As I promised to my fellow writer and friend, Sandra Carey Cody, here is the translation into English of my interview published in El Progreso, my hometown newspaper.
Have questions? Please ask.
Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer is the most romantic of the Spanish writers, maybe the only one among them who was a real romantic.
Bécquer was a dreamer who lived two lives, his everyday life and the one he imagined peopled with beautiful faeries and doomed lovers.
His real life was rather sad. He lost both parents when he was a child, he acquired a chronic illness in his youth, he was rejected by his great love and all his life, he fought and failed to be recognized as a poet.
The only existing manuscript containing the poems he had written throughout his life was lost in 1868 during the Revolution that overthrew Queen Isabel II, and although he rewrote the poems from memory, the collection was only published after his death.
In all the biographies I read about Bécquer, he was portrayed as gentle and simple, honest and brave. He seemed the kind of person I would have very much liked to meet. That’s why I chose him as the protagonist of my novel.
Apart from the work of the eternal poet and writer, what was the inspiration for your novel Immortal Love?
The answer that first come to my mind is Lorca because Federico García Lorca is another character in my story. Why did I choose him? Because his death was a tragedy I would have liked to prevent not only because he was a most remarkable human being but also because he was killed when he was at the height of his creativity.
Lorca, for what I could gather from his biographies and the testimonies of those who met him, was a happy, enthusiastic person, full of life who was always the center of attention. Who wouldn’t have wanted to meet him?
The inspiration for the setting in Immortal Love was Bucks County, PA where I live.
In Spanish, the title of your book is Bécquer Eternal, would you like Bécquer to be immortal?
Absolutely. And I am not the only one.
When this past June, I visited in Sevilla the Exhibit about Bécquer, Bécquer tan cerca… A través del arte (http://youtu.be/73wEJDhKONo), I met Pilar Alcalá (the literary director of the exhibit) and some of the talented artists whose works were in the exhibit. I am certain all of them share my wish that the immortal Bécquer I created in my novel were real.
Was it easy for you to combine these two so different times, the time of the nineteenth century author and the present?
Immortal Love takes place in our time. Although to create the character of Bécquer I also had to imagine his past. Thus, I do have in my mind his whole story and know how he became an immortal. I included only a small part of this story in Immortal love. I hope one day I have the time to write down his complete story.
Bécquer died on December 22, and on the same day there was a solar eclipse, do you believe in coincidences?
Even more interesting is the fact that Bécquer died in Madrid and the solar eclipse was in Sevilla, the city where he was born. As for your question, no, I don’t believe in coincidences. I don’t believe in witches either, but they exist regardless.
Bécquer was a romantic, and you?
Totally. Like Bécquer, I live in two worlds, the everyday world and the one I create in my stories. Without this second life that takes place in my mind, I would find it very hard to live.
You were born in Lugo, how did you end up in the United States?
My ex-husband was from the States. I met him in California during my postdoctoral stay there. Although we lived in Spain for a while and considered staying for good we returned to the States after three years. My marriage ended in divorce, but we had two children by then and that forced me to remain in the States.
What do you most miss from Galicia?
My family, my friends, the food, the land, the language, even the rain. Everything, I guess. This longing that is an intrinsic characteristic in all of us born in Galicia and that Rosalía de Castro described so well in her poems and Gonzalo Torrente Ballester in his novels, is always with me.
Maybe it’s for this reason that my YA story, Two Moon Princess, takes place in a medieval world whose geography, and even names, I took directly from Galicia.
You were in Lugo this past June, are are you going to spend your summer vacation?
My stay in Spain was my summer vacation. I first went to Sevilla to see the Exhibit about Bécquer (Bécquer tan cerca… A través del arte) and then I visited family and friends in Vigo and Lugo.
Which books do you recommend this summer?
Rhymes and Legends by Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer and Poet in New York by Federico García Lorca.
I believe everybody who went to school in a Spanish speaking country remembers Bécquer’s Rhymes and Legends for they were obligatory reading. But, at least in my case, a reading from an adult perspective, unveiled a magnificence in his use of words and a deeper meaning I had missed then.
Bécquer was also a good painter. Even as a writer, he uses words as a painter would ink and colors, leaving, with his descriptions a most complete picture in our minds.
Here is an example. A description of the Madrid he knew when, without money or support from family, he arrived in the Spanish capital looking for fortune. He does not only paint a picture in our minds with his words, but transmits a feeling of profound despair as well.
“Madrid wrapped in a light mist, through whose broken shreds chimneys, attics, bell towers and the naked branches of the trees raise their dark crests. Madrid dirty, black, ugly like a gaunt skeleton shivering under an immense shroud of snow.” G.A. Bécquer. Review of the La Soledad by Augusto Ferrán, El Contemporáneo, Madrid January 20, 1861.
As for the book Poet in New York, I only want to mention that Lorca wrote it after witnessing the collapse of the stock market, during his stay in New York in 1929. His reaction at seeing the consequences of the extreme greed of a capitalistic society at his worse could not be more current.
This book also include the poem Take this Waltz, that Leonard Cohen translated into English and sang as a beautiful ballad. (http://goo.gl/dcpGj)
To finish our interview, could you tell us about the best summer of your life?
As the inveterate romantic that I am, I believe the best summer of my life is still to come.