The crime novel often lies on the couch. Burdened, perhaps, by those who since the time of Arthur Conan Doyle consider it second-rate literature, the genre often wonders about its meaning and its future. The list of finalists for the Dashiell Hammett Prize of the 34th edition of the Black Week of Gijón leaves behind any complex and exhibits literary vitality and the will to transgress borders. EL PAÍS brings together Claudia Piñeiro, Elia Barceló, Lorenzo Silva and Alberto Gil (the fifth in line, Marta Sanz, spoke by phone with this newspaper on Wednesday from Santander) hours before the award’s ruling is known to discuss the future of the novel at its oldest festival. The conversation takes place near the festival’s central tent, where debates and presentations take place, in a grocery store where the smell of frying at noon survives, sheltered from an untimely sun.
Is the crime novel committing suicide?
The conversation begins with statements such as “genders are not going anywhere”, “they pin my corsets” or “I’m not particularly concerned about purity” are not, perhaps, the best statements to start a conversation about the meaning of a gender literary, but they constitute only a test of the capacity of criminal fiction to tear down the last frontiers and reach anywhere without denaturing itself. Claudia Piñeiro (Buenos Aires, 61 years old, finalist with Cathedrals, edited by Alfaguara) recalls Jorge Luis Borges, fan and student of the police, to provide a key that leaves everything in the hands of the reader: “Edgar Allan Poe did not create the genre but rather the genre reader, who is the one who validates it with its reading and the one that will make it last, not the writers ”. Marta Sanz (Madrid, 53 years old, finalist for little red women, in Anagrama), intercedes in the distance, almost as if he were present: “The crime novel becomes generically mestizo because that is the only way to preserve its testimonial and political punch. With that black novel label not always identical to itself, not routinized or bestsellerizada nor turned into a lullaby or lullaby, a crime novel that respects readers and readers, I feel very comfortable “.
The crime novel becomes generically mestizo because that is the only way to preserve its testimonial and political punch.
Two great vectors run through the five finalist novels, different on the other hand in almost everything else: the weight of memory and its social character. “Except in some strange place, memory is a conflictive terrain and one that we tend to manage in the most comfortable way possible, each one as he wants, selectively,” says Lorenzo Silva (Madrid, 55 years old), who concurs with The evil of Corcira (Planet), twelfth installment of the couple of civil guards Bevilacqua and Chamorro, who are investigating a crime related to the past and the environment of ETA. “The challenge is not to look for a comfortable memory, that appeases, that is a shortcut,” he concludes. “Well, wait seated”, asks Elia Barceló (Elda, 64 years old, finalist with The silver night, in Rocaeditorial). “Memory is full of great physical and informational graves,” adds Alberto Gil (Madrid, 69 years old, who competes with The packs, also in Rocaeditorial). “It is inescapable. Whether it is appropriate or not, I do not know, but how to tell something in Argentina without memory. If it you do, it’s another novel, ”concludes Piñeiro, whose characters reveal how and why a young adolescent girl was murdered, burned and dismembered 30 years ago, a crime that forever destroyed the main family.
In a country where many things have been done to promote reading that have not worked, I have the feeling that festivals do.
In all of them, memory is narration and search for a non-ontological truth. “It is not about working with a theological or fanatic concept of truth, but with the truth as aspiration, as an attempt to say, as an inquiry into the versions, as plurality, as confidence in utopia and as cognitive optimism. As an antibiotic in the face of post-truth, ”explains Sanz, who ends with little red women a trilogy started with Black, black, black and that it has stretched any gender barrier to the limit.
The social character is also inescapable, at least in the crime novel furthest from the spectacle and the thriller, which these five authors cultivate with care. An interesting debate arises here, which amalgamates literature and reality and leads them to underline the need for a context that explains. Horace McCoy and his Don’t horses kill?, Francisco García Pavón with the stories of Plinio and even Agatha Christie lose their social intention if the conditions in which they were written are unknown, all four coincide. “You have to know those keys and they have to be reflected,” Gil sums up.
The woman, at last
But if there has been an essential transformation in crime fiction in recent years, it has been in the inclusion of women in all areas. There are more writers, or they are recognized more and female characters have gone out of the stereotype. It should not be forgotten that only two women have won Black Week in 33 years (Cristina Fallarás in 2012 and Berna González Harbor last year), although this year three finalists out of five are women. And here the debate is tense, but not much. Silva affirms that there is a social transformation that has led to women where there were none before and, therefore, it was difficult for them to come out in realistic plots and cites the incorporation of women into the Civil Guard as an example. Piñeiro stirred: “They could have been, but they weren’t. Or they were in reality but you couldn’t see them ”. Barceló supports her, “fed up” that women have always been, above all, the victim and “above all beautiful”, and vindicates the need for characters who are over 45. In all the finalist novels, women star or co-star in the plot.
The feminist leap of the crime novel, missed opportunity?
Concord recovers quickly when talking about the festivals in the oldest gathering of all the many that take place in Spain. “For me, it is fundamental. It is a meeting with readers and with people who do the same as me ”, says Barceló, a classic of the Black Week, about a festival to which she has been coming every summer for more than two decades from Austria, where she lives.
“In a country where many things have been done to promote reading that have not worked, I have the feeling that festivals do succeed,” says Silva as author and, also, as organizer of Getafe Negro. “There is a sweet version of literary festivals that is related to the approach to readers and readers, and to the occupation of public space by culture. Of these two things, the Black Week in Gijón is a paradigm ”, comments Sanz, who also sees the inevitable, more commercial side. “Although we are killing everyone, we are all happy. It is a more passionate and grateful audience, less enraged than that of the most literary festivals ”, Piñeiro jokes. Let the party of criminal culture continue without complexes.