Jacobo Bergareche is the Spanish representative for the European Union Prize for Literature and was also awarded a special mention. For the uninitiated, the prize is an annual initiative recognising the best emerging fiction writers in Europe and has the aim to put the spotlight on the creativity and diverse wealth of Europe’s contemporary literature in the field of fiction, promote the circulation of literature within Europe and encourage greater interest in non-national literary works. Thanks to the collaboration between Inizjamed and Creative Europe Desk – Malta, Bergareche will be one of the invited authors at the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival to be held at Fort St Elmo on the 26th and 27th August.
When looking at the EUPL website, it is easy to pinpoint Bergareche. Besides the special mention tag on his photo, he is wearing the fanciest shirt, a creamy white with an assortment of colourful beetles lined up next to each other. A look at his bio-note reveals he is born in London, lives in Madrid, and has lived in Texas in the United States for a few years. I wonder if he ever feels between languages like most of us do, but he tells me that while he has lived and studied several years in the UK and in the USA, has written a couple of plays in English and some poems too, English is certainly not a language he feels very comfortable using, and does not consider himself as bilingual. It is the Spanish language, the tool he uses to write and think with.
As I delve in his award-winning Los días perfectos and previously published Estaciones de regreso, I cannot help but feel a fascination with small things in his writing. In the latter, which is a memoir, he narrates how while his parents call him to give him the horrible news of the murder of his brother, his eyes are fixated on a small deer eating acorns under a tree. In the former, the narrator declares that “the realest and most recurrent moments of happiness” are the pillow fights with his daughter. As happens in “Perfect Day” by Lou Reed, perfection is tranquillity, without visits to the Taj Mahal of Michelin three-star restaurants. He believes that it is because literature and specifically poetry, can help us look to all the common things we have in front of us every day, all things and people within our reach, with a renewed sense of wonder. He feels it as his mission, to help readers “see a World in a Grain of Sand. / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower. / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand. / And Eternity in an hour.”
Notwithstanding the defamiliarization that literature offers to make us feel more alive, the writing of an award-winning novel, currently in its sixth edition, he tells me that it still does not pay the bills. It is screenwriting which does, even though it can be trite, obvious and repetitive, with a lot of moral constraints to keep within the limits of a very subtle politically correct standard.
Los días perfectos was born in Austin, while the author was investigating letters by authors such as Faulkner and infidelity rose to the fore. I ask Jacobo how we have gone through so many changes, but the couple is still the norm and relatively unchallenged. He hesitates at first, and then tell me that while monogamy makes most people unhappy, all the alternatives seem to equally bring a lot of frustration, and eventually a lot of solitude. He guesses that monogamy is not such a good solution while we are sexually active and need to deal with ghosts of sexual desires is our head, but once we reach a certain age in which sex is not such a foremost need, monogamy and commitment are quite reassuring.
Finally, I ask him what coming to the Mediterranean means to him? This time he is decisive. He answers that it means everything that makes life worth living as he can’t live too long in a place without olive trees, lemon blossoms and Roman Ruins. I guess we have to be discriminate in the roads we advise him to pass from.
This article originally appeared on Newsbook: https://newsbook.com.mt/en/perfection-does-not-pay-the-bills/
Jacobo Bergareche is one of the invited authors at the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival to be held at Fort St Elmo on Friday, 26th and Saturday, 27th August. Tickets can be bought here.