July 15, 2020

María Tena: "You have to make the feeling not look corny" | Culture



"You have to make sure that the feeling does not look corny, does not turn into sugar. How? Removing many things. Sometimes I go crazy and then I start to remove, to remove and leave the words just. I write everything so that I do not forget anything, very baroque, and then I rewrite it. I have counted almost 80 drafts of this novel. It's like the perfect stone you find on the edge of the sea because it has been polished by water for thousands of years. " This is how María Tena (Madrid, 1953) describes in a conversation with this newspaper the struggle to achieve the sober and evocative tone that has earned her the Tusquets Novel Prize for Nothing you do not know.

The protagonist and narrator of this story returns to Uruguay in which he spent his childhood to, 40 years later, try to unravel the keys to the strange death of his mother, break with a frozen and idealized photo and understand or complete that opening stamp sexual and suspects that as a teenager only intuited. The trip and the investigation are used, from a lucid distrust in the memory, to reconstruct a golden age that ended in shipwreck. Crossed sexual relations and the description of the upper middle class world in Montevideo placed the novel in a complicated starting point. "Any exit of tone would have turned it into a serial," says Tena, who bets on telling things as they are "even when you hurt someone who is nearby."

Nothing you do not know It is a book with a foot and a half in the life of the author. "They are people who existed but who did not do the things that I put they did", explains Tena, who dedicates the book to her parents "who never stopped loving each other". "This story is a dialogue with them in which I say, yes, you taught me an island of freedom but then you took me to Spain again", he tells before narrating, with a certain affection in his voice, the trauma that was for the eight brothers return to the gray reality of the Franco regime. "I did not think about it that way, but I did not get excited while writing it, although the memory of my parents was there. Then, with the dedication, I was crying for two days. "

The first image he has, the first impulse of the novel is the memory of his mother's meeting-blue jeans, white shirt buttoned up, with "those burguesas cosmopotitas de Montevideo". "That had to be an outbreak in his culture of Francoism," he says.

The author of We have to see us (Anagrama) recognizes that the novel was about childhood but that his return to Uruguay 40 years later changed everything. "I realized that I had another life," evokes, as the protagonist realizes, an unnamed narrator with whom she identifies in part and who has to travel to the past to face the failure of her present. "The trips of these characters end in shipwreck but everyone wins and loses something," he says before detailing the doubts he had to rewrite the end and then launch a question: "What if what I invented was true?" .

Writer of always but of late publication, Tena is proud of her journey (she was finalist of the Herralde Prize in 2003 and of the Spring in 2011) in a profession that for her is "obsession and devotion", although, she confesses, more the second . "I was very cheesy and did not believe anything in me. I grew up in a very intellectual family. My father was a friend of Vargas Llosa, Bryce Echenique, Rosales … I did a course with Luis Landero who told me: 'Stop bullshit,' and that helped me a lot. Now I have been writing every day for years, "he summarizes.

Conscious of the uncertain territory that she treads every time a novel is submerged, Tena is guided by an idea, "that the writing is not seen", and a principle, "not to bore the reader, which is the first sin of the writer", and he does not breathe easy until the novel is not in the hands of the readers "who always give me a completely different book".

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