Caracas a través de Los impresentables de Raymond Nedeljkovic / Caneo Arguinzones

Caracas Through Raymond Nedeljkovic’s Los impresentables

Photo: YVKE Mundial

Raymond Nedeljkovic (Caracas, Venezuela, 1979). Undergraduate degree in Literature from the Central University of Venezuela (UCV). At this institution he participated in the workshops given by professors Luis Felipe Castillo and Rodrigo Blanco Calderón. In 2010 he was a member of the fiction workshop at Monte Ávila Editores Latinoamericana, under the direction of Carlos Noguera. He received honorable mention in Fiction in the Semana del Estudiante UCV 2002 contest, and third place in Poetry in the 2008 edition. He was the Coordinator of the newspaper about journalism Palabra y Media (2005) and of the web page of TeleSUR TV station (2006-2008). He currently works as an editor for the team of the Presidential Press of the Ministry of Communication and Information. With Los impresentables he won the VIII Contest for Work by Unpublished Authors, in the category of Fiction, as well as the Municipal Prize for Literature 2012.

How did you get started in literary matters?

My beginnings in literature go back to the student contests at UCV: while I was there I received and honorable mention in Fiction and a third place in Poetry, I think around 2007. But my big opportunity came later, with the Contest for Works by Unpublished Authors at Monte Ávila Editores in 2010, when I won the Fiction category. It was my first publication, and at the end of that same year I was a finalist for the contest at the Society for Authors and Composers of Venezuela (SACVEN), that publishes the winners and the ten first runners-up in an anthology.

What was the creative process like for composing your book?

It’s hard to assume the task of the writer, to maintain the constancy, the discipline and to maintain the habit of writing. I think one writers and the book continues on its own, it speaks for you, and beyond that is where the writer exists. The book makes its own way. The short stories in Los impresentables are written from around 2005 onwards: I had a series of stories compiled when I was finishing my undergraduate degree in Literature, I was blocked with the topic for my senior thesis, I didn’t know what to do. Then it occurred to me to write one in the area of creative writing and so I approached Luis Felipe Castillo, who was my professor at that time and later became my tutor. I began to work from there: I gathered these stories, made a selection and forced myself to have the discipline to rewrite several of them that were half-finished. From that point emerged what forms the base of this book.

Does Los impresentables follow a certain structure?

Caracas gave this book its form. It’s a book that traverses the city, that’s how I’d define it: what gives it unity throughout most of it is the urban stories, about the reality of the capital city, and to a certain degree one’s own experience as a citizen of Caracas. I think there’s quite a bit of violence in my stories, acts of violence occur in about half of them, maybe more, it’s a violent Caracas. Maybe because the book has a great deal of autobiographical elements, and at the time I wrote those stories it touched me quite intensely, in a personal way. But of course, it’s only one focus out of many that can be given to Caracas.

How does the violence of Caracas traverse the short stories of Los impresentables?

It’s the violence we see in Caracas on a daily basis, but also the political violence, like the one we lived during the events of the Caracazo, something we see reflected in the story “Disfraz de zombie” in which the protagonist narrates how he was a victim of the police repression that was unleashed during those days. [Translator’s note: The Caracazo was a spontaneous, popular uprising on February 27, 1989 in Caracas.] In stories such as “Coleccionista de ventanas” we see a Caracas where president Bill Clinton appears, along with a phrase he said when he arrived at the airport: “Todo está chévere en Venezuela” [“Everything’s cool in Venezuela”]; a quotation that I employ in order to reveal the Venezuela that was asleep during those days, when politics were presented as a mere spectacle. It’s a Caracas that isn’t necessarily the one we know today, since other stories take place in the Caracas of 1967 and, actually, they’re inspired by a story my mom always tells me about the jewelry shop Francia. It’s a Caracas in various time periods. “Apenas una niña” is a very harsh story about that daily violence the world’s capital cities suffer, in which I explore the theme from the vantage point of a child’s tenderness, but when the protagonist is already an adult: it’s the memory of what she was when she suffered that traumatic event, when she was barely a child.

Why write short stories?

The other day I read an interview with a literary critic and he was speaking about a writer, whom I prefer not to name, who’s published a couple books of short stories; the critic said that this writer had reached a mature level and was ready to write a novel. I don’t see it that way, I think that a short story is a perfect version of itself, it’s not something that needs to mature. In my case, short stories are perfect for what I want to tell, for several reasons: brevity, tension, the depth I’d like to give my characters... above all starting from William Carlos Williams, one of the poets I most admire, and in whose poetry I’ve always seen as being very narrative. He’s a big influence on this book, a language that always seeks simplicity, closeness, intimacy in some form, and that believes in the power of poetry as an exercise in contemplation. I tried to imbue my stories with these elements.

How has it been to publish your first book through Monte Ávila Editores Latinoamericana’s Contest for Work by Unpublished Authors?

When you see your own book in bookstores you feel a certain form of obligation. It’s a big deal to be published. The positive aspect of it? To meet a stranger who’s read your book and makes a good comment about it, people who identified with the things you wrote, knowing that what you wrote meant something to them. It seems incredible to me to turn any corner —I’m speaking about Caracas, which is the city where I live— and find a Librería del Sur with more and more books and a greater variety of authors, and finding a convocation for literary contests, organized by the State in its multiple cultural and editorial organisms. In all the events the State organizes, like the International Book Fair, for example, you can see the access that many voices didn’t have previously; voices that are now revealing themselves and didn’t before. It seems very valuable to me, everything that’s been promoted in regards to culture in the most recent years of the Bolivarian Revolution. From each space there’s a struggle, mainly to confront a model and some characters who were very comfortably installed in their reality, and who didn’t seem to want to give space to what burst onto the scene, which is the opening and the access to culture for more people. And I say to confront, but to confront with ideas, with arguments, to try to convince without exclusionary ideas, so as to not damage what’s advancing: a greater inclusion, a wider dissemination of culture and literature. But it’s complicated, because there are two forces struggling against each other and you’re there trying to mediate, to offer ideas, to defend the things you believe in.

{ Caneo Arguinzones, Monte Ávila Editores Latinoamericana, May 2013 }

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