Sunday, November 28

The ‘eccentric’ writers who triumph outside Madrid and Barcelona | Summer Magazine

His books include essays and novels, their voices cover the Spanish geography and the breadth of their themes and interests makes it clear that it is neither a specific literary group nor a passing trend. They all live outside of Madrid and Barcelona. They have earned the respect of critics and the public, and their prominent presence in the list of best-selling books in recent times shows that literary success in Spain is no longer necessarily written from those two cities, until now considered essential cultural epicenters. for writers.

Sara Mesa lives in a town in Seville, about 15 minutes by car from the city. He never thought of moving, although as his novels were gaining readership and recognition, he was not lacking who asked him: “Have you already moved here?” Y here She was going through Madrid or Barcelona “as if it were a logical consequence”, the writer, who was born in Madrid 45 years ago, says in a telephone conversation, although she moved to Andalusia as a child.

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It is obvious that it has always been possible to write from anywhere, but it was more difficult to think that a work would have an echo and find an audience if it was not close to the heart. Mesa started at 30 and has gone little by little. “Today the geographical element does not weigh so much to publish or be successful, it is something more liquid, although geography is undoubtedly important to configure the narrative of each one,” he says. The protagonist of his latest novel, One Love (Anagrama), settles in a Sevillian town. Does this character follow the route that many have taken outside the centers and cities? “She runs away and goes to the cheapest place,” she explains briefly.

Irene Vallejo, in a park in Zaragoza.
Irene Vallejo, in a park in Zaragoza.Carlos Gil-Roig

On the rise of female authors in the current literary scene in Spain, Mesa emphasizes that these voices “vindicate the differences”, and that in any case the change is “at the level of visibility” because there were already many writers. “This is not a fad, but a question of historical adjustment”, ditch. He adds that in the end one of the advantages of settling abroad is keeping distance with his colleagues. “I have writing friends, but I think it’s good not to live as a writer. Many people I come across on a daily basis do not know that I publish books and that distance is good for me. If you spend all day with authors, you end up with an altered vision of reality ”, he says.

The three years that she lived in Madrid ended up convincing Andrea Abreu (Tenerife, 26 years old) that that city did not bring her closer to cultural activity and filled her with stress, worried as she was about being able to pay the rent, while working as an employee in a lingerie store: she had given up working as an intern journalist and was trying to finish her first novel. Just Donkey belly (Barrett), returned to Tenerife and has become one of the great recent publishing phenomena with 30,000 copies sold.

The Canary Islands, Abreu says, is the place he likes the most and the one that makes this “girl from the mountains” feel “rooted” and that, he admits, “goes against the 19-year-old Andrea.” Because she grew up thinking that it was impossible to achieve something in the field of culture in Tenerife, “the periphery of the periphery, the northwest of Africa”. That idea pushed her to go abroad, to Madrid and Italy. “I thought that staying in the Canary Islands would be a vital failure,” he explains. “The truth is that creatively the islands are very rich in literature and especially in music. There are other sources of inspiration, other dynamics and other areas of African, Latin American and European culture, but here the film and publishing industries are practically nil. If my book had been published in the Canary Islands it would not have had this success, because if it is produced from within it seems that it does not have the same value. There is a historical complex since the Canarian era ”.

Ana Iris Simón, at her home in Aranjuez.
Ana Iris Simón, at her home in Aranjuez. INMA FLORES / EL PAIS

Abreu has no doubt that he has broken “with the idea that the world began and ended in Madrid and Barcelona.” Today, he says, it is no longer very clear where the center is. And from that multiplicity the writer, included in the last list of the magazine Grant of relevant writers in Spanish under 35, claims “the diversity of the use of Spanish, the creation from diverse geographical and linguistic spaces.” It was precisely the literary absence of that particular use of the language that Sabina Urraca, the editor of Abreu’s book, was missing. “It was as if people did not see that their orality was important, because from the capitals, literature reflected a speech from neutral places with neutral voices,” says Urraca on the phone. The idea of ​​delocalized literature makes her think of “an open wine barrel that encourages you to take some glasses and fill them.” And he concludes: “The periphery has gained charm.”

