Elena Medel: «Galdós, an apostle of the realistic faith that I profess, winks at me»

Elena Medel: «Galdós, an apostle of the realistic faith that I profess, winks at me»

In 2020, she was the first woman to win the Francisco Umbral Award for Book of the Year. Elena Medel (Córdoba, 1985) was 35 years old and published her first novel, 'The Wonders' (Editorial Anagrama), a story about the precariousness, care and survival of three working-class women in a big city in the 60s. But Medel already had a place in the literary parnassus as a precocious poet, which she later linked with vibrant prose, described as "Literary freshness that values ​​the intergenerational relationship with a special emphasis on women, not always visible in other great literary works," said the jury that awarded her the award. On December 14, at 7:00 p.m.lands at the Pérez Galdós House-Museum within the framework of the proposal 'Women writers in the House-Museum'.

Medel has titled his talk at the Pérez Galdós House-Museum 'Winking: writing the present by reading the classics'. Wisława Szymborska was referring to Homer with this original quote, but with which author does the writer from Córdoba have this visual connection? «That article by Szymborska is very beautiful in which she explains that when she reads Homer she feels as if he were winking at her: that almost physical complicity with the words that challenge us, regardless of who wrote them, when or in what language», clarifies the poet.

«The poems of Federico García Lorca and Ángela Figuera Aymerich, the books of Carmen Martin Gaite or the novels of Annie Ernaux and Natalia Ginzburg. Or medieval literature, for example, that moment in which literary genres are confused, and a poem includes narrative will and scenic ambition, and verse still serves as a measure of all things. Benito Pérez Galdós also winks at me, of course, an apostle of the realistic faith that I profess," the novelist points out in a personal wink to her 'host'.

Universal themes

And the ability of universal themes in literature to connect with hundreds of generations throughout the centuries is one of the topics of reflection that will surely come up during the talk. Elena Medel cites, for this, a clear Galdosian example. «'Trafalgar' is not just a book about the battle: "It gives us the possibility with details and arguments to reflect on what happened, the reasons, the immediate consequences, the repercussion projected until today, beyond the description of a specific historical event," the writer clarifies. «That is why it is a classic, because write from the awareness of the present, helps us understand the past, looks to the future. Also because it makes that journey from the concrete and the particular, from the narration to Gabriel de Araceli, to the collective, to what transcends the historical and challenges someone who reads centuries later," he adds, qualifying the example.

Although the aforementioned Lorca, Aymerich and Martín Gaite remain among the author's poetic and narrative references since she began her literary path, she assures that "with some books you establish a connection, depending on your moment in life, which later dissolves: I find it very curious to review my highlights in old books, to remember what interested the person I was. In my case, too Each new book I work on requires different readings to guide me," he reflects.

Elena Medel.

Gabriela Guzepan

In that atavistic connection, a first childhood literary memory arises spontaneously. «During a few days of illness, I never remember if it was measles or chickenpox, I was about four years old, my maternal grandmother bought me a book about Heidi's adventuresmore based on the television series than on the novel by Johanna Spyri. A girl of a similar age to mine, with a life so different... I was excited», he remembers dreamily.

'The wonders'

'The Wonders' (Anagrama, 2020) was his first fiction novel, after a successful career in poetry. Published in the midst of a pandemic, it shows precariousness, care, expectations and, above all, the feminine vision of life. «It's a novel about money, about how the money we have or don't have limits our lives," the novelist clarifies. «I was interested in reflecting on a universal theme crossed by circumstances such as the gender or social class of the main characters; in this case, two working women. I don't know if I would reduce it to one 'feminine view of life'which does not exist, just as there is no masculine vision of life, unless we understand the masculine as equivalent to the universal, and the feminine as partial, specific," Medel clarifies.

An entelechy

«Women writers often get asked about extra-literary issues linked to our genre, something that does not happen with male writers. Therefore, such empowerment would be an entelechy», responds quickly to any inquiry about the existence of 'gender' literature or a feminine quota to meet in festivals and literary awards.

The fact is that 'The Wonders' is a phenomenon that can now be read in German, Czech, French, Greek, English, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish and other translations. That is to say, whether intentional or not, a message emanates from the novel that is successfully transmitted to other cultures.

«The impact of a book It is due to reasons that escape me», Medel disagrees.

«From my experience accompanying each translation, I believe that curiosity is one of the driving forces behind reading: 'The Wonders' addresses a very specific period in the history of Spain, from the end of the dictatorship to the present day, so that, Perhaps some of these foreign publishers found it an interesting way to understand what is happening today. In any case, I limit myself to writing, without further musings», he clarifies with transparency.