Interview with Sudaquia Editores Founder Asdrúbal Hernández

VERSIÓN EN ESPANOL ABAJO.

sudaquia logoBased in New York, Sudaquia Editores publishes great new and recent works of Latin American literature to cater for the Spanish speaking market in the States and beyond. Thanks to them, works from Venezuelan authors including Fransisco Massiani, Hector Torres, Eduardo Sánchez Rugeles, Gisela Kozak, Lucas García, José Urriola, Salvador Fleján, Slavko Zupcic and more are now easily and cheaply available throughout the world. I spoke to the founder and president of Sudaquia, Asdrúbal Hernández, to find out more.

Venezuelan Literature: Tell me more about Sudaquia’s mission.

Asdrúbal Hernández: Sudaquia’s mission is to offer the opportunity to Latin American authors to reach the US market of books in Spanish, and to Spanish readers in the US, to be able to discover a whole new level of Latin American literature, which is completely unknown and charged with a huge artistic and literary value.

How did it begin?

The idea came to our mind, the moment when, as readers, we tried to find some authors and books that interested us, but it was impossible to find them, or if they were available online, they were extremely expensive to acquire. In 2011, I carried out a market analysis of books in Spanish in the US as the final essay for a Master in Publishing that I did at Pace University NYC, and found out that there was a great opportunity. After I graduated. I started to work on a business plan, and by the end of the year the company was registered and we were working on putting together our first catalogue that was published by the end of 2012.

What has the response been? 

So far we have received a great response, especially from authors, agents and professionals from the publishing industry. We have built up our network of bookstores, and little by little we’re building up our brand recognition among Spanish readers in and beyond the USA.

How do you chose which authors to publish?

Our policy is all about quality, so if a manuscript is well written and we think that it is of great artistic value, we will be interested in it. Other factors are the public recognition and track record of the author, and if the topic of the book would be interesting for readers.

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about a new ‘Boom’ or ‘Golden Age’ in Venezuelan fiction, which seems to be backed up by the large amount of Venezuelans being published by Sudaquia. What do you find so appealing about contemporary Venezuelan literature?

I think that what is perceived as a “Golden Age” for Venezuelan fiction is just the hard work that many authors are doing to conquer spaces beyond Venezuela, because many of them are immigrants due to the political situation that the country is going through at the moment. I believe that Venezuelan literature is very rich in general starting from Andrés Bello all the way to Francisco Massiani, but the problem is that it is unknown beyond Venezuela’s frontier. There is a lot to discover in Venezuelan literature beyond Romulo Gallegos and Arturo Uslar Pietri, some of them are: Andrés Eloy Blanco, José Antonio Ramos Sucre, José Rafael Pocaterra, Miguel Otero Silva, Adriano Gonzalez León, Francisco Herrera Luque, or Eugenio Montejo among many others.

The reason for [the amount of Venezuelans in our catalogue] is that because both María Angélica and I are Venezuelans, the natural thing would be to reach out to Venezuelan authors because they are more accessible to us. However, our goal is to promote Latin American (not Latino, which has become a stereotype in the US) literature. I want to say that there is an extraordinary literature being written nowadays by Venezuelan authors who live abroad or in the country.

Do you have any plans to branch into translation of your catalogue, to bring these books to an even wider audience?

At the moment, our market is Spanish readers in the US and abroad. We have in mind to create an imprint to offer translated books from Latin American authors, but we think that currently we’re not ready and it is not the right moment.

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sudaquiaBasado en Nueva York, el editorial Sudaquia publica lo mejor de la narrativa nueva y reciente latinoamericana para servir al mercado hispanohablante en los Estados Unidos y más allá. Gracias a ellos, obras de autores venezolanos tales como Fransisco Massiani, Hector Torres, Eduardo Sánchez Rugeles, Gisela Kozak, Lucas García, José Urriola, Salvador Fleján, Slavko Zupcic, entre otros, ya están disponibles, de manera fácil y económica, en todos partes del mundo. Hablé con el fundador y presidente de Sudaquia, Asdrúbal Hernández, para saber más.

