This woman, María Dueñas (Puertollano, Ciudad Real, 57 years old), writes novels in which hatred, jealousy and lies alternate, although she also exhibits love and temperance (Temperance is one of her books), and yet she herself shows a sobriety that seems unbreakable. Difficult elements of this horrible moment emerged in the conversation, which we had via video call, and inside it seemed to break some fiber, but it was quickly rebuilt as if it had thrown away an eraser. His latest novel, Sira (Planet), it seems the frightened whisper of a spy who did not want to be a spy and that starts from that human geography born in North Africa and that was the center of her most scorching work, The time between seams. Although she wants to stay out of the turbulence of the trip that each of her novels are, she has no doubt that sometimes the latch breaks and she appears there, naturally disguised as others.
The Mystery of the Million Book Woman
Question. Are there territories of your own in your books?
Answer. It depends on what my novel asks of me. I am at her service. I make a selection of flashes of the places; for example in Sira I’m talking about what she sees in London: the post-WWII devastation, calamities, the country rebuilding …
P. It is a time of which this seems a mirror: hunger in the face of tinsel, betrayal, misery and revelry.
R. While he was writing a large part of the novel, the toughest moments of the pandemic were passing. The most dangerous caught me writing about London. What has been happening produced infinite concern, and even the moments are very difficult in all areas. It is no longer just a health crisis, but an economic one, of recomposing many things. But if the world overcame World War II and what followed, and Europe rose up with courage to put everything back together, getting out of this crisis will be easier. And we have to be up to the task. Everyone: the media, politicians, ordinary citizens. The effort required must be collective. Everything possible is never done, but the pandemic has taught us a lesson in things that can be done when there is a will.
“If the world overcame World War II and what followed, and Europe rose up with courage to put everything back together, getting out of this crisis will be easier
P. In this same book he describes a Spain of gulls and naive, of scoundrels and heartless, and it is inevitable to imagine you contemplating them. That is, knowing about them.
R. All those fauna were, and are. But they are not in the same place nor are they their direct children, but there are also decent and valid people, as there are real bastards on the loose. Bastards and bastards, there are no distinctions. In the end, it is Spain and it is the world, the history of humanity, and we are being better educated than then. Perhaps in that Spain that I reflect, behind that apparent social restraint, everything was more out of control. Now maybe we have more freedom to make everything public, but the bastard is still on the loose. It comforts me that there are worthy people in parallel.
P. Choose a famous trip, that of Evita Perón to Franco’s Spain, to bring food aid to the regime, in times of great hunger and enormous mischief …
R. That post-war rogue that came from famine was not new; if not, let’s look at the picaresque. In the eighties, in Madrid, they put their hand in the bag to which you turned. Now there is less general mischief, there is it at high levels, and you see that in the press. Something remains of the picaresque, but evolved: there is no that dark and ashen Spain. Or maybe I am very delusional and optimistic.
P. Of all those stories of history that are in Sira, Which one best represents you?
R. In the end I am not in any and I am a little in all. Not from myself as a person, but from my affections or from my interests. For example, with regard to the Spanish exiles of the Republic in London, even that portrait of an ugly and bitter Spain, which is ultimately our historical and moral heritage. And finally, what refers to Morocco, especially Tetouan, the scene of The time between seams. But I voluntarily try to take a step back and not be in the stories.
“The history of Argentina is so exciting, and so dramatic, and we cannot put ourselves aside before it
P. In his novel, Evita comes to bring us food, now Pedro Sánchez is going to Argentina to convince the world to help Evita’s heirs. With a matter like that, others would be from gathering to gathering talking about the coincidence.
R. The history of Argentina is so exciting, and so dramatic, and we cannot put ourselves aside before it. Evita was generous, loaded with furs. My relatives also came from there loaded with toys. It is, for us, a constant back and forth story. It is such a beloved and endearing country. It deserves all the help.
P. Sira it is in a way a world map of post-war misery.
R. People suffered a lot, there was nothing to put in their mouths. In Spain there was hunger, just like the one that now exists in the harshest corners of Africa. That was a time of great hopelessness, and in other places it still is. That’s why, when Evita came loaded with food at the height of our misery, everyone took to the streets. It was necessary to end the misery as it was.
P. He has had to read a lot to travel so much in one book. Where do you learn more from: what you read or what you see?
R. It depends on what for. What I learn the most is the human condition, and in that sense, I learn from what I see, more than from what books can tell me. Around us are all possible human species. In books you learn historical snippets that our gaze or memory cannot reach.
“I do not know anyone in my environment who longs for Franco, although it is evident that there are politicians and parties in that tune
P. And what do you learn by writing?
R. Sometimes writing unlocks what is inside you, because we go fast, we lose the opportunity to reflect, and everything that seems to have been saved emerges and puts your mental house in order.
P. In his novel, Franco is a hidden character behind Evita’s brilliance. His shadow still floats there among those who long for him. Do you perceive it?
R. I do not know anyone in my environment who longs for Franco, although it is evident that there are politicians and parties in that line. Perhaps those who lived well with him yearn for him, but history and the world have put him in his place. It is clear who it was, so each one, in his mental delirium or in his lucidity, that he feels authorized to think what he wants. He is buried and deeply buried.
P. His books are about ambitions and values. What would be the index of values that the society in which you live should now pass?
R. We are citizens with an ethical code at least acceptable, I no longer think about the sublime. Integrity, honesty, compassion enter that code … And, if we are enlightened citizens, we would have the complete file. What happens is that we are more aware of material things and the solid values of this society. They are not sought as the global aspiration of the group and we are truly left without a common code.