Political intrigues, sensuality, eroticism and impossible loves mark a novel in which the characters rebel against their destiny. In a world of contrasts, between men and women and between different social classes, an element rises becoming the common language that unites them all: gastronomy. The novel with which Fernando J. Múñez debuts in literature, The cook of Castamar (Planet), reflects the oppression that permeates the society of the eighteenth century starting, says the author, of a premise: "A girl whose whole world was the four walls of the kitchen."
Clara Belmonte, daughter of an illustrated doctor, arrives on October 10, 1720, at the great house of the Duke of Castamar, Don Diego. The route from the city of Madrid to the mansion, located in the vicinity of Boadilla, makes it covered under hay bales and with closed eyes, which does not dare to open until it is under cover. And Clara is hiding a secret: suffers from agoraphobia. The disease began after the death of her father in the war, from which the young woman is forced to seek a way out of poverty. So he arrives as a kitchen officer at the duke's mansion, widowed for ten years. However, it soon becomes clear that Clara, educated and educated, does not belong to the world of the lords or the world of servitude.
This is part of the novel, which in the head of the author emerged after a phrase of his mother: "Write something more like for me." This, along with his interest in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and literary references as Dangerous friendships, by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, as well as Jane Austen's novels or the Brönte sisters, they were the germ that gave him life. "Those referents were always in that imaginary idea of creating a historical novel, or historical fiction rather, that would transport me to that world," explained the author last week in the presentation of the book on the El Campillo farm in San Lorenzo of El Escorial, a stage created to generate the illusion of being in the same mansion of Castamar, including meats.
"Gastronomy suited me because it gave me a very clear spectrum of who I was talking about, I was defined directly by the social class," he said. Without having any personal connection with the world of cooking, Múñez has used this element as a "secret language" between Clara and Diego, who establish a sensory and emotional dialogue through food. "In the end the gastronomy does not stop being a code" and at that time everything was codified according to a strict protocol.
Undoubtedly, these norms were stricter with one part of society than with others, and women were especially vulnerable. "They were only allowed practically three exits: to serve men as wives, daughters or mothers; to be a nun at the service of God or at the service of men too; or be a prostitute or courtesan, but there were not many more outlets, "said the writer. Fernando J. Múñez was interested in showing the most oppressed of society, so he tried to show the world of women at that time, "oppressed even in the highest classes." The society of the eighteenth century was very hierarchical, without any kind of permeability. But the protagonist is not only between two social worlds, but does not follow the expected patterns for the possibilities of a woman like her, beautiful and still young. Thus, for the author the important thing is to show how these women, each in a different way, faces that patriarchal world that exists, and that dominates everything.
"Now, thank God, that has been breaking, and we have to break much more," he said. She does not hesitate to define the protagonist as a contestant and expose the feminist look of the book, while she is self-critical with her genre: "I still think that men are macho, even if we do not want to." The human being, like history, tends to be cyclical, the author opined, and "that power, in the end, is like Tolkien's unique ring, corrupts."
But this novel is transversal. "Not only is it dedicated to women, it is made to be read by men, to be read by women, so that all kinds of people read it", insisted who, he declared, has always been a writer before anything else. He began his first novel at age 14, but at one point in his life it was too long. "While writing a script was much easier for me." And he has dedicated himself to advertising and the audiovisual world until the publication of this novel, which conveys the classic aroma of the eighteenth century.