Venezuelan Literature: Cuéntame más sobre la misión de Sudaquia

Asdrúbal Hernández: La misión de Sudaquia es ofrecer a los autores latinoamericanos la oportunidad para entrar en el mercado hispanohablante estadounidense, y a los lectores hispanohablantes de los Estados Unidos, poder descubrir una gama nueva de literatura latinoamericana, que queda completamente desconocida y es cargada de un

¿Cómo empezó?

La idea nos vino en mente al momento en que, como lectores, intentábamos encontrar algunos autores y libros que nos interesaban y nos resultaba imposible encontrarles, o, si eran disponibles en línea, costaban muchísimo. En 2011, hice un análisis del mercado de libros en español estadounidense como último ensayo por la maestría en la industria editorial que hice a Pace University NYC, y encontré que aquí había una gran oportunidad. Después de graduarme, empecé a elaborar un plan de negocio, y al in del año la compañía era registrada y estábamos trabajando en compilar nuestro primero catálogo que se lanzó al fin de 2012.

¿Cómo ha sido la reacción?

Hasta ahora hemos recibido una reacción muy positiva, sobre todo de autores, agentes y profesionales de la industria editorial. Hemos desarrollado una red de librerías, y poco a poco aumentamos nuestro reconocimiento de marca entre los lectores hispanohablantes dentro y fuera de los Estados Unidos.

¿Cómo eligen a los autores que publican?

Nuestra política es de calidad sobre todo, así, si un manuscrito es bien escrito y pensamos que tiene un gran valor artístico, nos interesará. Otros factores son el renombre y la trayectoria del autor, y si el sujeto del libro puede interesar a nuestros lectores.

En los últimos años se habla mucho de un nuevo ‘Boom’ o ‘Edad de oro’ de la narrativa venezolana, del que la cantidad de autores venezolanos publicados por Sudaquia parece una prueba. ¿Qué hay de tanto interés en la narrativa venezolana contemporánea?

Pienso que lo que se percibe como una ‘Edad de oro’ de la narrativa venezolana es solamente el resultado de todo el trabajo que hacen muchos autores para conquistar espacios fuera de Venezuela, ya que muchos de ellos se han emigrado a causa de la situación política que vive el país en este momento. Creo que la literatura venezolana es muy rica en general, de Andrés Bello a Fransisco Massiani, pero el problema es que queda desconocida fuera de las fronteras venezolanas. Hay mucho para descubrir en la literatura venezolana más allá que Rómulo Gallegos y Arturo Uslar Pietri, entre tantos: Andrés Eloy Blanco, José Antonio Ramos Sucre, José Rafael Pocaterra, Miguel Otero Silva, Adriano Gonzalez León, Francisco Herrera Luque, o Eugenio Montejo.

La razón por la que se encuentran tantos autores venezolanos en nuestro catálogo es que como tanto María Angélica como yo somos venezolanos, lo natural es estirar el brazo a autores venezolanos, ya que nos resultan más accesibles. Sin embargo, nuestra meta es de promocionar la literatura latinoamericana (no latino, lo que ha llegado a ser un estereotipo en los Estados Unidos). Quiero decir que se escribe una literatura extraordinaria hoy en día escrita por autores venezolanos dentro y fuera del país.

¿Tienen planes para expandirse hacia la traducción del catálogo, para hacer llegar estos libros a un público aun mayor?

En este momento, nuesto mercado son los lectores hispanohablantes dentro y fuera de los Estados Unidos. Tenemos en mente crear un editorial que ofrezca libros traducidos de autores latinoamericanos pero todavía no estamos listos y no es el momento adecuado.

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Ten questions for writer Israel Centeno

John Montañez Cortez over at Cervantes @ Mile High City has once again been kind enough to let me publish an English version of an interview, this time with the multi-talented Israel Centeno. You can read the original Spanish here.

