano. Eso es como una maldición o una bendición, quién sabe. Hay gente que nace con una facultad, y hay gente que nace con otra. Unos nacen para hacer sillas, otros nacen para jugar al fútbol… Uno se da cuenta muy pronto de lo que hace bien. O, si no, te lo dicen. Lo que hacía yo bien eran las redacciones.

Ya muy temprano me di cuenta de que disfrutaba, que me era fácil. Gané algunos premios y demás. Incluso recuerdo que cuando tenía trece o catorce años hacía poemas satíricos a los compañeros o a los profesores, que eran muy apreciados. O, en ciertos casos, muy temidos.

Carmen Sanjulián: —¿Recuerdas tu primer premio?

Javier Barreiro: —Fue el Premio Sender en su primera convocatoria. Tenía veinte años y estaba haciendo el servicio militar. Fue el premio de periodismo más importante que se convocaba en Aragón y fue mi primer artículo periodístico.

Recuerdo que lo escribí en el coche de mi padre, durante un viaje al que le acompañé. Se me ocurrió algo, lo escribí, y, ante mi sorpresa, me dieron el premio. Reaccioné como todo el mundo que gana su primer premio. Se me fue la cabeza. Compré como veinte periódicos y me puse muy contento.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Eres un escritor prolífico, sin embargo, a los veintitrés años dejas de escribir por un periodo de tiempo bastante largo. ¿Por qué? ¿Qué te pasó?

Javier Barreiro: —Al principio yo escribía, sobre todo, poemas. La poesía tenía un protagonismo mayor que el que puede tener hoy en la sociedad. No cabe la menor duda.

Publiqué varios cuadernos y folletos de poesía. Gané el Premio Nacional de Poesía Universitaria. Me iba bien. Lo que pasa es que yo era un poeta «de verdad», aunque sea pedante decirlo: era un poeta que estaba enemistado con el mundo, que sufría, que tenía un choque con la sociedad.

Tampoco era para tanto, porque era un choque de carácter metafísico. No porque mi vida fuera difícil, que no lo era. Yo era un chico normal, que no tenía problemas en principio con casi nada. Pero sí tenía una sensibilidad exacerbada, un problema de inadaptación, lo que caracteriza en realidad no solo al poeta, sino al creador, al artista, aunque parezcan palabras muy trascendentales.

Yo estaba en lo mejor de mi vida, pero sufría mucho y una de las salidas del sufrimiento como sabemos es el arte, la poesía, la sublimación, así que decidí dedicarme a no sufrir, a disfrutar y a aprovechar mi juventud. Es lo que hice durante ocho años. Fue una decisión consciente.

Evidentemente, con eso destruí mi carrera, porque un poeta tiene que sufrir, un creador no puede pasarlo bien. Lo que es bueno para la vida, no es bueno para el arte y viceversa. Yo creo que hice bien, porque la verdad es que lo de la posteridad me da un poco igual.

Es verdad que uno debe hacer la mejor literatura que pueda y, probablemente, si hubiera seguido sufriendo hubiera hecho mejores poemas que los que hago hoy. Tomé esa decisión y, de momento, no me arrepiento.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Has escrito sobre tangos, sobre coplas, sobre cuplés, sobre jota… ¿Cómo llegas a este amor por todo este tipo de música?

Javier Barreiro: —Sentía también una atracción muy grande por la música desde pequeño, me gustaba, gozaba con ella. Es difícil no gozar con la música, pero digamos que yo gozaba más de lo normal. Me gustaba mucho cantar, oír cantar…

Lo que pasa es que las circunstancias de aquella época, triste época, quizás no fueron las adecuadas para que yo estudiara música. Hoy, sin duda, lo hubiera hecho. Ahora, a cualquier niño se le ofrece una gama de posibilidades: los padres le ofrecen siete, ocho o diez cosas que poder hacer o estudiar. Yo incluso desdeñé la posibilidad de entrar en un coro porque ya había que estar en el colegio un montón de horas. Probablemente, fue una equivocación. No estudié música, pero la música siempre me gustó mucho.

Luego vino el descubrimiento del tango, de Gardel, en lo que me volqué apasionadamente y me otorgó grandes horas de disfrute. De una cosa llegas a otra, del tango llegas a la copla… También porque mi especialidad, como estudioso, es la llamada hoy Edad de Plata, el fin del siglo XIX y el primer tercio del siglo XX. Esta época, tan musical por tantas razones, en que la música tenía mucho mayor protagonismo que hoy en la vida cotidiana. La música estaba en todos los sitios, pero no había absolutamente nada escrito sobre ella. Respecto al cuplé, casi todos los escritores tuvieron relaciones con las cupletistas, con su música, pero apenas aparecía todo esto. Entonces, un poco por solventar esa carencia, empecé a investigar, a mirar por aquí y por allá, y así fue como empezó la cosa, y una cosa trajo la otra. Fui investigando la canción española, géneros que me gustaban, como la jota o la zarzuela. Luego, llegaron otros, como el flamenco o el jazz, quizás músicas más complicadas, a las que te cuesta más llegar. Pero, luego, cuando accedes a algo más difícil, siempre el goce es mayor.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Siempre has visitado librerías de viejo. ¿Has rescatado muchas joyas del olvido?

