On May 30th, the Instituto Cervantes in partnership with MacLehose Press and the British Library held an event during the Hay Festival in which acclaimed authors Javier Cercas and Juan Gabriel Vásquez spoke to a fully packed venue about their work as well as the history and current state of Spanish literature. KCW Today was privileged to be granted an interview with the duo.
Javier Cercas of Spain is known as the author of Soldiers of Salamis (winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize), which was made into a film by David Trueba; The Anatomy of a Moment; and The Impostor. His latest book, The Blind Spot, is an essential collection of literary criticism in which the author considers some of the most challenging novels of the last 100 years, providing a new interpretation of the novel from Cervantes and Melville to the present. He has won numerous awards and is a columnist for the Spanish newspaper El País.
“In my books…” Cercas started explaining. “The past is a dimension of the present, and the collective is a dimension of the individual. So I cannot understand the present… if I don’t understand the past, the immediate past. The past of which there is still a memory and witnesses. I cannot understand myself without understanding my historical collectivity.”
Juan Gabriel Vásquez of Colombia is the multi-awarding winning author of The Sound of Things Falling. Vásquez’s latest novel, The Shape of the Ruins, takes the form of personal and formal investigations into two political assassinations as a way of locating the seeds of the violence that has bedevilled Colombia since the beginning of the 20th century.
Vásquez explained about about his work for any newcomers saying that “The stories take the form of an investigation because I treat reality as a mystery to be solved.”
We asked what the work was about at its core and he explained that “Most of my novels are really about the invisible side of very visible things. I try to use [them] to explore the hidden side of these places, the intimate, the moral, the emotional truths associated with these events.”
Photo: Javier Cercas & Juan Gabriel Vásquez © Ojo de la Cultura