Still with the hangover of Sant Jordi’s day, the wanderings of people, roses and books, I bring you a literary interview. Last Saturday (same Sant Jordi’s day!) Guerau X. Casol, 31, premiered his third novel: Magna Catalonia. And what a name: Guerau! (Perhaps it is rare that I say so, since I am called myself Guiomar, hehe), but it is one of those medieval names from Germanic root (it evolved to the more common Gerardo) with such a literary meaning as “brave lancer”. One of these coincidences that make you end up writing novels, or not.
Let’s get started!
Guerau X. Casol B, a young man born in Barcelona, decides one day to start writing. Why? What motivates you to write? Or it was a dream from your childhood or maybe a familiar tradition?
I have written all my life, but it was when I became 20 that I started writing more seriously, especially short stories that because of their size and complication were much more achievable to me. I wrote for the literary website http://www.relatsencatala.com and also chips on risk situations associated with drug use. These were supported by the Youth Observatory of New Drug, which was active at the end of the last decade and performed reports for the government.
My greatest idols are writers; such as Pedrolo, Asimov, Welsh, Scott Card, etc.
One of my main motivations at the time of writing is to reflect the use of colloquial language and less normative Catalan (this does not mean I support the so called light Catalan or the use of barbarisms), but I think this is also a way to talk of my time and its intricacies.
You often write about the city of Barcelona, but always? Your novel Anti-social Barcelona is one of these examples, it was a collection of stories portraying a Barcelona with low funds, very close to the crime novel, a genre that is already very traditional in the city. Is there any reference that brought you to this genre?
More than a thriller Anti-social Barcelona is a compilation of the most acidic and pimp stories I have written, they are stories with a slope of denunciation of the Barcelona city brand and the imposture that it has generated within the people of Barcelona and the Catalan society in general. I like the crime novels by Pedrolo but also mythical works such as Flanagan by Andreu Martín or the satires by Eduardo Mendoza. In general all the work by Welsh. It is said that Bukowsky has many similarities to him but honestly I have not read virtually anything by him.
Your third novel, Magna Catalonia, was released last Sant Jordi’s day. Tell us a little bit of it. Will we find a thriller or a totally different novel when comparing with Anti-social?
Magna Catalonia is my first novel and second book (third e-book if the short stories of Extrim: Nova Frontera are taken into account)
Ok let us leave it as the third published story
It is a novel that tells a story of corruption through the back roads of our Catalan land, moreover, it is the chronicle of a decaying character: Carlos Segura. You will find everything but especially persecutions, shenanigans, police, mobsters, some known politicians and intrigue seasoned with a bit of humour, which is in fact really needed. So I guess the novel can be classified as a thriller, with some acidity, like good beers.
Your novels are also distributed as e-book, right? Is that because of the opportunities that the online market offers or for some conviction of modernity? or both?
Based on the experience I have in the sector, I think they are two very different markets, anyway I want my books to reach all readers and therefore I do not close any door. I’m more for the traditional printed book and I vindicate its character of object of worship.
A novel that has left you a mark
Surely Trainspotting, although the film is very good, the book is better (as always). I like Welsh and his treatment of the recent history of Scotland and sense (sometimes a bit macabre) of reality.
Professionally, do you combine the task of writing with another job? How does this affect your literary life (to find enough time to read, meditate, create …)? You used Verkami for this last novel, how did you find the experience? How do you see the literary and cultural world in general in our country?
I sincerely believe that there is little cultural and literary consumption, which is always concentrated for Sant Jordi’s day and significant dates. I think we should make people realise that books are not free, they involve many hours of work and they are entertainment (and culture) very necessary to have a self-critical healthy society. Overall, for the part I am involved in, I think we need more acidic and pimp novel made, conceived and written in Catalan.
Obviously I do not live from literature (although it is clear I would like to) I work in an antiquarian bookshop in central Barcelona, but I have also worked as an archaeologist and as responsible of a museum, always in the cultural sector, which I see quite fucked because of the issue of consumption but also by a lack of support from the administration (very high VAT (21%) and few subsidies). It would be good that municipalities and local agencies started to push themselves to promote new authors. If we want quality in literature we can not only talk about the novel of the media author or journalist, I have no doubt that some of them really write good books, but in general it is not their field and this fact is quite noticeable if you are an experienced reader. I am not a supporter of cultural state paternalism but I think there are still many things to do in this field.
Regarding Verkami, is a good way to find funding but to me it’s an exhausted model, it involves more hours to manage your presence in social networks and the media than to write and edit the novel itself. I recommend to all young / novice authors that first try self-publishing, this is the best way to be satisfied with what they do and have control over their work, but it is not an easy job (they should start being ready to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
Many thanks, Guerau for giving us a little of your time for this interview!
You can find more info in his website: http://guerauxc.wix.com/guerauxcasol
Incívica Barcelona (Anti-social Barcelona)
Extrim: Nova Frontera.