The new Mexican novel Juan Pablo Villalobos, The invasion of the spirit people (Anagram), it's as good as Burrow Party (Anagram). Whoever follows this author, who already owns an important career, will realize this assertion.
It is a chilling novel, which has several readings, that like that story of the boy who lived locked up hurts us on an improper side of the heart. Do we want to see that? Do we want to think about it?
Juan Pablo Villalobos he is without a doubt one of our best writers. He had to discover it, without a doubt, Jorge Herralde, the founder of Anagrama, from that debut story, going through his Herralde Award with I will not ask anyone to believe me, until arriving at this novel, so characteristic of the 21st century, because of one thing we are sure: the author writes these times and these times of the future. There is no nostalgia in his narrative, there is immediacy and a contemporary state of mind.
"The only thing that matters is the present, as the narrator of the novel says: that is our place of residence," he says. Juan Pablo Villalobos.
–There is an idea of migration but how migration is lived from within. The theme in this world is where to find where to live. Do you agree?
–There is often a lot of talk about what happens with identity when you emigrate, but I think there is something more important: the sense of belonging to a community, the way in which we make or cannot make new ties - both affective and material - in the community to which we migrate. Finding a place to live means not only feeling accepted, but finding in that community the material means to survive. AND the problem is that communities have become increasingly hostile, they have disintegrated, have become the sum of many individualities. The loss of the sense of community has to do with the economic model, with capitalism, and more particularly with neoliberalism, which has established the law of the jungle, the competitiveness of the fittest, the fittest, that fallacy of meritocracy. . The degradation of public space is the best example: public space has become a place for commercial exchanges, it has gradually lost its notion of agora, a meeting place.
–Gastón is a very rich character. A woman and a man enter it. Who was inspired by?
I have never been inspired by anyone in particular when building a character. They are rather sums, accumulations of features, and are, above all, voices. For me, a character is determined by his voice and finding his voice, "listening to him", is the most important part of the writing process. When I say "listen" to his voice I mean it literally: there comes a time when that voice takes shape inside my head, I hear it, with its rhythm, its intonation, its own vocabulary, its hesitations, its inflections. If I can't hear a character, it doesn't work, and then I try to "know" him better. Gastón embodies the goodness possible in this world, a goodness that is possible thanks to his privileges. He is a character who can be good because he has the conditions to be so. He is tender, he is understanding, he is well-thinking, he has no tone outs, but because he can afford it.
–Does the best player on Earth vomit because of Gastón's potatoes or because of the problems his father is having, with whom the narrator meets once?
He vomits because he is fragile, vulnerable, like all of us. He has anxiety attacks, he doubts his own ability, he has the burden of a masculinity model that presents reality to him as an infinite series of tests to be overcome, in which he has to demonstrate, over and over again, his manhood, his heroicity. There are traces of a verse of Fernando Pessoa
–There is no space or time, did that serve you, for what purpose?
–It's not that there aren't, it's that it doesn't matter where or when. The only thing that matters is the present, as the narrator of the novel says: that is our place of residence. During the writing of the novel I read a lot of science, especially physics books, and that changed my way of seeing reality. There are data that moved me as if it were a poem. For example, it takes eight minutes for sunlight to reach Earth. Now I can't help feeling that the ray of sunlight that gives me warmth on my face has traveled one hundred and fifty million kilometers at the speed of light. The awareness of this, of movement, of the expansion of the Universe, forever changed my way of being in the world.
–The “Tucu” represents the worst of the Buenosairean exile, although you don't gamble, you call it “Tucu”
-Let's say that it is the opposite of Gastón, precisely because his conditions are different. He cannot afford to be a good person, for him life is a permanent conflict, a series of needs that have to be met. Live daily, victim of precariousness, threatened by reality. Deep down, all the characters in the novel are afraid of something, hence it is a deeply paranoid novel. But there are different ways to react to paranoia; the worst are xenophobia, machismo, homophobia, classism, which are the themes that are at the bottom of the novel.
–Sometimes I think this is a heartbreak novel. We do not love anyone, it is very difficult for us to be friends
–It seems that the novel is asking if we are alone in the universe, as if it were a science fiction novel, although in reality what is being asked is whether we are alone on Earth. It seems that we are condemned to loneliness, because it is very difficult for the values of friendship or love to prevail in our competitive and selfish societies. It seems that communication between us is impossible, more difficult than sending and receiving signals from other planets. But I think there is hope in the novel. There is it in the relationship of Gastón and the numbing one. In the way that Gastón takes care of Pol. In the gestures that Gastón has with little Varushka.
–Is the garden the idea of a certain happiness?
–It is the garden of Naive of Voltaire! The final sentence of that book, "now you have to cultivate the garden", has accompanied me for years, I use it almost as a motivational phrase. The garden is the here and now, that present that does not care about where and when. The garden is, in short, the moment. Also a book by Gaston Bachelard has accompanied me for years and brought me out of acute existential crises: The intuition of the moment. In the garden there is only present, the requirement to attend to every moment. One cannot go ahead to reap what is not yet growing; Nor is there any use regretting what was not done before. In this sense, the novel is a plea against nostalgia, which seems to me a despicable and dangerous feeling. Nostalgic discourses, for example, are easy to exploit by far-right movements, which always long for a past time that was supposedly better.
By the way, several of the names of the characters, Gastón and Ender, among others, mean foreigner, stranger.
–Gato wants to die, but Gastón selfishly does not want him to leave. Max is leaving too, is loneliness worse than anything in life?
–All the characters, in different ways, are running away from something. I think in fact we are all running away from something all the time. We are haunted by our fears and we don't always react well. One of the first ideas I had for this novel was that of three characters — grandfather, father, and son — locked in one place because they are threatened by reality. They lock themselves in because reality is impossible to bear. This is what happens with Max, Pol and the grandfather. And they will keep running away. Running away is an attempt to postpone the present, not to accept reality. It is perpetual postponement, unhappiness. There, friendship and love are impossible.
–This novel devastated me, in the same way that it devastated me Burrow Party. Does it unite them in any way?
- Perhaps it unites them that I see them both as "philosophical fables" in the manner of Naive of Voltaire. There is also an attempt in both to explore tenderness and innocence in extreme situations, of violence and loneliness.
–The invasion of the spirit people has vertiginous actions, do you think it could be a series?
–I never think about anything beyond the novel itself, I don't keep anything or think that from there other things may emerge. I give myself completely, I empty myself. When I'm done, I'm already on something else, in the next book.