Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez: “Los libros representan todo lo que el gobierno no es” / José G. Márquez

Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez: “Books represent everything the government isn’t”

(Photo: Alexandra Blanco)

Méndez Guédez is back in Venezuela to present his prize-winning novel Arena negra

Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez spends quite a bit of time on airplanes, having moved to Spain nearly two decades ago and returning to Venezuela periodically. His childhood was spent between his native Barquisimeto and Caracas. This fragmented him, as he says, and is reflected in the characters of his books. Even in the promotion of his books, because while he baptizes Arena negra (Caracas: Lugar Común, 2013), back in Spain he presents Los maletines (Madrid: Siruela, 2014).

The first one was named Book of the Year in 2013 by Venezuelan booksellers and its protagonist is a Spaniard, while the second one —whose main character is a Venezuelan— is considered by some to be his best novel yet. Without actually pulling it off, he’s always in two places at once. “That’s only possible in writing and in dreams; this is why I’m interested in both, because you can easily move from one place to another,” the writer expresses, during his visit to Caracas recently.

Méndez Guédez says life has become an endless goodbye but also a constant reencounter. His stories are filled with dismayed characters, who abandon or are abandoned, within a background of political events and remnants of humor. “I try to create something positive out of that devastating feeling by transforming it into writing. Each time I travel I take back with me all types of images, situations, words, in order to keep writing about this city,” he adds.

Arena negra, for example, centers on the life of a family forced to accept a father’s departure, a Spaniard who arrives in Venezuela in the late 1940s with the hope of making some money. It’s told in three time periods and presents an atypical structure.

In Los maletines the main voice belongs to a Venezuelan who works for the government today and carries suitcases full of cash to various parts of the world. Since he lives in an extremely violent nation, he’s on a constant search for happiness, and this is why he eventually plans a conspiracy with a friend that may or may not work.

“From a dramatic point of view, social convulsions work quite well for talking about certain characters in that manner,” the author reflects.

Prodigal Son

Although Méndez Guédez lives in Europe, he reads the Venezuelan press every day on the Internet.

Regarding the crisis of the last few months, he thinks there are still plenty of reasons to protest, among them the difficult situation of the book industry in the country.

“Books are dangerous: they make people think, they provide beauty. They represent everything the government isn’t. That’s how I understand why the government is trying to sabotage their free circulation. There’s fertile ground here for the imagination to flourish,” he assures.

{ José G. Márquez, El Nacional, 3 May 2014 }

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