Interview with Santiago Gamboa

Sep 14, 2013 Comments Off on Interview with Santiago Gamboa by

I am Santiago Gamboa. I’m in London in the bookstore Belgravia Books for Ventana Latina, and I am very happy to answer some questions and chat with you.

I believe that part of the strategy consists in writing about what I know, what I’ve experienced, what I understand from within. I have a base of experiences, out of which afterwards I construct fiction. Of course my books and characters are all fictional; if not, they would be autobiographies. And autobiographies are written by those who believe that their lives interest other people. That’s not my case, I assure you. Thus based on my experience of what I have lived, I invent, adding in more certain causal explanations. As I said in the talk, my people push themselves to the limits, take more risks, and are crazier and more lost than I am. But I know a little bit about all that. And I write about it because it scares me, or because it attracts me, or because it fascinates me. Sometimes madness fascinates me, sometimes neglect fascinates me, sometimes the temptation of death fascinates me. All that fascinates me but I am afraid of it. So my characters are braver than I am.

In Necrópolis I wanted to go a little further and let the characters speak not just for three or four pages, but for forty. You have to justify the story that’s happened to them, which was where my idea came from to invent a conference, a conference of people who are there to tell stories because they are biographers. And in the middle of this conference a situation transpires with a character who dies. There is a sort of ‘plot’, an element of the crime novel, but not at the same time as the stories told by each biographer. That allowed me to write a novel like those I enjoy, which are those which discuss life, the themes important for me in life.

Sometimes it frightens me to think that someone reads what I write.

Jerusalem was chosen as a metaphor, and also as a matter of aesthetics. The city Jerusalem is gorgeous; it has possibly the most beautiful historical centre that I know, and at the same time it is a city that serves me well as the metaphor of a city that has suffered, that has been martyred, that has been destroyed twice and come back reborn. In my novel, of course, I do not enter into the Israeli-Palestine conflict. For me Jerusalem is a metaphorical city, the metaphor of a martyr city. I absolutely do not discuss the Israeli-Palestine theme in my novel because for me it is the object of another type of reflection.

I just finished the first version of a novella in which the main character is a young writer, not of literature but of philology: that is, a researcher. I am a philologist. I studied philology. So it is the story of that philologist, his aunt, and a house. Those are the three elements I have. The story is called ‘A house in Bogotá.’

There is a piece of very good advice that I always copy from a writer I admire a lot, named Paul Theroux. The advice is very simple. It says: ‘Read a lot of books and then leave home’ –that is, travel and reading, experience and memory. Novels are constructed with those elements, memory and experience. From there, what’s more, someone has to sit down and apply himself. The young writer has to know that the novelist is in the working class of literature, that is, he has to write every day. He’s not like the poet, who writes shorter things, no? It may be more difficult to do that, but it’s easier to write bad poetry than a bad novel, because the novel has many pages. And someone has to sit down every day to do it.



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