A Javier Cercas
The failure of the Mariano de Cavia award catches him, as they say, with his shirt rolled up and about to get the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine into his body. Double joy, then, for a novelist who, however, still has a bit of qualms about being honored with awards of a journalistic nature. “I feel very honored, but also a bit of an impostor,” he confesses.
[Lee aquí ‘La revolución de los ricos’, el artículo galardonado con el premio Mariano de Cavia]
He, he adds, prefers to refer to himself as “Newspaper writer.” “Journalism is something too serious for me to consider myself a journalist,” he points out in conversation with ABC. «You are a journalist. Journalists are those who are in a newsroom. And those who are in a war or in a correspondent. I just write twice a month in a newspaper. That’s ridiculous to you, right? So at most I am a newspaper writer, which is something very peculiar to Spain: writers who, in addition to being novelists or essayists, also write in the newspapers, ”abounds.
Where then does the novelist end and the writer begin? Would they exist without the other?
I take articles as seriously as novels. My case is a bit particular, since the usual thing is to be first a journalist and then a novelist. Take Hemingway, for example. Or in García Márquez. But I was first of all a novelist. A simple university professor who one day discovered by chance the writing in the newspapers because a reckless journalist, Lluís Bassets, had the idea of inviting me to write for ‘El País’ in Catalonia. When I started to write chronicles, the writing in the newspaper forced me to go out into the streets, to contrast the writing with reality, to write with greater speed and with maximum clarity, to try to tell complex things in a simple way … It was a daze. And I changed as a writer. The first book I wrote after that was ‘Soldiers of Salamis’, and all of that is reflected there. Anyway, I know very well that there is a difference between journalism and literature. They are two different things. And they have to remain different.
I quote you. “Literature, at least great literature, is also a dialogue with life and reality.” And what about journalism?
-Literature is a dialogue with literature itself and with reality. And that’s in a way journalism too, right? Perhaps the weight of reality in journalism is higher, but as a character in ‘Soldiers of Salamina’ says, a good journalist is always a good writer, but a good writer is not always a good journalist. This I have had enough of saying, but a good part of the best literature that has been made in Spain for centuries has been made in the newspapers. I know there are people who do not like to hear this, but it is the truth. Larra, for me, is the best prose writer of the 19th century. And in the 20th century, from Pla in Catalan to, I don’t know, a lot. What is a large part of Azorín’s work if not writing in the newspapers? There is a great tradition that is very local. In other countries it does not happen. Today there is hardly a novelist of a certain notoriety who does not write in the newspapers.
-When the Planet won with ‘Terra Alta’, he said that the 1-0 referendum changed him as a person. That novel began to be written by a Javier Cercas and another finished it. Is it the latter who signs ‘The Revolution of the Rich’?
In the end, he writes, independence is not so much an identity issue as a class issue. Rich people who want to become independent from the poor.
A thing like Catalan secessionism is due to many reasons, one of them economic. What happens is that they do not like that, because it is not pretty. Everywhere, it is the rich who want to separate themselves from the poor, not only in Catalonia. The ‘Spain steals from us’, a famous slogan that has been shown to be false, is similar to the ‘Rome steals from us’ of the Padan independentists. So, of course, the rich want to separate themselves from the poor. Is that fair? I do not think so. I, who earn more money than I don’t know who, have to pay more taxes. That is creating a just and equitable society. And that we Catalans pay more than Extremadura is part of distributive justice. That is why the complicity of the Spanish left with secessionism is even more incomprehensible.
“For a voter on the left it is much harder to endure the blindness of the left than that of the right,” he writes in the article.
That’s how it is. This is a blatant fact. Support a reactionary and unsupportive cause. I quote, for example, Thomas Piketty, one of the great economists on the left, who is tremendously surprised when he realizes the obvious. He talks about ‘fiscal selfishness’.
I quote him again. “A cowardly writer is like a cowardly bullfighter: he has made the wrong job.” In recent weeks we have seen the price of being the opposite in Catalonia, with that campaign orchestrated on social networks that accused him of encouraging an armed intervention.
The times they have told you that, with how well the novels work, who ordered you to get into such eggplants.
Milan Kundera already said that it is bad for a novelist to intervene in public affairs, since you become more known for your political opinions than for your novels. The best thing I have to say is what I say in my novels. What I say in my articles can be said by anyone. But in the end people know you more as the man who, in short, has certain opinions. And there are people who stop reading, of course. That is bad for literature. And why do I do it? You ask. In the end, my argument is not that I am obligated to do so, that I am; is that I do not know not to do it. If I knew how to shut up like the others I would, but I don’t know how to do it. I know that it is harmful to me, but I cannot see that it is daytime and say that it is night. I don’t know how to shut up and I don’t feel like doing it either. As a person I consider myself reasonably cowardly, but as a writer I cannot be. Now I’m reading a Faulkner interview book where he says wonderful things like that a writer, if he wants to be a good one, has to be of absolute integrity. And I agree.
Is there a vaccine for the ‘process’?
-Yes, back to reality. The process has been, in large part, the result of a deluge of lies. So the first thing is to get back to reality. It’s the same as with Brexit, Trump … It’s our version of national populism.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism