Marcelo Figueras winstonsdad talks to the IFFP SHORTLISTED WRITER ,

I m very happy to bring you a interview with Argentina writer Marcelo Figueras short listed for Thursdays Independent foreign fiction prize 2011 .Thanks to Frank Wynne his translator who mention my interview with him to Marcelo and he said he would be happy to be interviewed as well .Here are the answers .

1.How did you get into writing?

I always wanted to be a writer. Since I was even younger than The Midget! I started with short stories that I copied, illustrated and labelled as ‘novels’ and sold to family and friends. Then I tried to write and draw comics as well. My father still keeps one of those pages (a ripoff of a Burne Hogarth character called Drago, in fact) in his study. And afterwards I pestered my teachers, who in turn read my stories to my poor colleagues at school. They were all extremely kind, and never crushed my one-man industry. And with minimal variations, that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

2.What gave you the idea for Kamchatka?

I was consciously trying to write a story about what we in Argentina call The Dark Years, or The Iron Years: the period between 1976 and 1983, ruled by our last military dictatorship. Most of the stories I knew back then about that particular time (not many novels, mostly films) were unbearable, and repeated the same pattern ad nauseam: romantic young man / woman, his / her involvement in politics, that leads to kidnapping, torture, death and the inevitable coda at the law courts. And I wanted to write about the other horror, the one that the rest of us, who were not kidnapped but still were victims of violence of another sort, have endured.

3.What are your memories of the time?

My memories are a mixed batch. On the one hand, I was the typical boy on the verge of adolescence: shy, introspective, living in a bubble made of books music comics TV and movies. I played Risk a lot. I watched The Invaders. I enjoyed Houdini, the movie with Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, but rejected its sad, sad ending. I fell in love every day. I danced alone. But on the other hand, I lived in fear. I knew nothing about what was happening, my family had always been apolitical. In spite of that, I sensed something awful was going on: it was everywhere, even in the air, atoms of fear mixed with oxygen and nitrogen. That was one of the main ingredients of the military Junta’s perversity: they tried to keep the appearance of normality, Buenos Aires’ streets were calm and orderly (and filled with policemen), as if nothing out of the ordinary was really happening. But people were being kidnapped in the dark, locked in dungeons, tortured and killed, and their bodies hidden in massive, anonymous graves or dropped into the sea. So something wicked was indeed happening. And my nose picked it up somehow. Even when I reached my teenager years, I was afraid of going out to the streets at night. And if I saw a policeman out there, I retraced my footsteps and avoided him. I still knew nothing about politics, but in some strange way I gathered that being young and inquisitive, I was definitely the enemy for the guys in blue.

4.How much of harry’s character is based on yourself he seemed so real?

Given that Harry was more or less my age, it seemed natural to lend him most of my experiences: the public school and then the religious one, my father, my mother (The Rock!) and my little brother (The Midget!), Risk, The Invaders, my love of books and the rest. I had a bit of a temper, too. And as I answered before, my experience of living in fear also became quite useful.

5..Do you like strawberry nesquik?

I loved chocolate Nesquik, that dark brown powder that you mixed with milk. And as the Midget, I loved it most when it had little, crunchy chocolate bubbles.

6.What does being up for the independant foreign fiction prize me to you?

Being in the longlist for the IFFP meant already a lot, and the shortlist was sheer Heaven. Even if I don’t win, being between the six best novels written in a non-English language is quite a prize in itself.

7.What does being translated into english mean to you?

It means a lot. English is my second language. Most of the novels I read are in English. (And when I say most I’m not embellishing: 98 % is a conservative figure in this respect.) And many of my all-time favorite writers are English: from Shakespeare to Dickens, from Graham Greene to Martin Amis, from Joseph Conrad (well, sort of English) to David Mitchell. Learning English was the only thing my mother really forced me to do, when I desperately wanted to drop out citing well documented exhaustion. I was a really good student, so I thought deserved a break… that luckily, my mom didn’t give me. So I’m really grateful to her. And this modest recognition in the country she admired so much feels to me like poetic justice, given that she encouraged me so much and that she died so, so young. (Not as young as Harry’s mother, but…)

8. Do you ever feel burden by Argentina ‘s glorious writing history?

I don’t feel burdened. Argentina has a great literary tradition (Robert Arlt, Borges, Cortázar and Rodolfo Walsh are amongst my favorites) that wasn’t really helpful at the time of creating Kamchatka. Because for the most part, Argentina greatest writers tend to escape from emotion, embracing stylishness and formal exploration instead. And Kamchatka without emotion would have been a table with only two legs. So I reached my hand to the masters of the form, starting obviously with Dickens. He is the one who taught me that children are more resilient than grownups. Or, to put it in the words Lillian Gish says at the end of The Night of the Hunter: “Children are man at his strongest. They endure and they abide”.

9.Which of your books would you like to see next in English?

I would like very much to see La batalla del calentamiento translated. Because it has many things in common with Kamchatka (emotions being one) but also some fantasy: a giant, a girl with magical powers and a wolf that speaks Latin (that’s me repaying my debts with Europe’s fairytale tradition), mixed with some heavy stuff taken from real life and Argentinian history from the recent past -as in Kamchatka too.

10. Which do you enjoy most fiction writing or script writing or do the two overlap?

As the frogs in Kamchatka, I deem myself amphibious. I need literature and movies to survive. One’s a solitary way of creating; the other is more of a group endeavour. And I like it the most when I can mix both in the right proportions as in a good Martini. (Shaken, yes, but not stirred!)

11.Which Argentina writers should we be watching for?

Mariana Enríquez, Samantha Schweblin, Sergio Olguín, Félix  Bruzzone.

12.What are your favourite books and writers?

Don’t get me started. I’ve mentioned some of them. I would add: Melville, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Salinger, Saul Bellow, Michael Ondaatje, John Irving, Cormac McCarthy, Alan Moore… Do you need more?

May 2011


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