Javier Barreiro: —Yo creo que sí, porque ha sido una de las cosas en las que en cierto modo me he especializado, en raros.

¿Joyas? Bueno, eso es discutible. Evidentemente, la posteridad no es exactamente justa. Algunos, digamos los optimistas, tratan de justificar lo que pasa diciendo que las cosas son como son y que el que no pasa a la posteridad es porque no lo merece. Pero no es exactamente así.

Estoy seguro de que algún Cervantes y algún Shakespeare, simplemente, se frustraron porque eran analfabetos. Genios, no he rescatado. Pero gente que en la escala de valores canónica está muy por debajo de otros que, realmente, son mejores que ellos, eso es evidente, sí. Y me parece que es una labor higiénica, aunque no convenga mucho personalmente, ya que es más rentable sujetarse al sistema de valores establecido. Pero resulta una satisfacción personal, aunque nadie se vaya a preocupar de aquellos rescatados del polvo del olvido.

Mis dos próximos libros van a ser sendas antologías de un escritor que no conoce nadie, Guillermo Osorio, un poeta alcohólico de la Generación del 50 en Madrid, esa generación que se reunió en torno al Café Varela, de la que casi nadie ha escrito, a pesar de haber en ella muy buenos poetas. El otro es una antología de cuentos gnómicos de Tomás Borrás, que, este sí, fue uno de los prohombres de la vanguardia y aparece en el famoso cuadro La tertulia del café de Pombo, de Solana. Fue una figura muy importante en el teatro y en el articulismo español. Seguro que le ha perjudicado su militancia falangista aunque, como tantos otros, se distanció de Franco. A pesar de que fue un gran escritor, desde su muerte en 1976, no se le ha reeditado un solo libro ni se le ha prestado atención alguna.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Eres un gran coleccionista. ¿Hay algo que guardas con especial cariño?

Javier Barreiro: —Soy más bien impulsivo y compulsivo, pero no como coleccionista. Tampoco tengo demasiado interés en completar colecciones. Me gusta tener cosas que son difíciles de obtener, porque las tienes en casa y cuando las necesitas no tienes que buscarlas demasiado. Si tengo que elegir algo de mi colección, serían las partituras, un coleccionismo que apenas se ha hecho.

Las partituras, sobre todo de música popular, que es lo que yo colecciono. De los años diez, veinte, treinta… Son bellísimas. Se da la circunstancia de que una postal que trae la imagen, digamos, de la cantante, puede valer veinte euros. Y la partitura, que es mucho más grande, y que aparte de la postal trae otras informaciones, como son el dibujo de portada, la música, la letra, etc., puede costar la mitad. Estoy muy orgulloso de mi colección de partituras y, seguramente, en un futuro próximo puede que haga alguna exposición. Porque a partir de ellas se puede hacer exposiciones de todo tipo.

Carmen Sanjulián: —Muchas de tus obras hablan de Aragón o de Zaragoza. ¿Es una forma de expresar el amor al terruño?

Javier Barreiro: —Yo no soy nada nacionalista, lo que pasa es que cada uno es lo que es, en mi caso, aragonés. Tampoco creo mucho en los amores de cercanía. Digamos que el amor a la familia, y el amor a lo que uno tiene cerca me parece como una falta de pensamiento. Entonces, ¿cómo explicar lo del amor al terruño? Pues lo del amor al terruño probablemente sea otra forma de narcisismo. Lo que tú has bebido, lo que tú has mamado en tu juventud: una forma de hablar, una música, una forma de sentir. Y, sobre todo, en una tierra tan poco respetuosa consigo misma como Aragón.

En mi caso, una de las formas de expresar ese amor al terruño ha sido dedicarme a hacer lo que ya deberían haber hecho otros: un diccionario de la literatura aragonesa contemporánea. No se hacía ninguno desde 1885. Aragón es especialmente duro con sus hijos. Hay miles de anécdotas de Buñuel, del propio Goya, («pensando en Aragón me quemo»)… a Buñuel, cuando venía por Zaragoza, le decían aquello de «tu última película… flojica».

Ya he dicho que lo de sacar raros no es, desde luego, nada productivo. Y tampoco quizás sea justificable, ¿por qué Aragón, y no otro sitio? Es lo que hay, y es lo que te sale. Es lo que sucede con los nacionalismos: si yo quiero escribir sobre Espronceda, me tendré que ir a Extremadura a ver si la Junta de Extremadura me da una subvención. Alguien te tiene que pagar algo, o te tiene que ayudar cuando investigas. En Aragón no me van a dar una subvención para estudiar a Espronceda, me van a dar algo por estudiar a los aragoneses. Entonces caes en esa dinámica, que no justifico pero explico.

Enlaces recomendados

< Listado de entrevistas

Virtual interview with Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

Virtual interview with Jesús Ruiz Mantilla, Instituto Cervantes Dublin Library, 9th November 2011

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

David Carrión

Good afternoon Jesús. In January you published the article “Why do I read?”, about the motivations of different writers. Why does Jesús Ruiz Mantilla write?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

In general I write for curiosity’s sake, to discover things and to discover myself. Also for love, for hate, to put order to chaos or to create chaos.

I write for people to read it, to share, to define and redefine and to try to understand. I write just like that, to get into the people, into people’s minds which I don’t get to understand, in order to understand them. I write to ask, to find out, to become a better person, to understand why I can get worse. To put forward paradoxes and contradictions but with the aim to share them, rather than resolving them.

