“We must learn to fall without fear of bruising ourselves”

Marta San Miguel, author of 'Before the jump', in Santander. / Javier Cotera

Marta San Miguel debuts in the novel with 'Before the jump', a brilliant investigation into the traps of memory and identity

Michael Lorenci

There are moments that enclose a world. A life. Decisive moments that confront us with what we wanted to be and what we are. Starting from one of those crucial seconds, in which a horse mounted by a youngster prepares to jump an obstacle, Marta San Miguel (Santander, 41 years old) has built 'Before the jump' (Asteroid Books). It is her first novel. A narrative delight that explores the nooks and crannies of memory. She wonders what we become when we forget what we were or what we dream of being.

Proust's Madeleine is here the forgotten photo of a formidable horse, Quessant, which the narrator rode as a child, today a mother who moves to Lisbon for a year with her family. A physical and emotional journey around identity, motherhood, attachments and transience.

Although the title evokes an equestrian adventure, it speaks of jumps and vital changes, «Quessant existed and I rode it. I gave it to the protagonist so that she wouldn't leave completely, along with my memories and everything I knew about horses to use as a metaphor," explains San Miguel.

Novel about «the leaps we take in life, whether they are job changes, partner changes, moving, falling in love or loss. Sometimes voluntary, other times involuntary, but they push us and we are forced to give». “With each jump we leave behind a piece of ourselves, whether we like it or not. There comes a time when you must think about what remains in you of everything you left behind. What have you become? Quessant is also a Trojan horse that forces the protagonist to think and discover all her forgetfulness », summarizes San Miguel.

Reason to be

Some forgetfulness that make us? "Yes. We all swallow that idea of ​​only pulling forward, of progressing. But in the name of what? What is the point if you have forgotten your reason for being? », the writer asks. She responds in the eleven sections of an emotional story choreographed at a walk, trot or gallop. In full flight over each obstacle, with triumphs, resignations and defeats, laughter and tears.

If there is a jump there may be a fall, but the novel tells us that we must learn to fall in order to get up again and again. "Falling is unavoidable. But you'll never fall off a horse if you don't get on it. If you don't, you miss what it feels like," says San Miguel. "In life, it is the same. We are all afraid of falling, but it is more useful, wiser and more realistic to learn to fall. Another thing is to know if you protect yourself with your hand, foot or with the whole body. You have to lose the fear of bruising. There are times when the fear of pain often takes us away from living », he illustrates.

San Miguel is a journalist for 'El Diario Montañés' and the author of poems such as 'Meridiano', which won the José Hierro Award, and 'El tiempo vertical'. «The jump from poetry to the novel has been quite fluid, natural. It was much more drastic from poetry to journalism, although everything ends up intermingling, ”she explains with a smile. "It has to do with your look at things, and not so much how you end up solving it, whether it's prose, in an article or in a verse."

«The peak of poetry had to do with the fact that he began to work and the times of the newspapers are what they are. You can advance a verse at any time, while waiting for a press conference to start or for a page to be painted. Novels need more time and I got it with the leave of absence I asked for when my husband was sent to work in Lisbon », she explains.

It was a crucial change. “The great vital stages have to end for another to begin. We must not chain ourselves to memory, which can paralyze us and lead us to nostalgia, which is like having the boat moored to the bollard or stranded in the mud of an estuary. You have to be alert and never let memory enslave you », she says. He knows that a fine line separates nostalgia from memory, that this is "the stuff of literature, but it is very tricky."

light in the shadows

“We tell ourselves the story as we think it was. But deep down, that story is the only way to understand many things that happened. The human being has advanced in his socialization thanks to the word, to the story with which each one of us explains ourselves », he points out.

San Miguel had not ridden a horse in twenty years, but recently he dared again. “That stage has passed. I am in another. I have grown as a journalist, I have written books, I have been a mother, I have met fabulous people thanks to my work... but there is a part of me that belongs to the past». "With this book I'm not trying to be that girl again. I want the reader to find in her affections what the protagonist achieves: unearthing from that memory to which we do not give importance, from what is left behind, that spark that illuminates the shadow areas ».

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