“Art is the only thing we have against oblivion” | Culture


Javier Santiso, in January 2020.
Javier Santiso, in January 2020.Eliana Santiso

Writing of Javier Santiso it is rooted in a need, a collision and an obsession. Son of Galician emigrants in France, Santiso (Saint Germain en Laye, Paris, 51 years old) lived his first days in what was the home of the author Michel Tournier, where his mother worked. An omen, perhaps. Begun in writing before the age of 20 “out of vital necessity”, everything changed when he moved to Spain in the early 2000s. “I discovered that Spanish, a much more abrupt language, of cliffs, of ravines, of uneven geography, it allows a position of violence in the image, in the verb, that French does not offer you. And I started writing in Spanish ”, he comments on the phone on a cold and rainy morning in Madrid. About 15 years after that happy collision with a language that has always been that of his family, Santiso has just published Live with the heart (La Huerta Grande), a story built from the tiny lives that surrounded Vincent Van Gogh.

The fascination for some contemporary French stylists ―Annie Ernaux, the Pascal Quignard of A day of happiness and, above all, Pierre Michon— soon sneaks into the conversation and finds himself in a book that starts from a risky bet: to tell eight stories in eight chapters, each of a single sentence. “The book emerges like a flood, out of control in the magical summer of 2019, after reading the verbal opera that Michon unfolds in Rimbaud the son and that left me unsettled ”, he tells of a process that was interrupted by another, that of the writing of the novel that pays tribute to his grandmother, the woman who raised him.

Spanish, a much more abrupt language, of a cliff, of a ravine, allows a position of violence in the image, in the verb, that French does not offer you

Live with the heart he is haunted by a desire to stay, an obsession of the author and of a Van Gogh who, in desperation, frantically increases his production in the final stretch of his life, when he painted 80 paintings in 60 days. “Art is the only thing we have against forgetting. But it is a very fragile attempt, there are many more forgotten than remembered and in the case of Van Gogh that we remember him is almost accidental, thanks in large part to Johanna, the wife of his brother Theo. Writing is only love (for the language and for the people) and time, which is oblivion, ”he says in a Spanish with subtle traits from other lives.

The Dutch painter was portrayed almost 30 times; I was looking for something, a hunt that didn’t quite work. “Rembrandt puts himself on the scene, he shows himself as he is. Van Gogh, on the other hand, has that look that nails on the canvas, that he is looking for something, another Vincent who could have been and has not been ”, he affirms, giving way to another of his great themes: is the life we ​​live the one we want? ? “Very few people make a living from literature, unfortunately. Everyone has to invent some kind of activity. Pessoa, for example, was an accountant. Some need to run, I need this ”, he replies when asked about the tensions between his cultural activity (also as founder of the publishing house La Cama Sol) and his occupations as an economist (former director general of the OECD), professor, fund manager (Mundi Ventures) and now also a director of PRISA, editor of EL PAÍS.

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Documentation work has not been able to fill all the gaps and that is where fiction grows. Santiso did not want to write about the severed ear, but he found a thesis in Canada, later made news around the world, that identified the woman to whom he took the piece of meat after the amputation and decided to imagine their love story . There is also “an infinite love between Theo and Vincent” and an emotional friendship with the postman Joseph Roulin. “It’s another tiny life. They are antagonistic worlds, but perhaps Roulin understood Vicent better than any gallery owner ”, he assures.

Santiso, who entered literature through poetry and arrived at the narrative “in search of more linear breadth”, has published several collections of poems and the short story A sun of dark pulp (Franz Editions). Seven more novels and other works await in the trunk. “You have to write with your stomach,” he says, paraphrasing Georges Bataille, about the possibilities of these projects. For the moment, whether they are published or not, he has them safely, as a legacy for his daughter, as a way to save himself from oblivion.


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