DCarrion

Why do you read? Which were your first readings and who did you get them from?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

I got my first readings from my dad. He offered me a collection with books by Jules Verne, and he talked to me about the Odyssey and Iliad, but especially about Michel Strogoff, The Courier of the Czar and Captain Nemo. Then it comes all the rest. I read for the same reasons I write, also to copy and to get inspired, I read to recharge my batteries, to understand and to question.

Lola Rodríguez

What’s the most difficult thing about a writer’s profession? And about a journalist’s profession?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

The most difficult thing in a writer’s profession is to define the idea, to be able to capture on paper what you have in your mind. Regarding a journalist, it’s trying not to repeat yourself, to communicate clearly, to catch the readers’ attention everyday, the headline and the first paragraph.

LRodríguez

Journalism in Western countries if free to a certain extent. Is it the same with literature?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

Literature is absolutely free. Journalism is not, it’s only free.

LRodríguez

The five novels you have written look apparently quite different. What do they have in common? Maybe the idea of identity?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

The concept of identity is indeed obsessive in me. All my books deal with the personal identity and my new novel Ahogada en llamas, to be published next March, also tackles the concept of collective identity.

Other common features are the expression of sensations –for example, music in Preludio and Farinelli, taste, touch and smell in Gordo and Placer contra placer-, love, duality, paradox, memory, death…

DCarrión

Please talk about your first novel Los ojos no ven. Was Dali actually a fraud or this is just Pascual Burgaleta’s opinion?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

Los ojos no ven was just an exercise to prove myself that I was able to write a 200 pages novel.

On whether Dali was an impostor, I think his mistake was that he tried to convince us that he was a genius where he actually wasn’t, in painting. And however, he was a genius and a visionary where he thought he wasn’t: in filmmaking, in literature –his books are absolutely brilliant- and in making up a character, a feature of the post modernity which Dali explored before Warhol.

DCarrión

Please talk now about your second novel, Preludio. You are a music lover. Is Chopin your favorite musician?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

You’re right, I am a music lover, especially piano. The idea of this novel was to make up a pianist. For me pianists represent the paradigm of duality: with each hand they play a different thing at the same time. It’s as if they have two heads, that’s why I created a dual, bisexual León de Vega, with right and left ideals, tender and awful, tormented and attracted by the abyss, the excess and the romanticism.

I created a link with Chopin’s 24 Preludes because I wanted a musical structure, so I related his life in 24 chapters written at the rhythm of each prelude.

DCarrión

How much of José Francisco Alonso is there in the main character of this novel, León de Vega, a man obsessed with the Polish composer?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

José Francisco was my uncle. I liked to see him playing piano when he came to his home city from Viena, where he lived. I was fascinated by him and León de Vega has much of my uncle in him. He served as inspiration and example.

LRodríguez

You have said that your novel Gordo originates from an anger for the marginalization of fat people in Spain. What are your demands in this novel?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

It’s not exactly a vindication although it is a good excuse. But it surely comes from an anger, with the aim to defend what it’s different, the extreme versus the standard, the pleasure and the suffering, and a view to the grotesque.

LRodríguez

Fat people are a referent in comedy. If we assume that we like to make fun of the extremes, skinny people should make the same effect. However, it’s not. Why do you think skinny people are not that funny?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

I really don’t know. I rather feel pity for skinny people, poor them.

DCarrión

What do you mean when you say that García Márquez and Vargas Llosa are tremendously fat men “specially with regard to their erotic literature”?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

I mean that their writing style is sensual, exorbitant, baroque, full of calories, overwhelming. It gets you dizzy in a good way. They maximize the resources of the language, the imagination and the exuberance.

LRodríguez

Can you recommend a good novel in which cuisine and the pleasure of food is a core topic?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

From the Ancient Greek to present food has been widely depicted in literature. Don Quixote, for example, is a big gastronomy manual book, also a hunger manual though.

DCarrión

I was surprised that you said that Farinelli himself would have chosen to be castrated, that castrati felt as a special class. What did you see in Farinelli that made you write your fourth novel about him?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

I was attracted by the fact that he was a great postmodernist. We live in a baroque world where identities are confused and the castrati are exactly a paradigm of this. I also wanted to enhance Farinelli’s connection with Spain. He lived in Madrid for 20 years, he introduced Italian opera and he doesn’t even have a street with his name on it or a statute, it’s a disgrace.

DCarrión

With all my respects, would you have chosen to be fat? Is being fat a life philosophy?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

Nowadays that is something you can choose. Otherwise it gradually shapes your thinking, your feelings and your personality for better or worse. In my case, as Falstaff, my belly is my kingdom except that, contrary to Falstaff when he says ‘I’ll make it bigger’, I go to gym to reduce it.

LRodríguez

In Placer contra placer you examine the search for happiness through pleasure and the price that must be paid to reach it. If you had to give up all pleasures except for one, which one would you choose?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

Hard to say… Probably affection, love, company.

DCarrión

I am surprised that in the list of pleasures of your book sex is not included. Is it because it is a sin?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

There is a kind of obsession for sex in all my books, even when the characters cannot have sex, like Farinelli. I don’t know why I didn’t include it in Placer contra placer, but many people have noticed that. I’m pleased to refer you to my other books, where all my characters have an unrestrained sexuality.

