Gabriel Garcia Marquez He promised an interview with the condition that he does not record and sent him the transcript of the talk to put the ok. The North American Toni Morrison He was reluctant to the photo shoot. Nigerian Wole soyinka He entered the jungle of his country and put two guards armed with pistols to take care of him and the photographer Kim Manresa.
From a street in Barcelona-Spain and, with a mobile phone whose battery is dying, the Catalan journalist recalls his journalistic adventures with more than 20 writers who won the Nobel Prize for Literature. A first edition of those interviews and an extensive photographic record were published in 2009. Next year he plans to reissue it with the encounters that followed.
The project started in 1995. That year the Swedish Academy awarded the distinction to Kenzaburo Oé. His fellow adventurer, photographer Kim Manresa, had the Japanese author at his disposal. He took photos of him in the subway, in a temple, they walked through the streets of Tokyo, they went to his house, they were with his family.
YOU CAN SEE: Martín Caparrós: The future appears to us as a threat
With García Márquez it happened differently. Kenzaburo looked Caribbean and Gabo nikei. The Colombian accepted an interview after 20 years of silence but with the decalogue that he imposed in his schools of New Journalism, not tape recorders. Why? The author of One Hundred Years of Solitude had the theory that the editor transfers the imperfections of oral language to the text. “Therefore it is less beautiful,” he said. Gabo advised me: “Make up but not so much. Then send the text to check if you invented a lot”.
The talk lasted three hours, Ayén only took notes. In the afternoon, when I was returning to the hotel, my cell phone rang. It was the 1982 nobel prize, I wanted to change an answer. According to him, he had come up with something better.
Where did you want to take García Márquez for the photographs?
In Colombia it was ideal. He was in Mexico City, at his home in El Pedregal de San Ángel. We were content with him going out into the street, there was no way to convince him. (…)
Wole Soyinka was the first Nigerian to bring the award to Africa. He is the least known but probably the most hospitable nobel in the Ayén-Monresa adventure. They lived with him for a week in Nigeria. They reached his native village, Abeokuta, where the writer had a dream home. The property, located in the middle of the jungle, worked with its own electricity and water plants, the writer’s study had glass walls to appreciate the forests and animals. That exotic landscape accompanied Soyinka while she worked. Nigeria was a very dangerous country for Westerners. Two bodyguards took care of the journalist and the photographer by order of the writer.
Ever wanted to throw in the towel with this project. Aren’t writers easy?
Everything happened to us. We went to New York to Toni Morrison’s house. The mediator misinformed our project and when he saw the photographer he was shocked. He said that there was no way they would take photos of him. Three months later he accepted with certain conditions.
Are there photos where you appear with Vargas Llosa in the morning tours that he does before writing?
We accompany him in his sports routine in Lima and in his theatrical rehearsals in Spain (…) I was with him in Manhattan two days before he won the Nobel Prize. They had told me that that year (2010) they could give him the award. That is why I traveled. The night before the news, I told him: “if you get the nobel, let me go into your apartment.” He replied: “don’t worry Xavi, that train has already passed for me.” Well it didn’t happen because they gave it to him.
YOU CAN SEE: Ngozi Adichie: Guilt for not saying goodbye to his father, a victim of COVID-19
Regarding your book “Those years of the boom” you said that a new edition was made with details about the causes of the Vargas Llosa and García Márquez quarrel.
(…) He did not like that part was told. He was angry, he felt it was an invasion of his privacy. However, it was inevitable, he had all the versions of the witnesses. Contact with him was lost. He is a person to support his own and when he stops considering someone as his own, he cuts. It also happened to Jeremías Gamboa, whom he supported a lot. It is a situation that can be understood.
You point out in your book that Vargas Llosa is a politically correct character. Do you think that coherence now accompanies him, is he very far-right?
In recent years he has had a right wing, here in Spain, he used to support the Liberal party, and recently he came out publicly to say that he supported the Popular party that is further to the right. He has always been honest, he is not a hypocritical person who works out of personal interest. But this drift in recent years many of his readers dislike. Here in Spain they invite him to political rallies. He is the only writer who does. That level of commitment is very unusual in this 21st century.
What is the impression of the people of Barcelona regarding a Vargas Llosa who rejects the independence of Catalonia?
There are many Barcelonans who do not want it to become independent either, but the population is divided on this matter. What is true is that Vargas Llosa has aligned himself with political parties and associations that have had a position of attack on the Catalan language, which is a language that he loves and loves a lot and has defended works in Catalan, but has publicly supported These groups.
What is the great theme that dominates Spanish literature?
The Spanish civil war is still the big issue. Young people approach it from another perspective. They contrast the modernity of the 21st century with the bones of the grandfather who do not know where they are. In other countries, there were reparation operations for various crimes, here this catharsis was lacking. The law of amnesty, pardon or forgetfulness was given to the Francoists to accept the transition to democracy. Juan Gómez Bárcena questions the figure of the conqueror in Latin America. “Huaco Portrait” has just come out by the Peruvian Gabriela Wiener, who lives in Madrid, goes along the lines that questions colonization. What happened in the North African colonies is also reviewed with a critical approach. And the science fiction stream.
It could be novel that uncomfortable scene that King Felipe experienced when he was in the Peruvian Congress and the president began to detail the Spanish abuses in Peru.
(..) I think that all this is very good, that the atrocities that were done should not be hidden. If on the one hand there is the annoyance of a king, on the other, there are entire families murdered, tortured. On the balance, comments can be tolerated on one side because horror is on the other.
There is also the version that is anachronistic revisionism.
None of us who are alive today were participants in that, that I apologize for what Hernán Cortez may have done is absurd. But it is still a symbolic thing, that the State that did that says. “Today we say that was wrong.” What is wrong is that things of the present are conditioned in terms of dialogue, agreements, literary festivals, among others (…) It should be a debate by experts and historians, not using it as a weapon to say that one politician is better than another, because none have to do with that.
Barcelona for the world is a cosmopolitan city because of the literary boom and then because of Messi.
Don’t talk to me about soccer. It brings me bad news lately. Messi left. We are very bad in the league. We didn’t play well, now I don’t know how that is going to end. In the boom years, in the seventies, a Peruvian striker played, ‘Cholo’ Sotil, he was one of the stars of Barsa. Vargas Llosa wanted to go see ‘Cholo’ play. It was very much appreciated. Barcelona has football, but it continues with the publishing industry, the two big publishing houses Planeta and Penguin Random House have their headquarters here. What happens is that he no longer has that feeling that all writers want to go live in Barcelona, they already choose New York, Mexico City or their own country. There is more variety. Before, Barcelona was a mecca for writers.
We want to say thanks to the author of this write-up for this outstanding material
Xavi Ayén, the persecutor of the Nobel prizes