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Blog del Instituto Cervantes de Dublín

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.

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