LRodríguez

How is the search for happiness in the affluent society and how can be explained that 50% of Spanish population suffer from depression and anxiety? We don’t have enough with the little pleasures anymore?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

This is the reason why I wrote this book, in order to give my view on how to find the little pleasures. We are surrounded by depression and anxiety, and by pleasures too, but I don’t know why these go unnoticed, we let them go.

That is why I wanted to make people stop and think about the little pleasures we can enjoy in our daily life, be able to identify them, become aware of them, fix them in our mind and keep on going until we encounter the next one.

LRodríguez

In Placer contra placer you analyze the theories of the greatest philosophers in history to find the key to happiness. Which theory do you prefer?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

The Greeks’ one, particularly Epicure’s, who advocated that pleasure is a social enhancement tool.

Dcarrión

I have heard that your fifth novel, Ahogada en llamas, should have been released in autumn 2011. It’s being hard to finish it? When would it be available in the bookstores?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

It will be released in March next year.

LRodríguez

Can you recommend any (pleasant) remedy against the collective anxiety of Spainish population today?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

To think positive. To think that Spain has got back on it’s feet after harder times than today. In fact the book I am working on now tackles this subject. It’s about a girl who became homeless during the Spanish civil war but she managed to succeed, with faith, work and determination. The power of will overcomes everything.

Thank you very much for your participation.

Related links:

Encuentro digital con Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

Encuentro digital con Jesús Ruiz Mantilla celebrado el 9 de noviembre de 2011 en la Biblioteca Dámaso Alonso del Instituto Cervantes de Dublín

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

David Carrión

Buenas tardes Jesús. Usted publicó en enero un reportaje titulado “¿Por qué escribo?”, sobre las motivaciones de diferentes escritores ¿Por qué escribe Jesús Ruiz Mantilla?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

Generalmente escribo por curiosidad, para descubrir y descubrirme. También por amor, también por odio, también para ordenar el caos o para provocarlo, el caos, digo.

Escribo para que alguien lo lea, para compartir y para definir y redefinir e intentar entender. Escribo porque sí, porque no, por penetrar en la gente, en la mente de quien no acierto a comprender, pero para comprenderlos. Escribo para preguntar, para indagar, para ser mejor, para entender por qué puedo ser peor. Para esgrimir paradojas y contradicciones y por supuesto, no resolverlas, sino compartirlas.

DCarrión

¿Por qué lee Jesús Ruiz Mantilla, cuáles fueron sus primeras lecturas y a través de quién le llegaron?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

Mis primeras lecturas me llegaron por mi padre. Me regaló una colección en la que había libros de Julio Verne y me habló de la Odisea, la Iliada, pero sobre todo de Miguel Strogoff, el correo del Zar, y del capitán Nemo. Luego llegó todo lo demás. Leo por lo mismo que escribo, leo también para copiar e inspirarme, leo para alimentar el depósito, para comprender y cuestionar.

Lola Rodríguez

¿Qué es lo más difícil del trabajo de un escritor? ¿Y de un periodista?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

Lo más difícil del trabajo de un escritor es limpiar, pulir la idea, llegar a plasmar lo que te golpea en la mente con lo que refleja el papel. Y de un periodista, lo más complicado es tratar de no repetirse, comunicar con claridad, atrapar la atención de la gente día a día, el titular y el primer párrafo.

LRodríguez

El periodismo en Occidente es libre hasta cierto punto. ¿Le ocurre lo mismo a la literatura?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

La literatura es libérrima, el periodismo no, solo es libre.

LRodríguez

Ha escrito cinco novelas que a simple vista parecen muy dispares. ¿Qué puntos tienen en común?, ¿La idea de la identidad?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

La idea de identidad es obsesiva en mí, ciertamente. Y creo que es un nexo en toda mi obra, la identidad individual y ahora la colectiva en una novela nueva que aparecerá en marzo y se titula Ahogada en llamas.

Otros puntos en común son la plasmación de sensaciones, en Preludio” y Farinelli, la música, en Gordo o Placer contra placer, el gusto, el tacto, los olores. En Los ojos no ven, el arte, la vista, el tacto… Más temas: el amor, la dualidad, la paradoja, la memoria, la muerte…

DCarrión

Háblenos de su primera novela “Los ojos no ven”. ¿Era Dalí realmente un fraude, o esa es solo la opinión de Pascual Burgaleta?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

Los ojos no ven era un ejercicio para probarme a mi mismo que podía escribir una novela de 200 páginas.

¿Dalí era un impostor? Creo que su desgracia fue intentar convencernos de que era genial donde realmente no lo era, en la pintura. Y sin embargo fue genial y visionario donde no creía que lo fuera: en el cine, en la escritura -sus libros son de una genialidad apabullante- y en ese rasgo de la posmodernidad que él exploró antes que Warhol y que es la invención de un personaje.

DCarrión

Hablamos ahora de su segunda novela: “Preludio”. Es usted un melómano. ¿Es Chopin su plato musical favorito?

Ruiz Mantilla

Soy melómano, efectivamente y un loco del piano. La idea fue retratar e inventar un pianista. Para mí, ellos son el paradigma de la dualidad: tocan dos cosas diferentes a la vez con cada mano. Es como si tuvieran dos cabezas, y eso me hizo crear a un León de Vega dual, bisexual, de izquierdas y derechas, tierno y terrible, atormentado y atraido por el abismo, el exceso, el romanticismo.

