Cinco páginas no bastan / Carmen Victoria Méndez

Five Pages Are Not Enough

[Photo: Saúl Uzcáctegui for Tal Cual]

Rodrigo Blanco Calderón is joking when he says that, for the sake of humanity, he won’t write poetry again. Actually, this teenage passion bequeathed him an aesthetic handling of language that now constitutes his brand as a fiction writer. This is evidenced in Una larga fila de hombres [A Long Line of Men] and Los invencibles [The Invincibles], the titles with which he irrupted onto local fiction.

Blanco harvests two books and an equal number of prizes between 2006 and 2008, when he won El Nacional’s Short Story Contest and the convocation for Unpublished Authors at Monte Ávila Editores. According to consensus, more than a promise, this young man is a worthy representative of a new generation of Venezuelan fiction writers and an exponent of the editorial boom that has taken place in this country in recent years.

– There are so many of books being edited in the country, don’t you fear that your work won’t reach posterity in the face of such an excessive offer of literary texts?
– I don’t agree with the notion that the writer wants to reach posterity. I don’t write with the idea of posterity in mind. But I imagine that being a part of what’s called the editorial boom puts all of us writers at the risk of succumbing amidst the tide of books. But it’s a danger that’s always there, with or without a boom. What guarantee does one have that the books being published will be read within 10 years? And more importantly: How can we expect them to say something to readers in that time?

Fortunately, there’s a good correlation of publications, of contests and writing workshops that I think have a lot to do with what’s happening: today more is edited and more is read in the country.

– If you don’t seek posterity, then what motivates you to write?
– Mi motivation for writing is giving form to the stories I keep thinking. With Los invencibles I didn’t have a specific perspective beyond being able to write the story like I had it in mind. In that sense the intent is as if being very immanent to the work. Anyways, I think the impact a book can have doesn’t depend much on the author. It happens because of the readings, I don’t know, because of the empathy people might establish with the book.

– What are the dangers of the short story?
– The hardest thing about writing a short story is restraint: to achieve maintaining a story in a limited number of pages, because all narratives can end up being novels. The short story also demands a quota of intensity that another genre might not require. I think the greatest difficulty of writing a short story is maintaining that intensity line by line.

– But your literary proposal is more extensive than intensive.
– The longer short story has been given to me in a very natural way. Five pages aren’t enough for me. I need between 15 and 30 to tell the story I want to. But the result is still a short story.

– In Los invencibles you echo the murders that occurred in Plaza Altamira. Did you have any doubts about placing fiction and politics in one bag in such a polarized country?
– Actually, when I wrote that story I didn’t have the Plaza Altamira events in mind, which had of course already occurred. The political question came as a type of unconscious trauma and settled there. Evidently the relationships between the events and my narrative are present. After I read the story I said to myself: “Wait, people are gonna think I’m talking about that,” but it really wasn’t my intent at all. I imagine that politics, violence and conflicts are so ingrained in one that they flower when the time comes to write.

– Do you feel like a paladin for this new generation of writers?
¬– I resist the notion that we automatically think a group of writers publishing at a certain moment are a generation per se. And in Venezuelan literature right now many generations cross paths. Oscar Marcano and Federico Vegas are my literary cousins, their writing is completely contemporary to me even if we aren’t the same age.

– Have you found coincidences in the lyrical handling of language that characterizes Marcano and Vegas?
– I think there’s an affinity in the type of stories they tell, and in how they tell them. Their literature is conversational without abandoning the poetic. That’s what I like.

– Will you write poetry again?
– For everyone’s sake, I don’t plan on returning to it.

{ Carmen Victoria Méndez, Tal Cual, 8 April 2008 }

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