Justo Navarro, from Granada in 1953, author of The father's house or Great Granada, translator of Dashiell Hammett or Francis Scott Fitzgerald, publishes now Petit Paris (Anagrama), a work of high literary precision in the style of the black novels practiced by some of his masters, such as the aforementioned Hammett, whose rereading he went to emphasize, in his own style, that precision to which the quality of his novel.
It is a book in which converge, in the world war, the Spanish fascist mischief and Nazi cynicism. They coexist in Hitler's Paris and in Granada celebrating victory. It is full of ruthless beings, whose evil contrasts absolutely with the author, a person whose timidity is a legend among his colleagues and among the users of the buses that take him to Andalusia, his land. With that shyness, he arrives at the hotel where we spoke last Thursday, in Malaga.
Question. Much evil in the war.
Answer. Bergsson said in a 1932 book that what is forbidden, such as murder, lying or betrayal, in war is not only allowed but it is meritorious. The worst of people is known when they get so irritated that they become entangled in a war.
P. And greed. Here the leitmotiv It's the stolen gold.
R. Yes, it is the relationship between war and business, because the civilian police plot is dedicated to selling papers to those who want to flee the war. Jews, Spanish Republicans. And the people who sold them the papers bought their goods at a very cheap price while reporting them to the police. It is documented that they were in connection with part of the Spanish consular and police services in Paris.
P. A critic said of you that his novels were black, but they were by Justo Navarro.
R. I take the black novel as a kind of lens through which I can observe reality. It gives me distance or estrangement. More than the crime novel I am influenced by the black cinema environments of the forties and fifties. So I approach things, but already missed, and I turn them into something artificial in principle. The molds of the novel transform my language and also my vision of the world.
P. Fitzgerald translator, for example. What is reflected here of your literary, cinematographic or musical culture?
R. I could not point out direct influences, but when I was writing it I reread The crystal key, of Hammett, and that I think that has added forcefulness to the novel. Whenever I have translated Fitzgerald I have been interested in the games of lights, the ability to give sensibility to the language, the contrast between light and dark. But of all the authors that I have translated the one that has most influenced me is Virginia Woolf, part of whose diaries I translated …
P. It is a very essential, effective style …
R. An author has to propose to be precise. It must make clear what it shows. I do not want to lose myself in sentimentality, I want to be concrete, like a film camera that deals with living reality. I would like to be like that.
P. Describe the climate of war. Death, the coexistence between journalism and police, that "were not alien to each other …" Well, as now, there is no war.
R. I like to go back to the past, for example to 1943, when this novel takes place, because it allows me to see the present better. Just as the black gender allows me to see things better, going to 43 helps me to see our reality better. This novel owes much to newspapers from Granada and France at the time. Reading those newspapers I realized that the war news they published Homeland or The ideal they were exactly the ones published in Paris newspapers. Some were given by the Führer's barracks, others by the Italian forces. They were the international informants of the moment both in Granada and in Paris. Seeing that, I remembered that, during the war in Iraq, American journalists did self-criticism because they had stuck to the information they received from the commanders of the invaders. And when I investigated the practices of the Gestapo I realized that these reinforced interrogations that are now done to dangerous terrorists were already done at the time …
P. Perhaps wars are general trials for people to learn to be worse.
R. It gives them the chance to prove it. He is capable of the greatest baseness. The war also serves to rehearse surgeries. An ophthalmologist told me that the operation of cataracts was invented in that war, replacing the lens with an internal lens.
P. And here is also the portrait of that subsidiary Spain that pays Hitler and Mussolini the favors given, among other places here, in Malaga.
R. Malaga was taken by the Italians; the bravado Queipo launched from Seville scare people on the radio, but those who entered were Mussolini's troops …
P. What feeling does that succession now, Queipo, Italians, world war?
R. That in the end the Francoists lost the war in 1945, when the Spanish Republicans entered Paris with the allied troops. I wanted to tell someone who said that we did not realize that the war was won by them: "The war is won by us, the democrats, it is you who do not realize it". But I kept silent for respect at that moment. That's what I think: there, in 1945, he lost the Franco war.
P. Where does this story come from? Petit Paris?
R. To read the newspapers. Everything is in the newspapers, it's incredible!