Author interview: The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zerán

Silvia Rothlisberger

The Remainder is Alia Trabucco Zerán’s first novel and nominated for the Man Booker International Prize 2019, it places Trabucco alongside writers Hang Kang, Philip Roth and Alice Munro.

“I had part of the story with me since my early twenties and only felt I was able to write the voices when I was 27 or 28,” Trabucco tells me, sitting across the table in a café in London’s Bloomsbury. The project had to mature inside her before she was able to express it the way she wanted. “When I started writing this novel, I started crafting the voice of Iquela, the woman protagonist, which came naturally to me,” she explains. “Then the more I wrote that voice the more I needed a second voice. Something that would break the linear narrative and so I started trying out Felipe’s voice over and over until all of a sudden I had it. The moment I had it, I had the novel. And then it came really easily it was kind of writing a rhythm.”

Sophie Hughes superbly translates the rhythm and lyricism of The Remainder into English. During the translation process writer and translator would meet and read The Remainder to each other. “I would read out loud how I felt the rhythm of the characters’ voices were like. Sophie not only translated the book, she also translated the rhythm of the book,” Trabucco marvels.

Set in Chile, The Remainder is the story of Iquela, Felipe and Paloma whose parents were anti-Pinochet militants and pay the consequences as political prisoners, in exile, and worse: killed by the regime. These consequences run in the veins of the next generation, an obstacle they find difficult to move on from. Having been born in 1983 (Pinochet’s dictatorship ended in 1990) Trabucco says, “there is this question of how my generation deals with the pain and violence of my country’s past. How knowing that people were tortured, disappeared or forced to leave the country, impacts you and your imagination.”

In the novel Iquela and Felipe live with their parents’ past. “Iquela is more introverted. She is trapped by her mother’s memories,” Trabucco explains. “Felipe is a very damaged person. He has a lot of pain and he deals with this pain through a very violent imaginary,” she continues. “Paloma is the outsider who breaks the fragile balance between Iquela and Felipe.”

Iquela and Felipe are the narrators; the chapters alternate between the two. Instead of numbers Iquela’s chapters are marked by empty parentheses. “The empty parentheses are her search for her own words. She inherited her mother’s words but deep down she wants her own voice,” Trabucco says. Felipe’s chapters are numbered starting at eleven and counting down to zero. It is a reflection of “Felipe’s numerical obsession of subtracting dead bodies that he imagines on every corner of the city to match the number of dead with the number of graves in Chile.”

After Paloma’s mother dies in exile in Germany, Paloma decides to repatriate her mother and bury her in Chile. A rain of ashes falls over Santiago de Chile and the airplane carrying the dead body is redirected to Argentina. The three main characters rent a hearse and drive to Argentina. “Doing a road trip to find a body is their own story. It is about reclaiming a future,” Trabucco explains.

The three characters have sexual encounters with same sex partners. When I ask about this she replies: “I’m glad you mention the queerness of the characters because that is something that is not very commented on in Chile, especially because it’s something that is still taboo. The three characters have a queer relationship with their bodies and with the others because it gave them the desire to transgress and for me that made them a lot more complex and different than their parents’ generation.”

Chile’s history also had an impact on Alia Trabucco Zerán as she studied law because of her country’s past “I wanted to be a human rights lawyer, and I decided this very early own, and that decision, if you can call it a decision —I was seven or eight years old— was deeply influenced by the context,” she says. “I remember watching TV when I was seven and the news would be images of bodies and bodies that they would find,” she reflects. “So I had a fantasy of becoming a human rights lawyer who would make justice.” But after two years in law school she realised it wasn’t meant for her. Parallel to her studies she attended literary workshops and run a literary magazine. After graduating as a lawyer she moved to New York and studied a Masters in creative writing at NYU. “I was like ‘this is it. This [law] is not what I want’. I just wanted to submerge myself in language and in writing,” she adds.

Trabucco then moved to London to do a PhD at University College London, to “research real women who committed violent crimes throughout the 20th century and how society and how culture portrays their crimes.” This research became Las Homicidas, her latest book in Spanish which she was due to launch in Chile after this interview. “The core of the book is ideas, about what happened with society when women break not only criminal law by committing these crimes but the laws of gender and femininity,” she says.

