Mariano, you belong to a line of journalists that hardly exists anymore. How did you get into investigative journalism? What topics did you cover at the beginning?
I started, just finished my degree in 1979, writing reports on events and current affairs for magazines such as Interview O Actual. Later, in the Madrid delegation of El Periódico de Catalunya I was in charge of courts and judicial affairs in the National Court and in the Supreme Court. From there I jumped to Weather. First I was part of the Special Reports and Investigation section. Then I was the head of the magazine’s Research team, where I stayed until 2000.
I was lucky enough to cover matters that were very deep. Well, luck was not. I decided the themes, I was ahead of them. These were cases such as Urquijo, rapeseed, Nani, police corruption, Rumasa, terrorism, the Edelweiss sect, the Franco fortune, the extreme right … It was a time when national newspapers and weeklies were looking for journalistic exclusives, raising stories, to sell more copies and thus expand your advertising benefits.
Did your work in investigative journalism give you topics to talk about in your novels or has it had nothing to do with it?
All my novels are based on real cases. The accumulated documentation and direct knowledge of plots and characters was too good to stay in several reports. Literature allowed me to reflect on the facts and delve into them. There is, for example, my first novel, Fresh meat, about a child prostitution network; Our own blood, based on the case of the Dulce Neus, Far from Oran on OAS terrorism from Spain, or The assassination of the Marquis of Urbina, my vision of the Urquijo case and an economic motive that was never investigated. They are novels based on themes that I know firsthand.
You have navigated between poetry, essays, novels. In which genre do you feel most comfortable?
I got off to a good start in poetry, then I cultivated historical research essays, non-fiction, short stories, and novels. In all genres I have found myself well. They are almost fifty years writing and publishing. I am essentially a journalist writer. I feel comfortable relating reality.
You once said that poetry is written to tell the truth. That truth, is it a subjective or objective truth? Taking into account that poetry always tends to be subjective, what is the truth in these post-truth times? By the way, define what post-truth is for you, taking into account that in its most poetic definition, are we talking about an emotional lie?
The look is always subjective, intentional. The facts are objective, they occur and must be told in the most truthful and documented way. It is always written from the self, but the intention of writing them is what is important. I always write to illuminate shadow areas. Even in my poetry the world, my time and the street are always present; so I consider myself a social poet. In essence, I am just a writer who wants to “explain” the truth using the literary tools at his disposal.
From your first essay work entitled Yolanda, we don’t forgetYou have been denouncing violent acts by a sector of society. Do you think there has been a resurgence of the extreme right or, on the contrary, it has never left?
If we talk about political expression, parliamentary representation and votes for a sector of society, it is clear that the extreme right has achieved the visibility that they have been trying since the transition. Another issue, which must be studied in depth, is the possible resurgence of the violence that always accompanies extremism, as a hindrance to like-minded sectors or as a hitch-hike among young people. Violence and politics. I have three published books that talk about all this: The children of 20-N, Descent to fascism Y The bloody transition. They are almost a trilogy.
What brought you to the topic of the Franco? Is there anything left to tell?
An investigative report that I published in the weekly newspaper took me to the Franco Weather when Carmen Polo died in the eighties. Then came five reports and the first version of my book, published in 1990: Villaverde, fortune and fall of the Franco house. Which they followed: Los Franco, SA., Franco’s bankers Y Franco’s rich, my last work on the matter. Forty years of dictatorship and obscurantism is a long time. There are many things to tell and reveal.
You are pending trial with the Franco family for your essays despite the fact that you always thoroughly document your works. Do you think they may be the heirs’ desire for notoriety or to raise some sympathy?
I am immersed in a lawsuit and a complaint filed by the Francos against a television program, where I made a statement in which I said the same thing that I had published sixteen years ago, in Los Franco, SA., and they never sued me. In my books I only write verified and documented facts. I believe that the exhumation of the Valley of the Fallen and the loss of the Pazo de Meirás are the reason that they have resorted to the courts. Also silence the media that are not related to you. It’s the context ..
If you look back, have you been left with a topic in the inkwell?
I can’t think of any.
In these turbulent times, what does the word dignify?
The word serves to relate the truth of the facts while the personal, intimate truth is conjugated. The word is worthy according to who pronounces it. “Freedom”, for example, is not the same word in the mouth of a dictator as that spoken by a slave. And if not, remember the slogan of the Franco dictatorship: “Spain: one, great and free”; or that of the Nazis: “Work makes you free” as the slogan of an extermination camp. The word should raise our consciences.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.