Photo: Laura Morales Balza

For the author of the excellent novel Bajo las hojas (Alfaguara, Caracas, 2010), or the collection of stories – his latest book – Según pasan los años (Sudaquia Editores, New York, 2012), an author whose works have already been published in important publishing houses, just ten questions would not be enough.

Today, Israel Centeno (Caracas, 1958) is one of the principle storytellers in Venezuela and one of the most provocative voices in Latin America.

In an article entitled ‘Repaso a la narrativa de Israel Centeno’ (in cultural magazine destiempos.com, October/November 2009, 4 (22), México, D.F.), Venezuelan university professor, editor and writer Valmore Muñoz Arteaga could not have defined it better: “In current Venezuelan narrative, Israel Centeno’s work stands out as one of the most original and most solid. A body of work that aptly mixes narrative genres looked down upon by critics like detective fiction and eroticism, uniting them in an atmosphere of violence and chaos in which the darkest features of modernity twist man’s neck making him – today more than ever – a being for death. Perhaps for this reason he has become, almost unanimously, an obligatory reference among younger writers in a Venezuela devoured by the same chaos it caused”.

Multitalented and with an astonishing creative capacity Centeno is a poet, writer, critic, professor, prestigious editor, translator and promoter of Latin American literature. He studied theatre at the Escola d’Actors in Barcelona, Spain. He has represented his country in international literary events and has won prizes both in Venezuela and Spain.   

Highlights among his novels include Calletania (Monte Ávila, Caracas, 1992, winner of the CONAC Prize and reprinted in Spain in 2008 by Editorial Periférica), Criaturas de la noche (Alfaguara Venezuela, 2000) or Bengala (Norma Venezuela, 2005). In 1996, the Venezuelan branch of the publisher Planet published in one volume two novels, Hilo de cometa y otras inicaiacones. He currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as writer in residence at City of Asylum.

Cervantes@MileHighCity had the opportunity to interview him:

How would you define Israel Centeno?

IC: It’s difficult to define oneself, you can always do it badly, lack objectivity for it. Fundamentally, I am a writer obsessed with telling stories, telling them well, captivated by aesthetic forms and the possibilities to express oneself through words. I’ve spent my life being very stubborn, attached to these rules of risks and aesthetic searching, I’m restless when it comes to this.

How did Israel Centeno emerge as an author?

IC: I read a lot, always, since I was young. I read everything that fell into my hands, not just fiction. I’ve read so much that I’ve forgotten many of the things that I’ve read, or they have been incorporated into this complicated memory that loses categories in becoming knowledge. They are there, sometimes abandoned, and suddenly emerge like divine intervention. Through reading I felt motivated to write my own things, but actually after spending my early youth immersed in many conflicts and a year and a half of travelling in Europe, in Barcelona (Spain) I realised what I wanted to do in life, or do with my life, was write, get involved in the process, reading, invention, reinvention, pleasure, traps, all those things that come when one sits in front of a blank screen or in front of anything blank to try to fill it with time, with movement and with time.

Which authors have influenced you? What did you read?

Just imagine! To start with I read the classics, in those cheap Bruguera versions… I read Plato’s dialogues early, mixed with Dostoevsky’s Demons and Crime and Punishment, and so I intertwined classics until I arrived at contemporary literature. I read the authors of the so-called Latin American boom.

