Until a month ago, Inés Martín Rodrigo worked in the culture section of the ABC newspaper, interviewing authors. Today she continues to do it, but she also has to be on the other side as winner of the last Nadal Award. forms of love (Destiny) is the novel highlighted by the oldest literary award in the country, a list of winners that inaugurated Carmen Laforet in 1944 with Nada.
Martín Rodrigo's book is an exercise in memory in its broadest sense. The narrator is Noray, a young writer who reconstructs the history of her family with all kinds of names and details. The tour covers the post-war period, proto-democracy and the beginning of the 21st century with the ailments typical of each of these stages: from the murders of the rebel side and the ideological wounds that remained open in homes after Franco's death, to the anorexia and the inability to love.
forms of love by Martín Rodrigo stood out from the more than 900 manuscripts submitted to the Nadal Prize under a pseudonym. His was Candela. A few months ago, Planeta (a group to which Destino also belongs, the label that publishes Nadal) awarded a novel written by three men with a female pseudonym, with all the commotion that it caused. For Martín Rodrigo "everyone is free to do what they want with his writing" and he does not believe that the Planet has overshadowed the literary prizes or the reception of his novel, which from now on "belongs" to the readers.
Having covered it from the outside, what is the most impressive thing about a literary tour of these dimensions?
I would not use that verb. What excites me the most. Yes indeed. Illusion is the word that I would use because winning the Nadal prize is a dream. It is a journey that began on January 6 and will continue over time in different cities of Spain, and sharing moments with readers. because this creature [señala el libro] It is no longer mine, I have given it to them. I really want it to be read and for them to be the ones traveling with Noray, the protagonist.
You will have heard as a cultural journalist that these tours are sometimes tedious and intense. Is there anything that seduces you less about the tour?
Actually no. This is part of the beauty of publishing a book. I really enjoy doing interviews on the other side and talking to the writers. So having the opportunity to jump to this side and share it with colleagues is, and I return to the illusion, very, very exciting. It is very intense and exhausting, but it is worth it.
Does this double position give you a certain empathy when answering questions?
Clear. I think it resets you quite a bit. You realize the position of the writer you are interviewing as if you were the only one he is going to interview that day, but no. He actually has already had a few interviews and after you there will be more. So that relocates you, relocates you and gives you more empathy if possible.
How do you balance the work of a journalist and that of a writer so that the literary vein does not cross over into the articles?
I have always been very clear about where the border between journalism and literature is. The writer Inés is very different from the journalist Inés. They are the same person, but they are not the same author. Fiction allows me to inhabit other realities, always invented. On the other hand, in journalism what I must do and what I do is reflect realities. There is nothing fictional or inventive. Even my style is quite different.
The only difficult balance is time. There is not always time for everything because there are 24 hours in a day and you would like to stretch it out like chewing gum. But hey, writing takes a lot of discipline. Or at least I think that writing involves work and responsibility. I used to get up at six in the morning, because I'm not a nocturnal person, on the contrary. I wrote whatever hours it was, I got into the shower and came out of there like Inés the journalist.
forms of love it is his second novel and he has won the Nadal award, a sash that from now on will attract many readers. Could that affect the way he writes?
Well, what a wonderful girdle, right? I should have considered that before writing and introducing myself. And if I didn't do it, it's because I was prepared for that exhibition and because I needed it. What I would like is for readers to accompany me on this journey and to feel as comfortable in those pages as I have felt. Despite the fact that there is pain, despite the fact that there is suffering, despite the fact that there is crying, despite the fact that there is happiness. Life is so. And life is still beautiful despite everything.
Normally, writers who dedicate themselves full time to literature do not return to an office, where any colleague or boss can delve into their privacy. How has it been to return to a newsroom after having published and won the Nadal?
In my case it has not been like that. The only thing I have received has been complicity, love, support and shared joy. The verb hurgar seems very ugly to me. And more exposed than I am in the novel, I won't be anymore. There is truth, there is authenticity and now I am only in the hands of the reader.
Returning to the novel, what forms of wanting does the title refer to?
To all that there are, which are infinite, with which I will probably have left some. The title of the novel is very defining and very definitive, because it captures very well the essence of the story. The most conventional love is present, that homosexual or heterosexual romantic love. But also the brotherly love, the one you feel towards your brothers, the love of the family and the love of friendship, which for me is one of the most beautiful forms. The love towards books, towards literature, towards words, towards writing. The love towards your origins, towards your roots. And, of course, love for yourself.