Full-time veterinarian, María Sánchez (Córdoba, 32 years old) says that, with her book Land of women (Seix Barral) and the poems collected in Field notebook (La Bella Varsovia), has tried to bring “the margins to the center, because they always wrote from the same places.” It vindicates the voice of the authors who today question who has written so far, for example, about rural areas. “We are reviewing those absences. We are thirsty to read more women, ”she says on the phone, sitting under a plum tree, adding that she likes to live away from the immediacy of big cities.

The author of fair (Círculo de Tiza), Ana Iris Simón, back in Aranjuez, the place where she grew up, points out that for decades there was a good offer of cultural products made by and for Madrid. She read Ray Loriga’s urban novels and now teenagers read books like Donkey belly, which leads her to think that today “it is committed to identification rather than aspirational readings; there is a change in social sensitivity ”. The turn begins, according to Simón, with Sergio del Molino: boom that reaches the industry and the publishing houses, which are releasing many books that arrive from the cities of the periphery and the provinces ”, he explains. “It is a current and a debate about where we choose and where we can live, because the return has sometimes been romanticized and it is not just about modern people planting tomatoes, but about young people who are forced to return to their village.”

The writer Sara Mesa, pictured in Barcelona.
The writer Sara Mesa, pictured in Barcelona.Massimiliano Minocri / THE COUNTRY

Throughout this process, the Internet has played an essential role in facilitating what Agent Marina Penalva, in Casanovas Lynch —Literary agency representing Ana Iris Simón, Abreu and Irene Vallejo— qualifies as “a more horizontal exchange that no longer needs to go through Madrid or Barcelona, ​​and that also occurs between Spain and Latin America”. The circuit, Penalva notes, has changed, and it is easier to access books and commercial agents from outside the two large cities.

Another irrefutable proof that things are changing is that the literary path that new Latin American writers living in Spain are forging is beginning to deviate from the route marked by Madrid and Barcelona as the only destinations. The 28-year-old Venezuelan Gabriela Consuegra arrived in A Coruña saturated with Caracas, she says, where she could not “think at ease.” A sister who was already in Galicia and some letters she found from Julio Cortázar about the northern city ended up listing her decision.

“Here I spent the duel and this city adapted to the rhythm that I carried inside,” explains the author of a heartfelt book about the illness and loss of her father. A minute has passed and there is one life left (Today’s topics). He passed through Buenos Aires before finally settling in Galicia again and it was there that he managed to write and began to move the manuscript. “Literature as such, beyond journalism, I find it in A Coruña. It took me a short time to find a space and the editor with whom I have worked was very happy when she found out that I was neither in Madrid nor in Barcelona ”, he says. Consuegra speaks of an open-mindedness and of a generation, hers, that she believes is more willing to do what she wants from wherever she is. “With the internet, who can locate the center?” He asks. And he mentions local networks and bookstores, and other authors, such as Manuel Rivas, who were transforming the scene. “There is a change in the provincial cities.”

Irene Vallejo, based in Zaragoza, drove many kilometers through Aragon visiting reading clubs and rural libraries before bursting the sales lists with Infinity in a reed (Siruela). She remembers perfectly the tortillas and croquettes with which they entertained her and how she went with the trunk full of books and returned with onions and sausage. “I was like this for a decade and the jump to the national showcase seemed very difficult,” he explains.

María Sánchez, in Córdoba.
María Sánchez, in Córdoba.Alejandro Ruesga

Vallejo (Zaragoza, 42 years old) refers to the “eccentric look” of the writers based outside of Madrid and Barcelona and how that allows “to be in contact with other realities and to keep our feet on the ground”. He speaks of the peripheral networks that have been built with great effort in democratic Spain, of the expansion of the network of libraries in rural areas – “in all this I feel that there is an inheritance of the pedagogical missions of the Republic” -, and of how technology and communications have made things easier. From Buñuel to Sender, the author recalls that Aragonese culture emigrated, but there was a turn in the last decades “with circles that stayed here and in that Félix Romeo was very important”.

Vallejo needs the proximity of his family, to have a network that he cannot do without. The care of her father and then her son tied her up. “It is a situation that many of us live as women and it was a free decision, but I think we have to talk about it, end the law of silence,” she says. “The affections, the people, the care: that has to be compatible.” His success, he says, is not just an individual achievement: “So that my complex personal situation does not sink my career, there has been a collective effort. Being patient and being stubborn have helped me a lot. “

Discover the best stories of the summer in Revista V.

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