Among my influences or my principal reading are Franz Kafka’s The Trial, James Joyce’s Ulysses, Guillermo Meneses’  La Mano junto al Muro, Jorge Luis Borges, Oswaldo Trejo, José Napoleón Oropeza, Renato Rodríguez, One Thousand and One Nights, Don Quixote, Tirant lo Blanc, Juan Carlos Onetti, Maupassant, Flaubert, the Arthurian saga, Juan Marsé, José Donoso, Teresa de La Parra, La Habana para un Infante Difunto and Tres Tristes Tigres by Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Virginia Woolf, Joseph Conrad, Mario Vargas Llosa, Octavio Paz, and all of Cortázar’s stories, especially those from Bestiario, I often compare them with the fantastical imaginary of Ednodio Quineto, another great Latin American storyteller. I have to specify among my poetic influences T.S.Elliot, José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Andrés Eloy Blanco, Eugenio Montejo, Rafael Cadenas, César Vallejo, John Woolworth, the classic poem Gilgamesh, the Bible, especially the wisdom books, the principal Greek tragedies… Sappho, and well, the works of Shakespeare… it’s useless, I feel like at this stage of my life I’m leaving aside much important reading. Take this as a brief attempt at an inventory of influences.

You’ve worked in many genres. Where do you feel most comfortable when the time comes to write?

IC: With narrative.

Tell us about your experience as an editor and translator.

IC: It’s complicated. In regards to editing, it had more to do with circumstances than with a calling. At this stage, I believe that you should dedicate yourself to one of the two, writing or editing, as both can enter into conflict. However, I won’t preach about it, sometimes it is necessary to do it, and that’s what happened with me. There are people who can handle and balance both. As for translation, I arrived at it through the suggestion of my editor in Spain, Julián Rodríguez Marco.

Juan Rulfo once said “Social problems can be posed in an artistic way. It is difficult to avoid social problems in a work, because conflictive states arise which oblige the author to develop them”. Do you think that this, in part, could define your literature?

IC: Nobody escapes this situation. The writer belongs to a moment, a particular time. Without them there is no gravity. Social matters are history. How can we tell stories without history? However, these things don’t necessarily have to be presented in an explicit, underlined, demagogic way.

In your opinion, what differences have you found between being a Latino writer in the USA and in your country?

IC: In my country everyone is Latino, whether they want to be or not. Here I am part of the main “large minority”. Here I will probably have to overcome the language barriers or find a way to place my work within the Spanish-speaking population in the United States, which is vast. In my country, for some time now, the problem has sometimes lain in those exclusions that have nothing to do with race or things like that, it’s more that you have to fight against the matter of exclusion for beliefs, for thinking differently. There is something unforgivable in Venezuela today: independent thought. Systematically, from those in power, and sometimes regrettably from other angles.

In the States, when I write I’m a lot more conscious of my language, its formal resources and its ability to signify I everything I want to say, or to express it aesthetically. I write knowing that I don’t have a publisher waiting for my work, well, in Venezuela it was the same, but here the feeling has more weight. I write in contrast with other languages and that’s always good.

How would you define the current situation of contemporary Latin American literature? Is there any author, or authors, that stand out in that environment in your opinion?

IC: It’s a much freer literature, for example you no longer have to write in this or that way, show marvellous worlds, or reveal ourselves to others, who are always more educated and thoughtful. I’m interested in what Horacio Castellanos Moya, Yuri Herrera and Edmundo Paz Soldán write. Equally, everyone could write their own list which would show the diversity.

Would you venture to recommend any book, or writer, in particular?

IC: Venezuelan? I’d like to recommend some Venezuelan authors because we sometimes tend to avoid this topic, with the pretext that we could forget someone and hurt people’s feelings. And yes, that does happen. It’s always possible, it’s got nothing to do with esteem or interest. They simply escape. The issue is that we have to start to name each other, to make ourselves attractive and mark ourselves out as something existing, that doesn’t fit in a quick inventory, it’s an issue that invites researchers to investigate this large and complicated diversity. As I said, Latin American literature is diverse and that is also reflected in what is happening in Venezuela. I’m going to name three or four and leave the possibility open for everyone to look into this rich virgin territory that Venezuelan literature could be. Contemporaries: Rubi Guerra, take any one of books at random, you’ll never feel cheated.  Eloi Yagûe’s crime novels. Don’t overlook  Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez, particularly El Libro de Esther and Tarde con Campanas, and don’t miss reading his short stories. Oscar Marcano y Juan Carlos Chirinos. We have two marvellous female writers, scandalously young and brilliant: Liliana Lara and Enza García Arreaza, I believe that these storytellers are making a difference with their writing, but to not give any more value judgements, I’m going to give another little list without comments: Fedosy Santaella, Roberto Echeto, Héctor Torres, Rodrigo Blanco Calderón, Salvador Fleján, Eduardo Sánchez Rugeles, Gustavo Valle, Keila Vall De La Ville, and as I said, investigate, you’ll find good things, José Urreola’s debut novel, the name Lesbia Quintero and many etceteras. Behind these authors, I can mention with some pride Victoria de Estéfano, Silda Cordoliani, Ana Teresa Torres, Antonieta Madrid, Milagros Mata Gil, Ednodio Quintero, José Napoleón Oropeza, Eduardo Liendo and here the same thing applies: investigate this great tradition on which we ride and you’ll keep adding names. The list will end up long and controversial.