Noray, the protagonist of the book, begins to write the history of her family in a dark and depressed moment. Does it have something in common with the origin of this novel?
It is quite similar to what happened to me. I started writing this novel in March 2019 and in the writing process the pandemic happened, which left us all quite out of place. At that moment the story was transformed in my hands. All the suffering we were experiencing, that lockdown and the worst days of the lockdown seeped into my writing. I looked inside and took hold of those memories and that family memory, which is the same thing that Noray does.
The book says that it is necessary to skip a generation so that the passions of the blood are diluted. Is the generation of the grandchildren the one that is prepared to tell the historical memory and recount the Civil War?
In the novel I do not write about the Civil War, but the characters live in different times of the history of Spain and one of them is the war, but very in passing. Our past is there in a very present way and each one must look in the mirror and see what reflection it gives back. I believe that our generation, those born in the late 1970s and early 1980s, have the legacy of memory, which is a wonderful treasure. And it is important that we do not lose it and that we take care of it.
But in the novel the war-civilist divisions that families still had until not many years ago are reflected. Do you think that is finally behind us or will there always be divisions?
That depends on each family. Sometimes ideology divides you and sometimes inheritance divides you. It will be by divisions. I prefer to think about what unites us and what should unite us. And I think that the last two years have been, for those who want to learn it, a very important lesson of humility, of clinging to life, of valuing what we have and not dwelling on absurd and insignificant things. We have to look each other in the face, with a mask, but face to face and be able to sit at the same table, regardless of ideological, or even literary, likes and dislikes.
There is a very important part of the book that is dedicated to anorexia, a disease that the protagonist suffers and that you also suffered. Did she include it with the express intention of removing the taboo?
It was in a very natural way. The truth is that it was an almost cathartic exercise, very painful, but also therapeutic. I suffered from anorexia when I was 14 years old, this was 25 years ago, and in all those years I have felt orphaned by fictions that will reflect what I experienced. Without being aware of it, I have looked for that reality to finally be present in a fiction.
It was hard?
Very hard. I was about to back down because it was going to reopen a wound that I thought was closed and it wasn't. But I kept going and I'm so proud I did. Not as an author, but as a reader. I think there is a lot of truth and authenticity in those pages. I would have liked to read them earlier.
It is a novel of clear autobiographical inspiration, where have you placed the line between fiction and reality?
It is a novel and everything in it is fiction. What happens is that we writers have a life and it almost inevitably reaches our pages, but through a wonderful filter that is invention and imagination. Any resemblance of the novel to reality is pure fiction. That's where I put the limit.
Nadal was introduced under a female pseudonym. Did he ever fantasize about presenting himself as a man? Is the use of the pseudonym a decision that she ponders as a writer?
With a male pseudonym? The truth is, no. I didn't even think about it, it didn't take me long. I looked for a pseudonym and it seemed to me that this was the one I wanted. Candela is a name that I considered for one of the protagonists of the novel and it seemed pretty to me. But nothing else.
The discovery of the Planeta prize provoked a debate about visibility and the appropriation of spaces. What do you think by Carmen Mola?
Well, there each one with his pseudonym. There each author with the choice of his pseudonym and the title of his novel. Everyone is free to do whatever he wants with his writing. And if it seemed appropriate to them to use that pseudonym, then it was appropriate for them.
But did it make you consider the use of pseudonyms in literature?
Mine is signed as Inés Martín Rodrigo, which is my name. So the truth is no. Each one chooses the title of the novel that she wants, the plot that she wants to tell and the pseudonym that she wants. If it seemed good to them, then she listens. It is also quite significant that in front of –not behind– a very successful narrative project that engages readers is the name of a woman. That also says a lot.
Do you think that what happened with the Planet last year has affected the credibility of the literary prizes?
Well, the public or the readers will have to answer. Nothing has changed for me at all. In other words, I continue to see any of the literary prizes that are part of our country, in Spain, in the same way.
Not even as a cultural journalist?
These are not questions that I ask myself, really. I think that the important thing is the reader, who is the one who has the last word and who has to decide what he likes and what he doesn't. And he is already. What the Nadal award does is fill me with joy and give me a wonderful opportunity to continue directing my career to where I want, which is to be able to dedicate myself to writing full time. I am happy publishing this novel with Destino, which is a wonderful publisher and I hope this is the first novel of many.