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Torre Martello

Blog del Instituto Cervantes de Dublín

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:

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:

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.

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.

Manuel Vicent + Ángel Harguindey

El 7 de April de 2011 en Cultural Activities, Library, Spanish writers, Virtual interviews, Writers por | Comments Off on Manuel Vicent + Ángel Harguindey

Hoy recibimos a Manuel Vicent y a Ángel Harguindey

Todavía podéis enviar vuestras preguntas, en forma de comentario a la página del encuentro digital, hasta las 4 de la tarde. Manuel Vicent y Ángel Harguindey responderán de 4:30 a 5:30 hora de Dublín.

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


We meet today Manuel Vicent and Ángel Harguindey

You can still send in your questions, until 4pm. Manuel Vicent and Ángel Harguindey will answer them from 4:30pm to 5:30pm local Dublin time.

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

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Encuentro digital con Manuel Vicent y Ángel Harguindey

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

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

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

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

Bibliotecarios: ¡animad a vuestros lectores a participar!

Profesores: ¡animad a vuestros estudiantes!

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

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

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

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

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

Textos de Manuel Vicent en EL PAÍS

Ángel Harguindey en el Foro Complutense

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

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

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

¡Os esperamos!


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

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

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

Teachers: encourage your students to take part!

Librarians: invite your readers to get involved!

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

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

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

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

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

Articles by Manuel Vicent in EL PAÍS

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

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

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

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

We’ll meet you there!

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