Junot Díaz: “I took out a knife and they nailed me another” | Culture



When in April 2018, Junot Díaz (Santo Domingo, 52 years old), Pulitzer Prize winner for The Short Wonderful Life of Oscar WaoHe said in an article that he had been raped at the age of eight, a tremendous stir was created. A few days later, a former student of his, Zinzi Clemmons, accused him of forcing her to kiss him on one occasion. The writer admitted to having made his confession precisely “encouraged” by the feminist movement and he lent himself, in public, to talk about the subject, and the “misogynistic” attitudes that were reproached by the writers he had come across throughout his career . He also resigned as president of the Pulitzer Prize, and agreed to be investigated. “I had just pulled out a knife and they were sticking another one in me,” he says, “but the important thing was that I had pulled out that knife, which had been killing me since I was a child.” The two investigations that were launched, the Pulitzer and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Diaz still works, concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prove the facts that Clemmons told.

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“Rehabilitation is not possible in today’s world. That is, the ferocity with which I have been accused will not be repaired because, in some way, blame is sought. There have been journalists who have reached out to me, and I know they have spoken to all parties, but they have never published anything because what they found was not what they expected. Of course, they have asked me to write again in his diary, which I suppose is his way of telling me that he was not guilty, “he says. Refers to The New York Times, where he posted in February. “But it doesn’t worry me. I like that idea of ​​border. Deep down, as an immigrant, is where you always live. You are used to not being accepted, or not being accepted at all. Joe Biden has been publicly accused of much worse, and he is President of the United States. In the end, it is a question of race, and of culture. I don’t know what impact all this will have on me as a writer, but I’m ready for anything, “he adds.

“The ferocity with which I have been accused will not be repaired because, in some way, guilt is sought,” he says after two investigations exonerated him.

Díaz is in Avilés, having a coffee. Since what happened happened, he has not used to be seen. Or maybe it is that there are no festivals that dare to invite you. The Celsius 232, the science fiction and fantasy festival that takes place these days in the Asturian town, has done it. What nerdHe admits, it feels like home. “I wrote Oscar They at a time when the culture of nerd it had not yet been discovered by capitalism. As a form of vindication. Science fiction has explained the world to me. From the beginning. But for years I lived in a kind of closet about it. I pretended I could box, like my father, but all I wanted was to play role-playing games. I’m still playing. In fact, it’s what I like to do the most. I admire those writers who can’t help but write. I have to force myself to do it ”, he confesses. The last thing he posted, This is how you lose it, it’s from 2012.

It premiered with Los boys, in 1996, an anthology of stories about the tense experiences of Dominican emigrants in the United States that are much autobiographical but not exactly what it seems. “I hide when I write. I hide in plain sight. My brothers ask me, but who are all these people? They don’t know that I speak of us through others ”, he says. In the two-room apartment where he lived with 11 people as a child, he began to withdraw from the world to observe it. The family moved to the United States when he was six years old, to live with his father, a former military man under the Trujillo dictatorship, who had a job there, but who left them shortly after arriving. “I became a writer to understand my father,” he says.

“Today we live a dystopia at different levels. The pandemic is the most obvious. But the worst is the precariousness. Vulnerability ”, he assures

He began to see him as a character who had no choice but to be like that. And his mother too. And the same with his brothers. “When I arrived in New York in 1974, I had not even seen a photograph of the United States. I was going to settle on another planet. And it was a planet that didn’t love me. I lived inside a science fiction novel. For me, the airport was the wardrobe of the classic CS Lewis, ”he says. That is, something you cross to reach a fantasy realm. The time Machine, by HG Wells “is an instruction manual for immigrants,” he also says. He likes the idea of ​​writing for the future. For someone you can’t even imagine, but who you can lend a hand to. “Tolkien couldn’t imagine anyone like me while writing, and yet he saved my life,” he says. What have you been writing for almost a decade? “A science fiction novel,” he answers. The protagonist? “A Caribbean Martian.”

But not just any one. One with superpowers. The villain, United States. Today’s, and, he says, “the same as always.” “It has always been a hidden dictatorship, that of the United States,” he says. “Today we live a dystopia at different levels. The pandemic is the most obvious. But the worst thing is the precariousness. Vulnerability. What I lived with the accusations was the second round of an attack that truly destroyed me. I don’t know where I would be without my therapist. When I expressed my opinion against the Dominican regime, I received thousands of death threats. They said they were going to dismember my family. They knew where each one lived. And no one lifted a finger. Not even my friends ”, he considers. Does that mean that no matter what awards you have, you might not post again? “Not. Although I am in another place. And it is one more free. More similar to the one I had when I started ”, he responds.

His latest book is from 2012 and, although he is preparing a novel, it is not clear if he will publish it again

“Life is short and it is super fierce. And injustice is the norm. But the facts are the facts. And I am lucky. As a university professor I am privileged. When someone says something about me, first it has to be proven that it is true. I have friends who have lost everything for signing a letter of support for the Palestinian cause. I could sign it and not lose my job, ”he insists.

He knows for a fact that there was someone on the Pulitzer committee who wanted him out. “Because I have been critical at times,” he says. “But they didn’t get it,” he adds. He has already reached page 500 of his novel about the Caribbean Martian, but it still remains, because “he will have about 800”.


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