You hope that she will be like a Venezuelan from Maracaibo, exalted and happy like those from that land, which is, for those of us from there, like a carnival extension of the Canary Islands, from where so many people went to Venezuela to escape the general hunger of the Spanish postwar. And, being as Venezuelan as her book, “Volver a cuándo”, edited by Siruela and awarded with the Café Gijón last year, María Elena Morán (1985) is also a calm woman, calmed down by the voice that has crept into her words, the Brazilian voice, because she lives in Brazil, far from her country, expelled from that territory once it was impossible for her to combine her way of seeing life, and living it, with the ruins of a revolution that in the end was not.
Her novel describes that world she left behind, since her trip abroad, possessed anyway by the past of that portable country of which one of her most illustrious pen companions, Adriano González León, wrote with both melancholy and acuity. Reading this novel, on the other hand, means approaching all the accents of Latin America, from Argentina to Colombia or Peru. And in addition, it is also to approach, with respect, authors who have also marked it, such as Juan Rulfo or Juan Carlos Onetti.
– What feelings are there in this novel?
– The main feeling is disappointment. Frustration, failure. One thought that it could become something and, suddenly, everything is obscured by the context. That’s why there is also a melancholy and a feeling of the absurd, because what we believed in turned into a nightmare. It’s all very sad. But… within that, there is the search for hope as well.
– The title is already melancholy in itself, isn’t it?
– If. It is the story of those who cannot reach a geographical place and that place becomes another.
– What moments left the most impression on you in Venezuela?
– When the opposition won the National Assembly and, in parallel, a Constituent Assembly was created. For me that was the disappointment of democracy. But, well, before that there had already been a referendum to change the Constitution, in 2006, with very big changes. Chávez lost and assumed his defeat, but soon after he called another referendum solely on indefinite re-election. In other words, the power project mattered more than the country project. There was also the interest of creating a single party. And… well, if I go further back I find a lot of things like that. But in the origin it was that Chávez was a military man, a part of the left distrusted that, but in the end everything that happened happened.
What did Chavez’s death mean for Venezuela?
– Well, since he was still in power when he died, a kind of aura was created and there are those who believe that with him we would not have reached total ruin, because he was different: more of a strategist, more articulate. I think not. I’m not that optimistic. I think the myth was created before he died and it was something he was comfortable with. And that’s what it was: a myth. That’s all.
– What harm did Chávez’s despotism do to the character of Venezuela?
– We began to adopt the entire Chavista manual of conduct, or their attitudes. To be rude or rude, as he often was, was to have great personality traits. Maybe it was because that touched some fiber of resentment of the people. And with Chávez everything was a fire, an enthusiasm, a fury.
– And now?
– Now there is a widespread apathy. In the ruling party and in the opposition, on both sides. The ruling party continues with its inflamed and despotic speeches, but continues with its internal quarrels.
– In the novel he says: «His there will always be Venezuela».
– If. I am referring to the origin of the Venezuelan migrant. The place of childhood and adolescence always remains in everyone. But that benchmark no longer exists.
Have you internalized the word exile yet?
– I don’t think so. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like an exile. I left Venezuela to study cinema in Cuba. There was already a bit of a shortage and inflation was starting to be high and exchange control was getting complicated, but… I simply left because I wanted to study cinema in Cuba. And then I went to Brazil for a personal issue. Then… then I realized that it was no longer an option to return to Venezuela and I stayed in Brazil. But I don’t feel exiled, I’m just a migrant.
– Here, in the novel, there are also Venezuelan families, of different extractions. Are they representative of the Venezuela you are from?
– They represent a part of Venezuela. Maybe mine, yes. But I was interested in having the vision of others as well. Especially that of people of the Chávez generation, a generation that was very touched by the promise of the Revolution, of the realization of what they had dreamed of. And then I said: how will their relationship with failure be? That really interested me.
– Pilar Quintana, the Colombian novelist, speaks on the flap of this book about the power of her writing. What authors have marked you to have that power?
– Well, Juan Rulfo, who for me is a before and after in the powerful way of mixing living and dead and levels of reality. Also Gabriel García Márquez and Julio Cortázar. Well, I’m saying very canonical references, lol. But… there are also Latin American authors who have inspired me a little to make this book: Pilar Quintana, Valeria Luiselli, Ariana Harwicz, Monica Ojeda… Ah!, and Toni Morrison.
– And what is your personal or intimate relationship with literature?
– I think I have a kind of angry tension with the text. I feel the constant need to translate what’s going on in my characters’ heads. I learned that from Pilar Quintana, precisely. There is fury and catharsis in this book, a raw, simple language. I’m working on another book now and I think I’m still in that style.
– There is a phrase that reminds me a lot of Rulfo: «That foreign homeland that is death».
– Yes, it’s just that death is the most foreign territory possible or the most radical exile. The character of Graciela has a very clear image about the ruin. In fact, she is the one who has the most nostalgic look for her dead.
Was the Chavez Revolution really a waste of time?
– Well, seeing the results, yes. We had the traditional crises of Latin America, but then everything was very serious. While things are a dream, you move to achieve it. The moment dreams kill you, they kill you. And in Venezuela our dreams were killed.