“Donde se acaba el misterio, se acaba también el impulso de la escritura” / Carmen Victoria Vivas

“Where mystery ends, writing’s impulse likewise ends”

[Photo by Marcel Cifuentes]

Whether it’s a rigorous essay, a vulgarly provocative short story, or a poem, Roberto Martínez Bachrich always displays his devotion for the precise and unsettling word. Winner of the X Concurso Anual Transgenérico, for his book Tiempo hendido, a study of the life and work of Antonia Palacios, he anticipates that publication with the awaited release of his book Las guerras íntimas (published by Lugar Común), a collection of short stories fine-tuned in their structure, with unpredictable anecdotes and characters vitiated by their emotions.

Valéry sustained that the conclusion of a work is something accidental. In the presentation for your book Las guerras íntimas you commented that you would have been able to continue, for years even, your process of correction. What is it you achieved in those short stories that moved you to decide on their publication?
More than achievement, it’s always a matter, I think, of abandoning. That abandonment is, perhaps, the heart of the accident Valéry mentions. When I felt there existed a more or less closed book, that made sense, in some way, as a totality, that was when I decided to abandon it. If I hadn’t done that, as I mentioned on that day, I could have kept on polishing it for another decade, rewriting it, eliminating or adding stories; but the ten that were left, I’d like to think, are stories that can function, that lasted, remaining in the continuous selections and rewrites, that resisted and fought back, finally, against my manias. I’d like to think they were the strongest, the survivors of the debacle of rewriting, of the perpetual intimate war that is all writing. And, as Alfonso Reyes noted, we abandon what’s written, we publish so as to not spend our lives rewriting. So as to be able to, hopefully, turn the page, move on to something else.

In “Los colores oscuros” you narrate the execution of a perfect crime, despite the absence of weapons or a detective. Do you think this story responds to the structure of the crime genre, in that it, as Borges specified, “lives off the continuous and delicate infraction of its laws”?
It’s possible, but I wasn’t conscious of what you mention when I wrote it. Maybe it’s a crime story in reverse, speaking from Borges. Not the attempt to respond to the who, what, where, when and why of a determined crime, according to the classic credo of the genre, but rather a steady approach at the hands of the characters and following a meticulous chain of lies to perpetuate a crime. That story, actually, emerged after reading Cortázar’s “The Health of the Sick.” I tried to revert the structure of that masterful story. At its heart it’s nothing more than a humble and almost invisible tribute to a monster of the short story to whom everyone, I think, owes so much.

In “Blanco” you dare to employ an obscure aesthetic, in a certain way the image of a type of cinema that delights in kitsch terror, but it’s a gesture that isn’t repeated in the rest of the book. Is this exception due to the fact that you wager in favor of a literature that disassociates itself from delighting in bad taste?
In general terms I’d say no.Although I’m not sure if this “no” sustains itself in Las guerras íntimas. I mean, I think bad taste is very important. At one time I tried, from the form of the short story, to draw a fierce praise of the vulgar, to travel the sinuosity of its landscape, bordering, naturally, alongside the “powers of bad taste.” I don’t know if at that time I achieved it or not, but I think in this book I separated myself a bit from that. Regarding “Blanco,” from a very young age I’ve been an impenitent reader of supernatural horror literature. Stories like those of Poe or Lovecraft were fundamental in my formation as a reader. And I always wanted to write a story like that, a Lovecraftian story whose center would be a terrifying scene beyond the order of rational logic. The central moment of that tale came out of an image, the decapitated nurse, which recalls those types of films you’re talking about, movies that, I confess, entertain me a great deal. From that scene and the sinister one that it unleashed came the totality of the story. I think that more than achieving a story of supernatural horror, I was barely able to reach the texture of a fantastical tale. But if we consider that it’s a fantastical tale, it wouldn’t be so alone in the book. When I reached the final version of Las guerras íntimas, I wanted to make sure that, despite the apparent variety of themes and narrative registers, each story had a type of pair, a sibling story, mirror story. In that sense, the twin figure of “Blanco” would be “Densidad de las mesas,” which is very removed from supernatural horror, but does sympathize with the fantastic and the absurd.

“Sifilíticos e integrados” tells the story of a search for revenge after a heartbreak that emerges during the contagion of a venereal disease. An admirable plan whose execution depends on the complexities of those involved. Is that what interests you: an ingenious anecdote that will allow you to rummage around in damaged subjects?
I’d have to disagree a bit with you in such a reading. I don’t feel like ingenious anecdotes are my strength. I feel like in my stories these are, in general, pretty simple, very common. Maybe something in the events of “Sifilíticos e integrados” might seem obscure, but if we think about how the majority of youthful love dramas and, when the case fits, how bitterness and plans for revenge revolve around that orbit and are tinted, almost always, with those shades, the narrative loses all its strangeness or it’s not so unfaithful to the mirror of the real and the apparent. I don’t think that story and many of the others are concentrated exclusively on damaged subjects and in the evil? perverse? taste for rummaging in those wounds. I think that in the plot of the revenge, all that has failed and defeat are fundamental. And that implies and reveals a certain degree of tenderness, of human warmth in these characters. I was looking, in one way or another, to endear them to the reader. The end, as well as the rigorous choice of certain words, point in that direction: it is, in its own way, a happy ending, right? Maybe it’s true that an author is the worst reader of his own texts. But that’s also the beauty of the act, the gesture of writing. The what and why of the written turns out to be a mystery for one. Darkness, the nebulous, these always have a great weight. And I think that’s fortunate. Where mystery ends, writing’s impulse likewise ends. The “kingdom of the known,” I like to think, is fatal for a fiction writer.

{ Carmen Victoria Vivas, Tal Cual, 24 September 2011 }

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