Venezuelan literature is no better or worse than any other. It just is. It has a tradition. It needs to be put on the map.

Is there any funny, or interesting, anecdote that you would like to share with the readers?

IC: I don’t have funny anecdotes, I’ve tried to reinvent them all through fiction. What’s more, some of them are divinely private.

Many thanks Israel for this much appreciated opportunity.

Interview with poet Alberto Hernández

John Montañez Cortez over at Cervantes @ Mile High City, a literature, film, art and culture blog from Denver, CO, kindly gave me permission to translate and reproduce his 2011 interview with Venezuelan poet Alberto Hernández (Calabozo, Guárico State, 1952). See the original here.

VERSIÓN EN CASTELLANO ABAJO.

Alberto Hernández. Photo by Alberto H. Cobo.

JMC: In a recent visit to the booming city of Maracay, en Venezuela, we were lucky enough – and frankly, honoured – to meet the excellent Venezuelan poet, author, mime artist and journalist Alberto Hernández. The perfect moment for an interview:

JMC: Tell us, who is Alberto Hernández?

AH: I’m a pedestrian who wanders around with words each day and gets confused with reality. From this habit I ended up with poetry, with stories of travels, with theatre and with many reasons to write and to say that I’m still alive. So I can say that I’m a human dedicated to writing poetry, telling some stories, commenting and informing through the media and trying to breathe the rarefied air of my country.

JMC: How did you get started in literature?

AH: I got started in these matters when I was still a teenager. In my house there were always books scattered in the corners. My father got interested in Rubén Darío, in Andrés Eloy Blano…in some of the traditional poets. He recited and wrote. That sewed the seed… that’s where everything started.

JMC: What authors have served as inspiration for you? What is the creative mechanism of your poetry, if there is one?

AH: Well, in reality it hurts me to talk about inspiration, I prefer the word influence. There are many authors who interested me with their books and went in. Among them, Ramos Sucre, Vicente Gerbasi, Rafael Cadenas, François Villon, Antonio Machado… there are so many that my gratitude won’t fit on this page. As for the mechanism, I can say that I don’t have any method at all: an image arrives, it settles in, excuses itself and the poem grows out of that. Until everything is sutured from so much correction.

JMC: How would you define the current situation of contemporary Latin American poetry?

AH: The poetry of our land has always been robust. We are a continent of poets. From Chile to the USA, because it is necessary to include North American poets too, for its level of influence. From Argentina to Mexico we are a land of images, of verbal rhythms, of creations with words that are tied to the spirit of the age. Our poetry has always enjoyed good health.

JMC: What books do you have on your headboard?

AH: As I practically don’t have a headboard I don’t have any books to hand at the moment. Many titles have dreamed with me. From Paul Valéry to Eugenio Montejo. I don’t want to go on too much because it would leave out much poetic fondness. There are many, that I will say.

JMC: Would you dare to recommend any book, or writer, in particular?

