“I was born one day / that God was sick”, is more than a verse of Cesar Vallejois the legend of one of the tattoos of Emiliano Monge (1978). “I would subscribe to almost anything Vallejo said. I read it and I feel something completely alive and inside me ”he adds.
Monge was a sickly child to the point that today he is not afraid of hospitals. Over time he has learned to deal with illness, violence and death, all current issues just before the end (Random House Literature), his new novel and where he plays his mother as the protagonist. Yes with his previous work not tell everything, tried to decipher something of his father’s history, now through fiction he deepens even more intimate and personal issues.
In just before the end the disease is there all the time.
Sickness and health. I usually say that writers’ explanations of their books are false. They try to explain something that was not meant to be explained. The novel was built at the center of a series of oppositions: health and illness; madness and sanity; light and darkness; love and violence; care, neglect and overcare. All of this frames the life of the protagonist and of the other fundamental protagonist of the book, which is the world, seen through an almanac of the absurd or the madness that has led us to be in just before the end.
In not tell everythingthe book about your father, there was a vocation to explain things to yourself, was it different now?
In not tell everything yes there was a manifest will to understand and therefore to explain things to me. Now I don’t start from that search because the story was very clear. There was more than a desire to illuminate it, to make it clear. In not tell everything I delimited the territories of non-fiction and fiction. Now, the autobiographical is the foundation and the black work, the finishes and the uncontrolled garden are fiction. Somehow I know that I am more the result of the story of just before the endwhat of not tell everything. I am interested in recognizing the life of a woman who is born in abandonment and in a fucked up, sexist, crazy, violent world; that she manages to build her own world and emerge from that chaos, not only for herself but to offer it to many more people. That is why the narrator is only and exclusively a filter. I am very interested that books have tension between form and substance, that architecture says as much as history says and in this book that structure that seems so linear, ceases to be thanks to that narrator who pulls from the past and tells in the future. ; it is the manifestation of the dialogue between imagination and memory. Literature is that porous border of communicating vessels between memory and imagination.
How did you approach the narrative voice?
A book, novel or story, takes shape until I start writing. just before the end It started when I found the narrator in the second person. yes in not tell everything there were three characters, here I just wanted a central one. He wanted the narrator to be almost intangible.
What did mirroring the historical development of the novel with the life of the protagonist give you?
Madness, illness, caring for others, love, are somehow central themes in the novel. I was interested in treating them from the smallest thing that is the intimacy of a life to history with a capital letter. It is an almanac of the absurd, of madness, plus the idea of the mirror adds tension. The events illuminate something of the character of the protagonist and vice versa, the memories, the character and life of the protagonist, illuminate the character of what is happening in the world. The life of each one is the life of all and the life of all is the life of each one.
How to treat your parents as characters? Does it bring you closer or distance you from them?
There is a point in the writing where they stop being my relatives and become relatives of the narrator. I put a huge distance; well to well I don’t know how it works. Once that distance is over, it suddenly dissolves and I think “what the hell do you care if it’s my mom”, it’s kind of sociopathic.
Does that distance protect you? The final part is emotional, but painful.
Protect the novel, fiction more than me. It allows fiction to get to where it has to go, it doesn’t protect me because the pain won’t be more or less for what I write. The pains or the things that I have felt in life are there, I don’t need to write them down to relive or remember them. While I’m writing, I’m not looking to protect myself, I’m looking for the novel to be what it has to be.
What is the limit of intimacy that you establish in relation to your mother?
As far as the novel needs. The reader may have a completely different opinion, but I know that there is an infinite love and I know that these people will recognize it. I’m not looking for anyone to misstep, as my mother used to say “this is the life we had”, this was it, there is no reason to deny or hide. On the other hand, there is a lot of fiction, but not to pretext or hide, but to make the novel work better. There is no quest for redemption, but rather to complete, to show all sides of the prism.
With your dad you are more implacable.
What is more unforgiving, violence or love? They are different implacability, it can be more painful for the father not tell everything, but for the mother it is just as implacable, if only in another sense. Obviously nobody likes to be told about their life, especially when they don’t ask. I did not seek to be harsher with one than with another, I told what had to be told, but it is what it was.
The first sentence of the book says: No beginning is easy…
That sentence was the last I wrote. It never happened to me. I was already reading the proofs before sending to the press and suddenly the phrase appeared to me. It’s funny that it came last because it says a lot about how difficult the writing was. It is easy to think that autobiographical books hurt, teach or affect more, it is not my case. When you have grown up in societies like ours, so full of machismo, wounds, decomposition and destruction of a healthy masculinity, it is very difficult to talk about feelings. The easiest thing is to touch these issues through the sieve of rationalization and thought. I have a hard time pronouncing the word love when I talk about this book, even though it is a very loving book. That phrase just refers to the fact that it is very difficult to start writing and talking about this.
What did you review or rethink about your own masculinity?
I wrote not tell everything looking to find those answers of my own masculinity and I did not find them. Now with just before the endWhen talking about the feminine world, about the mother, maternity, I was able to understand a little more. Talking about feelings should be as normal as talking about ideas. In the novel, the moment in which the protagonist, the mother, puts physical distance from her children is very clear. That sexualization has left me thinking and trying to understand many things.
Does poetic ambition help to name in another way what is difficult to say?
I am very interested in the lyric of the narration. In the end my struggle is with language more than with history. I think and feel better when I write than when I speak, and that was essential for this book.
What was the most painful part?
Above all, the final part, that of the disease.
Sickness, death, you were a sick boy.
People normally hate hospitals, when I’m in one I feel super safe and happy. When I travel, the first thing I locate are pharmacies, it is a distortion, a territory that I know. The same thing happens to me in literature, illness is a territory that I know and that I know how to explore. I also like to explore violence, even if it’s painful and fucked up.
I travel with a battery of medicines.
What does your family tell you about just before the end?
The reactions are very different because they are also two very different families. It is too early to know what this book will generate and the truth is that I am not very attentive this time to what happens.