Good luck (Alfaguara), the last book by the writer Rosa Montero, narrates the intriguing life of a man who decides to isolate himself in a decaying industrial settlement and put his life on pause. In the words of the author, the novel deals with “the fear of living” and also “the capacity, despite the destruction, that we have to get back on our feet, to rebuild a happy life”.
A dozen books with which to start the autumn in the best possible way
Although it was just written before the pandemic, this story was finally corrected during confinement, a stage that, according to Montero, will lead to books that “deal with experiences of loneliness and isolation.” “Perhaps what is being talked about is a lighthouse keeper who lives on an island at the end of the world, not a pandemic,” he predicts from the other side of the phone.
¿Good luck is it a criticism of the idea of putting the work before the personal?
Not necessarily. I don’t want to say much about the protagonist because the novel is constructed as a mystery. We will not even say your profession. The novel is like a clockwork artifact, each information is dosed to trap the reader in that intrigue, in that enigma. For example, until the sixth chapter the profession of the protagonist is not stated. Each thing has its weight.
But hey, he is a successful professional and then, at the beginning of his time of greatest success, he says that it is not that the success of his profession that took him away from his wife, it is that he was doing badly in personal history and he ran away with your profession.
The novel deals with the fear of living, the difficulty of facing the vulnerability that makes us love others, the catastrophe that can come because we do not control anything in our lives. Suddenly, a misfortune hits you like lightning, which is what happens to the protagonist. It is about the ability, despite this destruction, that we have to get back on our feet, after being destroyed, to rebuild a happy life.
In the middle of all this, Raluca appears, who is the most special character and even, in some moments, carries almost half the weight of the plot.
And more. Maybe it doesn’t carry all the weight of the plot, but it’s the center, the crater of the book. The protagonist is Pablo. She is the coprotagosnist and at first she was much smaller. What happens is that it grew. She has eaten the book and has even brought the title of the book itself. Before, the novel was called The silence and, suddenly, Raluca arrived and devastated everything. It changed everything. He came with the title under his arm, with Good luck.
What Raluca tells us is that, that good luck is your ability to believe in good luck, to seek good luck, not to give up. To tell you about life in another way, because we are actually words in search of meaning. The way we tell ourselves can save us or it can condemn us.
She is a character with an incredible life force, with a capacity for joy and with a light that is really capable of undoing all the shadows of the novel. She is the savior of all.
How did you come up with this character?
I don’t know any Raluca. I would like more. I want a friend like that, I would like to get to know Raluca closely. She came, she grew, history was created. She was telling the story, that is, she came out alone and she really is like a beautiful life magician.
Another thing that draws attention is the narrator, who mixes the first person of various characters with an omniscient one in the present. How did you come up with this formula?
There are several narrative voices. Raluca’s voice in the first person, Benito’s voice in the first person and then there is the narrator, who is an omniscient narrator, but peculiar because he is an omniscient narrator who, on the other hand, also intervenes. Although, of course, he does not exist as a character, he does have a slightly peculiar voice because he is an omniscient narrator with a tad more presence. As if he were there contemplating things. Not like it’s god.
“Novels sound in your head. You come up with a novel and it lights up like a three-dimensional drawing, full of colors, movement inside your head, which is wonderful. It is like a galaxy.”
The novels ring in the head. You come up with a novel and it lights up like a three-dimensional drawing, full of colors, with movement inside your head, which is wonderful. It is like a galaxy. The great challenge is to get through that, which is always precious in your head, to reality, that maybe it is a disgusting thing to you. Maybe in the step, you lose all that touch.
Novels have their own sound. The first thing that occurs to me in a novel is what I call the little egg, which is the germinal idea, the one that moves you. But the second thing that comes to mind is the narrative voice. Not only the narrative voice, but really the sound of the novel, that is, if it is going to be choral, if it is not going to be choral, if it is going to have several narrators or just one, what type of narrative voice is it going to be and many more things. If it is counted in the present, if it is counted in the past or future. Whether or not she is going to have dialogue.
It really has a rhythm, it sounds in your head and what you do is, with the trade that you have been learning, because writing is learned by writing, it is a job like that of a carpenter, trying to put that rhythm that has hammered into your head on paper .
It reads very fast. Putting in the different voices gives him a lot of speed and a lot of rhythm.
Yes, it can be that and everything else. Thanks for the observation. Above all, also, that very millimetric structure of the dosage of what happens, in addition to the enigmas that are being renewed. As a reader, you think you have already learned something and, in the following pages, you realize that you have not learned, that it was false. It is built on purpose.
In the descriptions of the town, of the house where the protagonist arrives and of some characters like Benito, his narrative style is best seen. Do you have or work on that style? How do you get it?
Writing is a trade and writing is learned. You learn to write by writing, reading a lot, writing a lot and rewriting a lot. It’s the only way. But, on the other hand, the Goncourt brothers say that literature is an innate facility and an acquired difficulty. All of us who write have a facility in the sense that the vast majority of novelists have begun to write as children. We like to write, we have a facility like a child who has a facility for music or playing sports. We all have things that are closer to us, but then, they say, it is an acquired difficulty. All the writers that interest me are those who have spent their lives fighting against their ease and trying to go further, trying to learn.
Was this book finished or edited during the pandemic?
Yes. I finished the working draft, which is already a well done draft with only the final revision missing, I finished it at the beginning of January. It is a book made entirely before the pandemic. Then I let it rest, which is what I always do, for a couple of months and I give it to read. And then, during confinement, I did the final check. I changed things, but just literary.
During those rare months, did you come up with any novel ideas?
I already have four books ahead of me, it was not during those months, I had already thought of them before. Now I am preparing a kind of strange essay, which I have been preparing for a long time, on creation and madness.
In the style of The ridiculous idea not to see you again?
Yes and of The madwoman of the house.
How do you imagine the literature that will talk about the first six months of 2020? I imagine annotations such as “the mask was removed before taking a sip of coffee.”
[Risas]. I don’t know how many books will come of that, with that direct reflection of the pandemic. Rather, I think that what will come out will be something that we first have to digest, it has to make meat and it has to pass into our unconscious and from there come out converted into some kind of literary myth. What is possible is that, in five or ten years, suddenly, a lot of novels begin to appear that curiously deal with experiences of loneliness and isolation. Perhaps what is being talked about is a lighthouse keeper who lives on an island at the end of the world, not a pandemic. But it will be the digestion of these rare times. We don’t know where it will come out, but it will come out.