AH: Yes, for Venezuelans, I would recommend all of Montejo’s books. All of Rafael Cadenas’. For Northern authors it’s still good to go over Allen Ginsberg and members of his tribe. Of course, it’s a game of memory. There are others that go around here jumping rope.

JMC: We know about your talents in the difficult and magical world of mimes – puppet-shows, theatre, perhaps – what relation does this have with your creative poetic and narrative work?

AH: Theatre made me lose the stage fright of existence. Poetry and theatre have always travelled with me. Some of my texts are theatrical, just as short stories can be turned into scripts for the theatre and cinema. Theatre has been fundamental in my life.

JMC: Tell us a little bit about your path as a journalist, organiser and educator.

AH: From a young age, I liked journalism. Seeing my name in the papers, getting myself involved in other people’s problems, making them known. I see it as a profession that becomes a public service. I worked for more than 25 years as a teacher at middle school and university level. But that is now in the past. I’m dedicated to literature full time.

 JMC: Is there any funny, or interesting, anecdote that you would like to share with the readers?

AH: At a university student event in Spain, some Arabs confused me with a mute Arab. Of course, I pretended to be mute and even the Arab the whole time to not seem like an idiot. And all the dry fruit they brought me formed part of my lunches and dinners. In any case, saying goodbye with a very Arabic gesture, we parted as friends. We never saw each other again.

JMC: Thank you very much Alberto for this great opportunity…

Find out more about Alberto Hernández on his blog: puertasdegalina.wordpress.com

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Photo by Frank Montanez

En reciente visita a la pujante ciudad de Maracay, en Venezuela, tuvimos la fortuna —y francamente, el honor— de conocer al excelente poeta, narrador, mimo y periodista venezolano Alberto Hernández. El momento oportuno para entrevistarlo:

JMC: Cuéntanos ¿Quién es Alberto Hernández?
AH: Soy un ciudadano de a pie que ambula a diario con las palabras y se confunde con la realidad. De esa costumbre me ha quedado la poesía, los cuentos de caminos, el teatro y mucha razón para escribir y decir que aún estoy vivo. Así, puedo decir que soy un ser humano dedicado a escribir poesía, a narrar algunas historias, a comentar e informar a través de los medios y a tratar de respirar el aire enrarecido de mi país.
JMC: ¿Cómo te inicias en la literatura?
AH: Comencé es estas lides cuando aún era un adolescente. En mi casa había algunos libros regados en los rincones de la casa. Mi padre se acercaba a Rubén Darío, a Andrés Eloy Blanco…a algunos poetas de la tradición. Declamaba y escribía. Allí se sembró la semilla…por ahí comenzó todo.
JMC: ¿Cuáles autores te han servido de inspiración? ¿Cuál es —si es que existe alguno— el mecanismo creativo de tu poesía?
AH: Bueno, en realidad me duele hablar de inspiración, prefiero la palabra influencia. Son muchos los autores que se acercaron con sus libros y entraron. Entre ellos, Ramos Sucre, Vicente Gerbasi, Rafael Cadenas, François Villon, Antonio Machado…son tantos que no cabe mi agradecimiento en esta página.
En cuanto al mecanismo, puedo decir que no tengo método alguno: una imagen llega, se instala, pide permiso y allí arranca el poema. Hasta quedar todo suturado de tanto corregir.
JMC: ¿Cómo definirías la realidad actual de la poesía contemporánea latinoamericana?
AH: La poesía de nuestro patio siempre ha sido robusta. Somos un continente de poetas. Desde Chile hasta los Estados Unidos, porque es necesario también añadir a los poetas norteamericanos, por su grado de influencia. Desde Argentina hasta México somos una tierra de imágenes, de ritmos verbales, de creaciones palabreras anudadas al espíritu del tiempo. Nuestra poesía siempre ha gozado de buena salud.
JMC: ¿Qué libros tienes en tu cabecera de cama?
AH: Como casi no tengo cabecera de cama no tengo en este momento ningún libro a la mano. Muchos son los títulos que han soñado conmigo. Desde Paul Valéry hasta Eugenio Montejo. No quiero explayarme mucho porque dejaría fuera muchos afectos poéticos. Son muchos, eso sí.
JMC: ¿Te atreverías a recomendar algún libro, o escritor, en particular?
AH: Sí, de venezolanos me atrevo a recomendar los libros, todos, de Montejo. Todos los de Rafael Cadenas. De autores del Norte todavía es bueno repasar a Allen Ginsberg y a los miembros de su tribu. Por supuesto, se trata de un juego de memoria. Hay otros que andan por ahí saltando la cuerda.
JMC: Sabemos de tus habilidades en el difícil y mágico mundo de los mimos —títeres, teatro, quizá— ¿Qué relación existe con tu trabajo creativo poético y narrativo?
AH: El teatro me hizo perderle el miedo escénico a la existencia. La poesía y el teatro han viajado conmigo siempre. Hay textos míos que son teatrales, así como cuentos que se pueden convertir en guiones para teatro y cine. El teatro ha sido fundamental en mi vida.
JMC:Háblanos un poco de tu trayectoria periodística, organizativa y docente.
AH: Desde muy chico me gustó el periodismo. Ver mi nombre en los periódicos, involucrarme en los problemas de los demás, darlos a conocer. Considero que se trata de un oficio que se traduce en servicio público. Ejercí durante más de 25 años como docente de educación media y universitaria. Pero eso ya quedó en el pasado. Estoy dedicado a tiempo completo a la literatura.
JMC: ¿Alguna anécdota jocosa, o interesante, que quisieras compartir con los lectores de Cervantes@MileHighCity?
AH: En un evento estudiantil universitario en España unos árabes me confundieron con un árabe mudo. Por supuesto, me hice el mudo y hasta el árabe todo el tiempo para no pasar por pendejo. Además, todas las frutas secas que trajeron formaron parte de mis almuerzos y mis cenas. En todo caso, al despedirse con un gesto muy árabe, quedamos como amigos. Nunca más nos vimos.
JMC: Muchas gracias Alberto por esta gran oportunidad…
Por favor no dejen de visitar el link del autor: http://puertasdegalina.wordpress.com/

Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez Q + A @ Universidad Complutense, Madrid

VERSIÓN EN CASTELLANO ABAJO.

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On Friday 18 January 2013, prolific novelist and short story writer Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez participated in a ‘Meet the authors’ event at the 1st International Colloquium of Young Researches in Hispano-American Literature held at the Universidad Complutense, Madrid, along with the Peruvians Sandro Bossío Suárez and Carlos Yushimoto del Valle. Before taking part in the question and answer session, Juan Carlos read part of a short story about the Virgin of Barajas Airport from his 2012 collection Ideogramas, plus an extract from his latest novel which is to be released in March 2013, in which a woman from the Canary Islands remembers her father’s visits to Venezuela before her birth.

When I asked Juan Carlos to what extent the Venezuelans adrift in Madrid that populate his stories are autobiographic, he replied that he prefers to think of them as “autogeographic”. He lends his characters places which are imbued with meaning for him, as well as some other tastes, like a song or a book. However, he insists, the life of a writer is quite boring, and very internalised – reading, writing, using social media – so it wouldn’t make a very interesting story! Instead, imagination is needed to write stories. The pleasure of writing is imagining oneself as others, “ser un actor que crea un papel” (being an actor who creates a role).

As for the link between academic work and writing, Juan Carlos claims to have forgotten everything he learnt during his PhD! He calls himself a retired academic, and explains that if you don’t read theory for a while, you lose it. Like the other two writers presents, he agrees that writing fiction and academic literary studies have to be kept separate. He maintains that writing has to be natural, you can’t over think it; it’s like a goalkeeper who has to follow his instincts, if he stops to think he’ll miss the ball. Quoting his friend and fellow author Rubi Guerra, he argues “Hay que ser un bruto” (you have to be ignorant) to write well.