 

*Alia Trabucco Zerán will be at Rich Mix London on the 15th of May at 7pm talking about her writing with Literary South as part of FLAWA Festival

https://richmix.org.uk/events/flawa-presents-authors-qa-alia-trabucco-zeran-and-yara-rodrigues-fowler/?fbclid=IwAR0hMkDPCKGI6RCE-cAuHWC-b9F1RGX5dO7ZrZYA1FurH2xa4fYXZs4I3Bk

#32 Author Fernando Sdrigotti + music from Gabriel Moreno & The Quivering Poets

Sound engineer: Oscar Perez

September’s book is Dysfunctional Males by Argentinian author Fernando Sdrigotti who answered questions from readers and from an invited audience in London’s Calder Bookshop and Theatre.

Fernando Sdrigotti is from Argentina and has been living in London since the early noughties. Fernando is editor of the online magazine Minor Literature[s].  Dysfunctional Males is his third published book but the first one he wrote directly in English. In this interview he talks about switching languages,  exploring London as a writer, what is expected of Latin American writers and how he is crossing that barrier by not falling to those expectations.

About Dysfunctional Males:

Dysfunctional Males is a book of five short stories, all set in London, with a strong urban element, that deal with masculinity, loneliness, friendship, alienation, addictions; through the misadventures of its characters.

Gabriel Moreno & The Quivering Poets is a folk group lead by poet & singer-songwriter Gabriel Moreno. They are launching their new album Farewell Belief in October. In this episode there is a song from this album called Joselin, and two songs from Gabriel Moreno’s previews album Love and Decadence: No one can reach us here and We are what we are.

album launch gabriel moreno & the quivering poets

 

Mentioned in this episode:

Photos from the event with Sdrigotti

We interviewed Fernando Sdrigotti on Saturday 23 September at Calder Bookshop & theatre.

 

Poet & singer-songwriter Gabriel Moreno was featured on episode #4…

Joselin

News: Literary South is now a radio show on Resonance 104.4 FM

So exciting to share this!

After 18 months of running as a podcast, we are happy to announce that from September Literary South is a radio show on Resonance 104.4, a radio station I’ve followed and listened to for years. As a podcast there is freedom with how long the episodes are or how frequently you publish them. Yet, to really fulfil our aim of connecting readers from Latin America and Spain with English-speaking readers I believe that being on Resonance 104.4 is going to increase our audience and get more people interested in literature from the region.

Our show is going to be on Resonance 104.4 every fourth Wednesday of the month (repeated the next Thursday) and one hour long.

We have many ideas for future episodes, authors, books that we want to share with you… our listener. So, thank you Resonance 104.4, for celebrating diversity and creativity in your programming.

And by all means, keep listening!

Silvia Rothlisberger

Episode 27: Bookshop stories

 

On episode 27 we decided to do a small homage to bookshops by sharing three bookshop stories:

The first one is a small bookshop and theatre in London called Calder Bookshop & Theatre.

The second one comes from a Cuban musician who discovered a book by Julio Cortazar, in a bookshop in Santiago de Compostela, that would led her to a very ambitious musical project.

The third one is from Spanish author & singer-songwriter Isabel Ros-Lopez who we interviewed on episode 19. Isabel talks about Pepe Negrete’s bookshop during the years of Franco’s dictatorship.

Mentioned in this episode:

Calder Bookshop & Theatre:

Jamila Purofilin

Jamila Purofilin website

Poet and Singer-songwriter Isabel Ros-Lopez

Pepenegrete Bookshop in Malaga

Episode 26: Artist, poet & fiction writer Daniella Valz Gen

Daniella Vals Gen is an artist, poet and fiction writer from Lima, Peru. On this episode Vals Gen shares some of her poetry and talks about her different projects. Including a reading group, and two books she is working on.

Mentioned in this episode:

Daniella Vals Gen website

Poets

Cesar Vallejo

Martin Adan

Jose Maria Eguren

 

Book: Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds

 

 

Sound engineer: Oscar Pérez

Music: Raíz by Bomba Stereo downloaded from the Free Music Archive under a Creative Commons license.

 

 

Episode 9: Chilean author & poet Consuelo Rivera-Fuentes

Consuelo Rivera-Fuentes  talks about her different literary projects and how Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda inspired her to write from a very young age; and she shares three beautiful poems. 

“Sometimes I feel as if I have a volcano of words and they need to just come out; and some of them can burn people or can burn myself but I feel whatever it is inside me… I want to express it in writing.”

Episode 8: Author & poet Isabel del Río

AuthorIsabel del Río talks about her recent poetry book The Moon at the end of my street, the process of writing, and shares some of her poetry.

“I don’t normally look for inspiration. I’m a great believer in sitting and writing. Some famous writer said ‘the cloth of your trousers should be stuck to the cloth of the chair’ so that means that you sit there and you write.”

Bonus episode:

Author Isabel del Rio shares the short story Countdown from her book Zero Negative

Photo by Brayan López Garzón.