Lo relacioné con los 24 preludios de Chopin porque quería una estructura musical y decidí contar su vida en 24 capítulos escrito cada uno al ritmo de cada preludio.

DCarrión

¿Qué hay de José Francisco Alonso en el protagonista de esta novela, León de Vega, obsesionado por el compositor polaco?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

José Francisco fue mi tío, el hombre a quien yo iba a ver tocar el piano cuando venía a su ciudad desde Viena, donde vivía. Me resultaba fascinante y León de Vega le debe muchas cosas a él. Fue una inspiración y un ejemplo.

LRodríguez

Usted ha dicho que su novela “Gordo” es fruto de una indignación, por la marginación que sufren muchos obesos en España. ¿Cuáles son las reivindicaciones de la novela?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

No tanto eso. Es una buena excusa, pero sí es una indignación y una rabia para reivindicar lo diferente, lo extremo frente a la medida, el placer y el tormento, y una mirada de esperpento.

LRodríguez

Los gordos son un referente del género cómico. Si suponemos que nos hacen gracia los extremos deberían tener el mismo protagonismo los flacos, sin embargo no es así. ¿Por qué cree que hacen “tanta gracia” los gordos?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

No sé, la verdad, a mí los flacos me producen más pena, pobres.

DCarrión

¿Qué quiere decir cuando afirma que García Márquez es un gordo tremendo, y Vargas Llosa también, “sobre todo en su literatura erótica”?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

Que son sensuales, excesivos, barrocos, que su forma de narrar está llena de calorías, que sobra en la mesa de la página y llena y marea, en el buen sentido, que llegan a los límites del lenguaje, la imaginación, la exhuberancia.

LRodríguez

Recomiéndenos alguna buena novela en la que la gastronomía, el placer de la comida sea un tema central.

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

De los griegos a la actualidad, la literatura ha estado plagada de comida, un gran manual gastronómico es El Quijote, por ejemplo, aunque también del hambre.

DCarrión

Me llama la atención que dijera que Farinelli, de haber podido elegir, habría elegido la castración. Que los castrados se sentían una casta aparte ¿Qué es lo que le atrajo del personaje para escribir su cuarta novela en torno a él?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

Me atrajo su gran posmodernidad. Vivimos un mundo barroco, de confusión de las identidades y un castratto era el paradigma de eso. Además quería reivindicar la figura de Farinelli en España. Vivió en Madrid 20 años, introdujo la ópera italiana y no tiene ni una calle ni una estatua en la ciudad, es una vergüenza.

DCarrión

Con todos los respetos, ¿habría elegido R. Mantilla ser gordo? ¿Es ser gordo una forma de entender la vida?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

Eso, ahora, se elige y si no, va conformando tu pensamiento, tu sentimiento, tu personalidad, para bien y para mal. Yo, como Falstaff, en gran medida tengo mi panza como mi reino, salvo que contrariamente a él cuando dice, lo agrandaré, estoy yendo al gimnasio para disminuirla.

LRodríguez

En Placer contra placer examina la búsqueda de la felicidad a través del placer y el precio que debemos pagar para conseguirla. Díganos, ¿Con cuál de esos placeres se quedaría si tuviera que renunciar a los demás?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

Difícil… Probablemente el afecto, el amor, la compañía

DCarrión

Echo de menos en el listado de placeres de su libro al menos uno: el placer sexual ¿No será porque es pecado?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

En toda mi obra hay una especie de obsesión sexual, incluso cuando los personajes no pueden, como Farinelli. No sé por qué lo obvié en Placer contra placer, pero muchos lo han echado de menos. Te remito a mis otras novelas para ver cómo todos mis personajes tienen una vertiente sexual desaforada, como no, con gusto.

LRodríguez

¿En qué se ha convertido la búsqueda del placer en la sociedad de la opulencia y cómo se explica que más del 50% de la población española tenga problemas de ansiedad y depresión? ¿No nos basta ya con los pequeños placeres?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

Por eso creí necesario escribir este libro, para aportar mi punto de vista sobre el lugar donde se esconde el placer. Estamos rodeados de depresión y ansiedad, también de placer, pero no sé porqué, este último nos pasa desapercibido, se nos escurre.

Precisamente quería invitar a parar y pensar y degustar el momento de placer diario que cada uno de nosotros podemos tener a mano en pequeñas cosas, identificarlo, ser conscientes de él, fijarlo en la memoria y seguir, hasta que se nos presente el próximo.

LRodríguez

En Placer contra placer rastrea las teorías de los grandes pensadores de la historia en busca de las claves de la felicidad. ¿Con qué propuesta se queda?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

Con la de los griegos, concretamente con Epicuro, que defendía el placer como un instrumento de desarrollo social.

DCarrión

Ahogada en llamas, su quinta novela. Tengo entendido que su lanzamiento estaba previsto para este otoño de 2011. ¿Se complicó la escritura al final?, ¿Cuándo podremos comprarla?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

Aparecerá en marzo del año próximo

LRodríguez

¿Se le ocurre algún remedio (placentero) contra la ansiedad colectiva que sufre la españa de hoy?