Asked about the process of writing, Juan Carlos admits that the best moment is when you’re alone with your typewriter and you think that you’re going to write the ideal text and change the world (a sentiment shared by his characters from Claudio in Retrato de Abel con isla volcánico al fondo to Henry in Chulapos Mambo) – a dream that ends with publication. When asked if he thinks about his legacy, he maintains that, as an atheist, he is not interested in what happens after he dies, but what happens now. He wouldn’t want to be like Melville, ignored during life, but wants to be read now. He doesn’t understand the idea of writing for oneself, but wants his texts to move someone in the way that authors like Gabriel García Márquez moved him, or “le ayuden a ligar” (to help them pull), or whatever, to have an impact of some kind. The key word for him is “FELICIDAD” (happiness); everything related to literature (reading, writing, discussing books) makes him happy, and if it didn’t, he wouldn’t do it. He adds that literature “me ha servido para vivir” (has helped me to live), teaching him valuable life lessons.

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Viernes el 18 de enero de 2013, novelista y cuentista prolífico Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez participó en un ‘Encuentro con autores’ al I Coloquio de Jóvenes Investigadores de Literatura Hispanoamericana, junto con los peruanos Sandro Bossío Suárez y Carlos Yushimoto del Valle. Antes de responder a las preguntas de los investigadores, Juan Carlos leyó parte de un cuento sobre la Virgen del aeropuerto de Barajas de su última colección Ideogramas (2012) y un extracto de su nueva novela que se lanzará en marzo de 2013, en el que una canaria recuerda la visita a Venezuela que efectuó su padre antes de que ella naciera.

Cuando le pregunté a Juan Carlos hasta qué punto los venezolanos sin rumbo en Madrid que pueblan sus historias son autobiográficos, me contestó que prefiere pensarlos como “autogeogáficos”. A sus personajes, les presta lugares que son imbuidos de sentido personal, así como otros gustos, una canción, un libro. Sin embargo, insiste, la vida de un autor es muy aburrido e internalizado – leer, escribir, usar redes sociales – ¡así que no hará una historia muy interesante! Al contrario, escribir historias requiere imaginación. El placer de escribir está en imaginarse como otros, “ser un actor que crea un papel”.

En lo que concierne el vinculo entre escribir y academia, Juan Carlos afirma que ha olvidado todo lo que aprendió durante su doctorado. Se llama un académico jubilado, y explica que si no lees teoría por un rato, lo olvides. Igual que los otros dos autores presentes, cree que hay que mantener bien separados la escritura de ficción y el trabajo académico. Mantiene que la escritura deba ser natural, que no se pueda pensarlo demasiado; es como un portero que debe seguir sus instintos, si se detiene a pensar, perderá el balón. Citando a su amigo, el autor Rubi Guerra, afirma que “Hay que ser un bruto” por escribir bien.

En respecto a su proceso de escribir, Juan Carlos admite que el mejor momento es cuando estás solo con la máquina de escribir y piensas que vas a escribir el texto ideal y cambiar al mundo (un sentimiento compartido con sus personajes desde Claudio del Retrato de Abel con isla volcánico al fondo hasta Henry de Chulapos Mambo) – un sueño que muere con la publicación. Cuando le preguntaron si piensa de su legado, mantiene que, como ateo, no le interesa lo que pase después de morir, pero sí lo que pasa ahora. No le gustaría ser como Melville, ignorado durante su vida, pero quiere que se lean sus libros hoy. No entiende la idea de escribir por si mismo, quiere que sus textos conmuevan a alguien como a él le conmovieron los de autores como Gabriel García Márquez, o que “le ayuden a ligar”, o lo que sea, pero que tengan un impacto. Para él, la palabra clave es “FELICIDAD”; todo vinculado a la literatura (leer, escribir, discutir libros) le pone feliz, y si no, no lo haría. Añade que la literatura “me ha servido a vivir”, y le ha enseñado lecciones importantes.