«Canarian literature has been on the map for a long time»

The writer and professor Francisco Juan Quevedo, author of 'The theater in the middle of the ocean'. / C7

On Tuesday he presents his novel, 'The theater in the middle of the ocean' (Destiny), at the Pérez Galdós House-Museum in the capital of Gran Canaria

The writer and professor of literature from Gran Canaria presents his new book,
'The theater in the middle of the ocean', on July 5, at 7:00 p.m., at the Pérez Galdós House-Museum. This volume achieved a Special Mention from the 2022 Nadal Prize Jury, whose ruling was announced, as is traditional, on Three Kings Day. The book tells the story of an orphan who went from having nothing to being the most powerful and feared man in Gran Canaria at the end of the 19th century. This is the case of Feliciano Silva and his Atlantic empire in the middle of the ocean.

-What does it mean for an island author that a novel about the Canary Islands has managed to be a finalist for the prestigious Nadal award? Can you put Canarian literature on the map?

-Canarian literature has been on the map for a long time, another thing is that it has not been given due attention. The modernists, surrealism, Carmen Laforet herself, born in Barcelona but who lived her childhood and early youth in Gran Canaria, who won the first Nadal prize in 1945, are examples of this. Nowadays, thanks to the work of many Canarian writers, the peninsular reading public has been conquered with the Canary Islands space as an area of ​​great fictional, literary potential. In that sense, I think what my novel does is contribute a little more to confirming that interest in this Atlantic territory and whose life takes place to the beat of that of the Pérez Galdós Theater.

«Adventure novels are, with religious texts, the oldest literary stories»

-Your novel tells the story of overcoming and fighting for power of a self-made man in the Canary Islands at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th. What is the photograph of the archipelago in those convulsive times for the Spain of the time?

-Well, very interesting, since it is the time when capital cities take off, under the shelter of the ports. The Canary Islands, precisely because of their location in the Atlantic, have been a gateway for trade to America, Africa and even Asia. The Industrial Revolution greatly multiplied that trade, and with it the human transfer. All this generated in the ports, such as La Luz, which was being built at that time, an activity that led to significant growth in the city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, as well as its bourgeoisie, which in turn fed some cultural needs, which are reflected in the building of the Pérez Galdós theater.

-Is adventure literature back in fashion after the great sagas of the 90s headed by 'El Capitán Alatriste', by Pérez Reverte?

-We would say that adventure novels are, along with religious texts, the oldest stories in literature. 'The Epic of Gilgamesh', 'The Iliad', 'The Odyssey', 'The Aeneid'..., are great epic adventures. By this I mean that the adventure novel, or misadventure novel, has always existed and has fit very well with the tastes of readers. It is true that from the seventies of the last century there is a revival of the adventure novel, a typology in which Arturo Pérez-Reverte undoubtedly stands out, but I do not think it will be back in fashion, rather it has not ceased to be fashion ever since. If we review the best-selling books in Spain since the seventies, we will see that the adventure novel, which is often paired with the historical novel, has always been occupying positions of privilege.

-The construction of the Pérez Galdós Theater appears as the background of the novel, it is almost another character, a silent witness of the political and social events of the island. What did the creation of a space for the performing arts in the Canary Islands in the 19th century mean at the time?

-The Pérez Galdós theater becomes the central space, the basic motif from which the narrative emerges and comes to life. At the same time, it seems like a watchtower from which you can observe the city, the island, the Atlantic; everything that happens around you. I hadn't realized it until the end of the novel; but then I realized that I wanted the readers to look at the theater building, to observe how it was being built; however, that look of the theater towards its exterior is also produced.

- Is adventure literature still a good hook to bring history closer to new generations or do new technologies make the approach increasingly difficult?

-For me, the Canary Islands space, as I pointed out before, is a very rich literary space; and when I speak of space I am not only referring to the landscape, but also to its people and its history, its culture. That said, I think that one of the hallmarks of the Canary Islands is its connection with the world, especially with the Atlantic world. In this line I have to say that in my novels there is no obsession with tying myself to the earth; I do it as naturally as when many of my characters travel to America, for example.

-As a professor of Spanish Literature, what is the x-ray that you make of the knowledge of national authors by students who go from Baccalaureate to University?

-The problem of knowledge is general, and not particular. It is not that students who leave high school know fewer Canarian authors, but rather that they read less literature in any field. And this is not the fault of the teachers who teach the baccalaureate, for whom I have the utmost consideration and I know very well their ability and their interest in having more hours dedicated to literature; but there are none, they have been eliminated and more and more reading remains in the hands of that work, often anonymous, of teachers who are concerned that their students do not leave high school without reading those fundamental books for their personal training. I express my sincere appreciation.

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