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla

Pensar en positivo, pensar que hemos sido un país que ha levantado la cabeza en momentos mucho más duros que este. Precisamente el libro que estoy escribiendo habla de eso. Es la historia de una niña que quedó en la calle en los tiempos de la guerra y acabó triunfando, con fe, trabajo, empeño. La voluntad se vence todo.

Enlaces relacionados

Virtual interview with David Roas

Versión en español / English version

Virtual interview with David Roas, Instituto Cervantes Dublin Library, 18th October 2011. Translated by Lola Rodríguez.

Yves

How do you define “normality”? To what extent do the fantastic elements help reveal the inconsistencies of our world, of our societies? How strong can this criticism be? In your opinion, what are the features of a good fantastic element?

David Roas

To try to define normality is a fantastic act itself… I would rather say “regularity” instead of “normality” (which makes us think of standards), referring to the idea of real that arises from our everyday life, i.e. regularities that happen once and again helping us set the threshold between possible and impossible. As you mention, the fantasy is a way to show the chaos and absurdity of the so called reality, which we are unable to see but we are forced to live in. Breaking the limits is a way to show the chaos. On my opinion, a good fantastic element takes the reality and triviality as a starting point to then break our idea of real and possible.

Roxana Herrera

Good afternoon. I have a question for David Roas: the humour and the fantasy combine really well in some of your stories. What represents the humour about the   supernatural in the fantastic literature? Does the humour challenge the reality the same way? Does the humour implies a subgenre of the fantastic literature? Thanks.

David Roas

At the beginning I thought that the humour annulled the fantastic (although I used to combine them in my stories, I advocated otherwise on my critic writings). However, I have realised that, if well combined, the fantastic and the humour enhance each other and become a double transgression of the reality (i.e. what we consider real). While keeping the same level of relevance, together bring a doubly new perspective to the reality. Two different ways to subvert our idea of the world.

David Carrión

Good afternoon David. I have heard that you read Poe’s stories since you were 7 years old, do you remember any other readings before getting dazzled by “The black cat” and the fantastic literature in general?

David Roas

I have bad and few memories of my childhood, but I believe the first book I read that I (more or less) properly understood and had a real impact on me (strong enough to remember) was Treasure Island and some of Jules Verne’s books. It may sound as a cliché but it’s true… But after Poe, my big finds were Borges and Lovecraft at the age of 15. I repeatedly go back to these three authors, both as a reader and as a researcher.

Lola Rodríguez

In your stories there are no ogres or fairies. Your characters are usually people from the real world who suddenly encounter an absurd or impossible situation. Do you distrust the reality? Do you believe in paranormal events?

David Roas

Ogres, fairies and this kind of beings are related to the wonderful literature, not to the fantastic literature, which is rather linked to the real world as it aims to subvert it. That’s why my stories are about the reality, about daily or banal situations that could be familiar to any reader. That is where the fantasy hurts: the inrush of impossible events into our real world always gets the reader worked up. That’s why I don’t believe in paranormal events. I have enough with the absurdity and the chaos of the so called reality to think about transcendental things. The fantasy enables us to break the fake order we live in. I say fake because the world is a complete chaos.

DCarrión

Getting back to Poe, you consider him the precursor of the modern fantasy literature. How was the fantastic literature before Poe?

David Roas

Before Poe there was another great master: Hoffmann, who initiated the fantastic literature in the modern sense (i.e. different from the gothic novel). Without him, Poe wouldn’t make sense. What’s true is that Poe broke many of the ways that keep on being explored today. That’s why Poe’s stories have aged better than Hoffmann’s, which are rather linked to a romantic, stunned view of the world… On the contrary, Poe is a realistic author, a scientific… Well, and from Hoffmann to Poe there were very interesting authors of romantic fantastic literature such as Gautier, Merimée or Nodier.

DCarrión

People before 18th century didn’t enjoy being scared, what triggered the change?

David Roas

The pleasure of being scared is a modern pleasure, unthinkable before the reason became the paradigm that explained every matter of the reality. Only when humans stop believing in the realm of supernatural, this can be explored by the fiction as a source of aesthetic pleasure. To this extent, during the 18th century there appeared some new aesthetic categories linked to the irrational side: the sublime, the sinister, the nocturnal… But always with a sceptical approach: as Madame du Deffand’s famous quotation says “I don’t believe in ghosts, but they scare me”. This sentence represents the pleasant relation with horror, the one that literature and filmmaking keep on exploring: the safe pleasure of suffering from fear.

DCarrión

What are the genres or subgenres within the fantastic literature?

David Roas

I would rather talk about variations of topics instead of subgenres, as they all pursue the same goal: to break reality and, as a consequence, to alarm the reader. Note that the wonderful literature (Tolkien, the fairy tales, etc.) and science fiction are not fantastic literature even if sometimes they get very close.

LRodríguez

Horrores cotidianos, Distorsiones… It seems like you feel quite comfortable in the short distances. What are the advantages of the short stories in relation with novels?

David Roas

Intensity, concision… And it’s a very suitable format for fantastic literature.

DCarrión

Horrores cotidianos is a book with a high content of parody where, as others have mentioned, you spare nobody. What have J.Derrida and N.Chomsky done to you and to the universe in general?

