Saturday, January 28

“Revolutions are won by those who appropriate them”

Arturo Pérez Reverte at the presentation of his new novel. / EP

Arturo Pérez-Reverte, writer and academic

“They all end with a Daniel Ortega on his farm,” laments the narrative that novels that of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata in Mexico. «The novelist who stops learning is dead, and there are many out there who do not know that they are»

Michael Lorenci

Arturo Pérez-Reverte (Cartagena, 1951) knows that revolution rhymes with disappointment. Despite this, he believes that revolutions “are necessary” and that “we must not stop making them.” The writer explained it yesterday at the massive press conference in which he presented his latest novel, titled precisely ‘Revolution’ (Alfaguara). He recreates episodes of the Mexican rebellion of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata through the eyes of a Spanish engineer who joins the insurgency, and three women. The author of it acknowledges that without being autobiographical “it is the novel in which the protagonist has more of myself.”

It is not a historical novel. It’s about adventures and learning, about someone who spent ten years in the revolution. Nothing that he narrates happened to me, but the look at the world of the protagonist is mine. What I learned with the war, the spoils of my adventure, I have lent to him”, says the writer and academic. This is how he refers to the young and idealistic Spanish engineer Martín Garrett Ortiz, who arrived in Mexico to work in a mine without suspecting what his destiny was in store for him. Originally from Linares, he was an acquaintance of the writer’s great-grandfather and the occasional robbery story of him and the rebels, repeated at the writer’s house, had always haunted him.

Editorial preview of 'Revolución', the new novel by Pérez-Reverte

“I write novels about the past to better understand the present. I use history as a key to understand the present. Without it we are orphans », he points out. «I also believe that a current novel would be vulgar, like the current time, narratively speaking vulgar. I am from the 20th century. That is where I feel most comfortable and that is why I take my novels to that time », he assures.

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If the revolutions of the 20th century are reviewed, from the Bolshevik to those of Cuba, Romania or Nicaragua, the balance is more than disappointing. “Revolutions are lost by those who make them and are won by those who appropriate them,” admits Pérez-Reverte. “They arise and are done with violence, but those who risk it and leave their souls are separated when everything ends and the one who was behind appears to say that he is in charge,” he laments. “All revolutions end with a Daniel Ortega on his farm, and that’s very sad, but you still have to do them. Achieve, at least, that the bad guy bleeds through the nose », he claims.

The writing before the cover of the novel. /


‘Revolution’ is thus “a chronicle of the struggle that men engaged in for their ideals and the promises they could never keep”, “a reflection on the transforming power of experiences” and on “how the revolution ends up devouring its children” . Martín Garret personifies “the seduction of risk and the abysses that surround it”, but his revolutionary illusion ended, like all others, in disappointment. A long century after Villa and Zapata took up arms against power “in Mexico, injustice, violence and inequality survive and drug trafficking prevails.”

The counterweight to the disenchanted hero are three great female characters: Maclovia Ángeles, a rebellious soldadera and guerrilla fighter; Yunuen Laredo, a young woman from a wealthy family “a strawberry, as she says there”, and Diana Palmer, a seasoned American journalist who travels the country with the insurgents.

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«Writing novels makes you believe that you have learned everything and it is not so. At 71 years old, I’m still learning. Each novel is a pretext to grow and learn. A novelist is a hunter who goes through life with his shotgun and his bag hunting stories and words. That hunting instinct is formidable. The novelist who stops learning, hunting, is dead, and there are many out there who don’t know they are dead, says the veteran narrator.

He reiterates that in this, as in all his novels, his heroes “have no ideology.” “I don’t want to make a novel with ideologies, so easy to identify from the outside: Nazi, communist… But when you get closer to the human being and become more interested in him, the ideology ceases to be relevant and you see the contradictions,” he says. the writer, for whom war is «geometry, chance with rules».

As happened to the young war reporter Pérez-Reverte, Martín Garret wants to understand the world, the rules that govern it and why people, for better or for worse, proceed in a certain way. «The intellectual education of the novelist is literary; that of the protagonist is scientific. But they are united by the same thirst for understanding », he points out. «I want to show the contradictions that appear in the human being in revolutions, when in the morning you see the hero and at night the villain. Those contradictions are life and they make up a world view different from the one that is usually given, “said the creator of the ‘Alatriste’ saga.

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falsified by the cinema

He has also soaked up the Mexican language and idiom that will put his already troubled translators to the test, like the Chinese who write to him asking for help to translate Mandarin “for my holy balls.” “What I did in Mexico, where violence, tenderness and loyalty coexist, is to catch that rich language with which they steal your wallet treating you,” he explains with a smile.

To address this novel, which arrives in bookstores this Tuesday and in the next week throughout Latin America and the United States, Pérez-Reverte claims to have read “all the books” and seen “all the movies” about a Mexican revolution “that the cinema has falsified a lot». “Antonio Banderas’ movie as Pancho Villa was not good and neither was Paul Newman’s Zapata,” he maintains.

His “very strong sense of disaster” keeps him “alert,” he says, and prevents him from being surprised by events like the invasion of Ukraine. «I live in a healthy uncertainty and I do not relax. It was clear to me that we were headed for this. I get closer than others, I see what they don’t see and I detect it before. But you can’t be warning that a meteorite is coming every day either.” «The prophets annoy. We must not be silent, but neither should we overwhelm with bad omens », he concludes.

With more than 30 novels translated into 40 languages, Pérez-Reverte has more than twenty million of readers all over the world and has seen his fiction made into movies and television.

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