Rafa Cervera: "In these times, it is important to defend the freedom to be who you are"

Rafa Cervera is a benchmark in the music journalism for more than three decades. His recent literary career —Far from everything (2017), Because there is no time left (2020) and Song for big men (2022), all published by Jekyll & Jill— has revealed that he, in fact, had always wanted to be the writer that he is today and that, if he started writing about music at the age of 18, it was because he wanted to tell the world what he was passionate about and in the process tell himself, just as he does now at 59.

He doesn't deny that vital material, and also literary, that so many years interviewing musicians and writing articles have given him, "but in reality everything has been a path to reach fiction," he admits. The pick and shovel of daily work, the muscle of editing, all of this has shaped his direct style, his pleasant pulse, the construction of an intrigue, a surprise, an astonishment in each paragraph so as not to lose the reader along the way.

Nor does his current literary career mean that he has had enough of music, which infiltrates his first two works, but that he is "tired of precariousness" and of "writing a review of an album for 20 euros". What he has grown tired of is the networks: "I don't feel like competing with people nor do I have the need to tell anyone what I thought, nor to write on them so that they can see that I have published a novel" . "What I want is to disappear from this race for omnipresence and if I don't, it's because I'm a small author in a small label and I have to resort to the networks," he adds. "I've decided that as much as I can, I don't want to be there. I want to be in real life. I want to be here," he says.

For his first book, Cervera would resort to adolescence and David Bowie as an idol. For the second, he created a hybrid between false memories, with some truth, to create a literary manipulated reality. "I wrote that book because I thought it was like leaving a living will," she confesses. "Unfortunately, I have already been to the occasional funeral of friends and I have realized that certain people end up learning that there are other important people for that person at the wake. When that day comes to me, at least they have the book as a guide," he says.

Song for Big Men is a fictional story about men who sleep with middle-aged gay men. "There is a political stance that, in these times, becomes important: defend the freedom to be who you are," Cervera advances. "Defending that people are very complex and that labels sometimes do not work, but on the contrary, they get in the way. If you are homosexual, it makes no sense to deny what you are and there are many things still to be resolved to hide or deny yourself As far as possible, of course, because everyone can't do it either. It's important to be brave because if you kiss a man on the street, they still beat you up, and in other countries they kill you, "he adds. .

A particular aspect of the new novel by this Valencian writer is to avoid telling a story about men where women do not exist. "In an inbred story where men seek each other out, fall in love and sleep with each other, it seems like women are excluded, but you can never exclude women, even in such a situation," he warns. "In the novel, the female characters give back to the protagonists their own image, of their own mistakes, of all those endemic evils that we have been dragging culturally, of how men are part of that fabric that is machismo. When the man becomes in the desired object of man, the protagonist understands that prevention of women, because man is as he is, beyond his sexual preferences. Men are capricious, childish and predatory, "he adds. "You can't talk about gay rights and forget about feminism. It's all tied together. And if it's not tied together, we have a problem because then we're making the same mistakes we want to eradicate," he warns.

The protagonists of this novel are around 50 and 60 years old, "people who come with educational burdens" and that is why they become aware at their age of how their masculinity defines them. This book adds to the reflection on the questioning of hegemonic masculinity. It is a work that draws from previous ones, such as El amor del reverse (Anagrama 2016) by Luisgé Martín, and Paris-Austerlitz (Anagrama, 2016) by Rafael Chirbes, sexually stark books where there is also tenderness, sometimes repressed.

"I have tried not to put a brake, that there is no fear of telling things, talking honestly about mistakes, fears, the pressure one exerts on oneself, age, feelings, how difficult it is love, of that reality that implies the masculine figure at a sexual level", explains the author. "I am very struck by the fact that there are a number of common places that no one questions. Why in the 21st century are cruising areas [lugares en el espacio público donde mantener relaciones sexuales con desconocidos] they are still so crowded places. Why does there always have to be that dark area? I don't mean to say that I feel bad, but I want to know why it is still necessary for certain people to have to vent in a sordid, secret and illicit way, "he says.

Rafa Cervera's characters, as the author sees them, are not normative within a spectrum that is not normative either. That is to say, "they are not militant gays of the pride, of the bars, of the gatherings" but "they live on their own, one more hidden, the other less". "What is told here is not that it intends to annul or criticize what exists, but that it seeks to contribute other visions, other experiences, other sensitivities, other ways of living homosexuality," he points out. It is a book that contains more questions than answers, without giving moral indications.

Despite the fact that sex is the common thread of Song for big men, there is a moment in which the narration closes the door with a bolt. "Because in literature I think it's very good for people to imagine things and sex is imagination," explains the writer. "There is very good erotic literature, very explicit, and I think it's great and fantastic, but I didn't want to do that. I don't do erotic literature in the same way that I don't do gay literature either. That is, I make a book for everyone who is starring homosexuals and whose axis is homosexuality and therefore there is sex. It is told in the synopsis so that no one is deceived, but you should not read it looking for sex. I find it much more exciting that each one imagines what happens. To me, as a reader, I prefer to be given the fair and necessary details," he acknowledges.

Not only the insinuation, but the sexuality of the fetishism work as triggers of the imagination and the recreation of the sexuality of the characters. The socks that one wears, the story of the encounters or the excitement of a forensic doctor before the inert body that he must cut: "That's where instinct rules. That spark, that excitement is what I was interested in telling."

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