David Roas

Nothing, I am very derridian on the philosophical level. And I think Chomsky is a good guy, a pain in the ass for the American empire… But they represent two iconic characters in our culture and that’s why making humour about them is so thought-provoking. It’s a culture terrorism game.

DCarrión

Distorsiones is divided into “illusions” and “asymmetries”. What’s the difference?

David Roas

It’s just a question of size: an “illusion” is a bigger distortion than an “asymmetry”, that’s why the first section is devoted to stories from 2 to 15 pages, and the second section to shorter stories. That’s all.

LRodríguez

You often mention that you admire Cristina Fernández Cubas’ works, what do you like about them?

David Roas

I like the way she combines the reality and the impossible, her expertise in the short distance (although some of her best stories are almost 40 pages long). Also the way she plays with irony and even the grotesque touch. I think there are very few writers as good as she is.

LRodríguez

What are the similarities and differences between your works and Cristina Fernández Cubas’?

David Roas

We both are interested in distorting the reality, in exploring the other side of the real world or the threshold of the so called reality. And the ironical touch. The differences are to be determined by the readers…

DCarrión

Poe, Borges, Lovecraft, Ballard, Calvino, Cristina Fernández Cubas… please help us complete your list of favourites.

David Roas

Mrozek, Merino, Bernhard, Quim Monzó, Bukowski, David Foster Wallace, Philip Roth, Melville, Conrad, Kafka, Joyce… I stop here but the list is much longer.

LRodríguez

What was your and Ana Casasal’s purpose when publishing the compilation of Spanish fantastic short stories from 20th century?

David Roas

Apart form bringing back some little-remembered writers, our main purpose was to prove the relevance and quality of the Spanish tradition in fantastic literature and to defend a fact that has always been denied by the academic sector: that the fantastic literature exists inSpainfrom the romanticism until today and that many canonical authors touched on this genre. Galdós, Pardo Bazán, Alarcón, Zorrilla, Valle Inclán, Unamuno and Baroja are just an example.

LRodríguez

Is the fantastic literature considered as a minor genre or as a genre rather addressed to young people?

David Roas

Fortunately, not anymore. Nowadays there are more and more academic works and, above all, more authors devoted to fantastic short stories…  A different thing is the wonderful literature such as Tolkien or Harry Potter, rather related to the young people.

LRodríguez

It seems that since the 90s the Spanish filmmaking is going again for the fantastic genre with movies like “El día de la bestia”, “Abre los ojos”, “El milagro de P.Tinto” or “El orfanato”. What do you think of these productions?  Would you like a screen version of your novel Celuloide Sangriento?

David Roas

All the movies you mention represent a different way to play with and break the reality… Except for El orfanato, that really bored me, I think the others are excellent. I don’t know if I would make a screen version of Celuloide Sangriento. I would prefer to see on screen some of my fantastic short stories.

LRodríguez

Do you plan to touch on other genres?

David Roas

At present I’m working on a novel… but I can’t tell much for the moment, just that I am working on it from2009 inmy spare time. I wish I can finish soon.

Thank you very much for your participation.

Related links:

David Roas is our author of the month throughout the month of November.

Interview with Anamaría Crowe Serrano

List of interviews

Anamaría Crowe Serrano: What I want to do in my poetry is explore language

Anamaria_Crowe_Serrano

Interview with Anamaría Crowe Serrano held on 31st May 2011 at the Dámaso Alonso Library of the Instituto Cervantes in Dublin on the occasion of her participation in the round table discussion “More than poetry”, with Diego Valverde Villena.

Anamaría Crowe Serrano is a writer and lives in Dublin. She teaches Spanish language and translates Spanish and Italian contemporary poetry into English. In addition to her English translations of Mexican poets Gerardo Beltrán and Elsa Cross (Selected Poems, Shearsman, 2010) she has also published translations into Spanish of the Irish poets Seamus Heaney and Brendan Kennelly. As a poet, she is the author of a collection titled Femispheres (Shearsman, 2008).

Pilar Garrido: —Anamaría Crowe Serrano is an Irish poet and translator. Your second surname is Spanish. What part of Spain is your mother from?

Anamaría Crowe Serrano: —My mother is from Zaragoza, but I also have family in Bilbao. My mum came to Ireland about 40 years ago to study English, and she stayed and married my father. My first surname, Crowe, comes from my father.

Pilar Garrido: —What would you highlight from your work as a poet?

Anamaría Crowe Serrano: —For me, there are two key aspects to poetry: there’s the theme, what you want to express and, equally important, the way you express it, the way you manipulate language, how you create sound effects and how you can produce something original and creative with language. For me, that’s absolutely essential in poetry, sometimes it’s even more important than the theme.

Pilar Garrido: —When and how did you start writing poems?

Anamaría Crowe Serrano: —I started quite young. When I was 11 I had an inspiring teacher at school who instilled a huge love of writing in me. That continued in college. As my degree was in French and Spanish Language and Literature I studied poetry and loved it. I started writing poems, inspired at that time by the Latin American and French surrealists.

Pilar Garrido: —At that early age of 11, did you write in English or Spanish?

Anamaría Crowe Serrano: —I always write in English. Actually, I have a better command of English than Spanish, even though my Spanish is good but it’s more natural for me to write in English because I’ve always lived in Ireland. I’ve written maybe four or five poems in Spanish but I’ve never read them in public.

Pilar Garrido: —Which poet or poets have influenced you?

