The Mexican writer based in Barcelona John Paul Villalobosauthor of works Party in the Burrow either I had a dreampresents at 7:00 p.m. this Thursday in Moito Conto (San Andrés, 35) his last work, barbershop and lettering. The novel narrates from humor and parody a day in the life of a writer, exploring the possibilities of narrating the everyday.
One of the great themes of the play is happiness.
I wanted to explore the possibilities of a theme that in principle is seen as a point of arrival in the stories. What is usually told are the conflicts until reaching that supposed ideal state, where apparently there would be nothing to tell. The book starts from the phrase “we were happy”, as if questioning whether from there it is possible to tell something.
The novel takes place in one day, like the Ulises by Joyce, another novel that explores telling the everyday.
The idea was that everything that happened to the protagonist fit into the novel without being justified by a logic of narrative causes and effects. What happens to him does not have to have continuity in the story.
How do you combine these more conceptual or experimental approaches to literature with making an accessible book?
In all my books I have considered that the reader can go through the book without too many obstacles, but that there is some trap, to put it in some way: that apparent lightness is not lacking in depth, double meanings and reflections. But I am interested in having a fluidity in the reading, which allows going through the book as if it were a walk without interruptions.
What do you use humor for?
In other books there was a proposal for a comic discourse with subversive possibilities, with a questioning of reality and social, political, economic circumstances… In this book this does not cease to exist, but the comic rather questions the status of the literary : what it means to be a writer, what it means to write, what possibilities writing has… Through parody, or self-parody, since the protagonist is a writer and is the subject of jokes.
Is it an autobiographical book?
There is the game of questioning the limits between fiction and reality, and also between the autobiographical and the fictional. These are my circumstances, I use my name, my family, with their consent… But it is fiction, there is a distortion of reality to turn it into literature.
Does the writer have to be serious?
I prefer that the place from which I narrate is free of prejudices, and this would begin by discrediting the figure of the writer. The writer who takes the craft of writing too seriously, the figure of the writer, it is impossible for him to find a comic voice. I could be cynical, sarcastic. There are many misanthropic writers, who build this character of someone isolated from reality, who criticizes from there. I am more interested in a figure that does not reject the world.
He writes about the family, which in literature is often shown through dysfunction.
There is a parodic response to Tolstoy’s phrase “all happy families are the same”. There is a very nice essay by Úrsula K. Leguin that begins to dismantle that idea. I was interested in what happens to the family once they reach that long-awaited goal of stability. That is where conservative thought is born.
Are you looking for inspiration in Mexican or Spanish society or both?
My first three novels are strictly Mexican, but since I’ve been abroad for almost 20 years, the writing became nostalgic. I began to write about Barcelona, and to rehearse points of view related to my immigrant status. I am looking for a place that is between the two realities.
This novel is born from another broader project, about utopia.
I have a very long novel about utopia, parked because I have doubts if it is what I am interested in telling now. Now I am obsessed with the proliferation of catastrophic discourses, which deny the possibility of a future, in which it seems that the end of the world is already here and it is no longer worth doing anything. From a political point of view, for example in the case of Mexico, it seems extremely dangerous to me.
Does any author or genre particularly inspire this novel?
In the last books there is a conceptual influence from Perec, due to this reflection on how to narrate reality and our lives, but without this meaning looking for the exotic and the spectacular. Denying the idea that the literary is in the extraordinary, and looking for it not only in the everyday, but even in the monotonous, repetitive, places that do not seem worthy of being told because they would supposedly be boring