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Torre Martello

Blog del Instituto Cervantes de Dublín

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.

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