Anamaría Crowe Serrano: —There are lots. As a child, more than poetry it was Oscar Wilde’s short stories which I adored. Later on, as I was saying, at university I discovered the surrealists who have remained a constant influence. And then, when I left college, I took up Joyce whom I had never studied before. Joyce is always with me as a point of reference. I also love Cervantes’ Don Quixote. It’s a fabulous book, and while it’s not poetry, it is very poetic.

Pilar Garrido: —As we are in a country of writers, poets, musicians… who are your favourite Irish authors?

Anamaría Crowe Serrano: —In terms of poetry, my favourite is Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, who writes in English although she has an Irish name. Her work is really beautiful. I also like Yeats. I discovered Yeats many years ago and was fascinated by him. Heaney, of course, is so lyrical as well… But I also like the experimental poets, whose poetry is more contemporary, more edgy, and it does just what I want to do in my own poems, explore language. For example, there’s a poet who lives in Cork called Trevor Joyce, whose writing is really good.

Pilar Garrido: —You have also written short stories. Which one would you highlight?

Anamaría Crowe Serrano: —I wrote the short stories a long time ago, I hardly remember them. Maybe if I was to pick one it would be “The Barber’s Shop” about the life of a castrato, set in the times of these singers, the castrati. Their parents would sell them to the Church to be trained as musicians. Sometimes these children didn’t know they had been castrated until they were adults and they didn’t develop in the normal way. I was fascinated by that and wrote a story about it. Obviously, it’s a story about a fictitious child.

Pilar Garrido: —You’re a poet and also a translator. What kind of translations do you do?

Anamaría Crowe Serrano: —I usually translate poetry, mostly from Italian into English, but I’ve also translated from Spanish into English. Most of the Italian contemporary poetry I translate is by living poets, so I can always contact them if I have any doubts or queries. For me, it’s very important to be able to collaborate with the poet. As you know, there are so many ways to interpret a poem. Sometimes you might not understand it even if it’s in your native language. That’s why I believe it’s important to consult with the poet, whenever possible.

Pilar Garrido: —I imagine the two roles are very inter-related.

Anamaría Crowe Serrano: —Absolutely. I think it’s almost essential to be a poet in order to translate poetry. And poets usually prefer to be translated by another poet because you’re familiar with poetic techniques, the solutions that can be found for difficult turns of phrase. You might also have a sharper ear, sensitive to the sound and rhythm of poetry.

Recommended links

  • [Video] Interwiew with Anamaría Crowe Serrano at the Instituto Cervantes in Dublin by Pilar Garrido
  • [Audio] “El bilingüismo, una manera de sentir”. Interview with Anamaría Crowe Serrano in CanalUNED.
  • Anamaría Crowe Serrano’s profile on Shearsman Books.
  • One columbus leap by Anamaría Crowe Serrano.

List of interviews

Virtual interview with Juan Cruz

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

Juan Cruz

Hector Barco Cobalea

Good afternoon,

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

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

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

– Is the average citizen justified in feeling indignant?

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

Regards,

Hector.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you very much for your participation.

Related links:

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

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

About Roger Casement

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

Virtual interview with Laura Freixas

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

Laura Freixas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you to all of you for taking part.

Related links:

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

¿Todavía no has venido a visitarnos? / Still thinking about visiting us?

Si no nos has visitado todavía, esperamos que con estas fotos te animes a venir. Si ya lo has hecho, seguro que volverás: Ver álbum.

If you have not visited us yet, we hope these photos will encourage you to come. If you’ve done, sure you’ll be back: See album

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Virtual interview with Manuel Vicent and Ángel Harguindey

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

Manuel Vicent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manuel Vicent
I think it’s more Visconti territory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manuel Vicent
I think that’s exactly right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anna Bajor-Ciciliati
Good afternoon!

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you very much,

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you all for participating in this interview

Related links:

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

Novedades en la biblioteca / New to the library

El 4 de April de 2011 en Books, Library, New to the library por | Sin comentarios

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

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Estamos celebrando el Día Mundial del Libro / We are celebrating the World Book Day

Día Mundial del Libro en Irlanda / World Book Day in Ireland #WorldBookDay

Primeras fotos / First photos

Todavía tenemos algunos libros esperándote. Regalamos uno a nuestros primeros 120 visitantes. ¡Feliz lectura!

Y esta tarde, a las 6 pm: Many Worlds con Luis Alberto de Cuenca, Jorge Edwards y Alicia Mariño

También te esperamos del 4 al 6 de marzo en el Dublin Book Festival, con un puesto en el Dublin City Hall.

La semana de las bibliotecas en irlanda tendrá lugar del 7 al 13 de marzo. Aquí puedes encontrar las actividades previstas: http://www.libraryirelandweek.ie


We have still some books waiting for you. We will give away a free one to the first 120 visitors

Leave with us the books in Spanish that you have already read and take out the ones that other readers left.

And At 6pm, we will welcome Luis Alberto de Cuenca, Jorge Edwards and Alicia Mariño to our round-table discussion Many Worlds.

Remember that from the 4th to the 6th March, we will have a stand at the Dublin Book Festival in Dublin’s City Hall.

Library Ireland Week 2011 will take place from 7th-13th March. For more information on activities related to the world of books: http://www.libraryirelandweek.ie

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