They say that literature is the magical connection that happens between someone who writes in pajamas and someone who reads in pajamas. And in the middle of that, the chain and the book industry happen. Sometimes that distance communication is short-circuited because the author and the reader are physically in a place in space-time. And the reader offers the author his own book, which is now of the two. And the author signs it. The Madrid Book Fair is about that: buying books and having the author sign them and everyone thanking each other. For the one who writes the signature it can be a good varnish for his ego ... or a cure of humility.
The Madrid Book Fair opens its doors without the traditional visit of Queen Letizia and under threat of prolonged bad weather
"Spain does not usually have civilized traditions, but obscurantist, so a civic and popular tradition like this is to be celebrated," said Antonio Muñoz Molina before entering this Saturday at noon to the booth of the international bookstore Pasajes, where queues were already forming. "Look at him, here he comes, how nice," said a reader who had been waiting for a long time, when he saw the novelist appear. "They are very brief meetings, but one quickly learns to capture something that can serve to make the firm have a small personal touch. Some come to the signatures regularly, so you already get to know them, your face rings and you even know the name, "explains the author.
There are very fetishistic readers of the firm, others not so much. It is curious that authors considered literary, no matter how notorious they are, usually generate less noise than best-selling writers, influencers, youtubers, celebrities with books or characters like El Pollo Pepe, who received his fans before great expectation (no wonder). It would seem that the reader considered literary is less fanatic, more horizontal, perhaps more arrogant. It is curious, none of the literary authors interviewed claims to have been a pursuer of signatures as a reader, which gives for any sociological thought.
Sergio del Molino signing books this Saturday at El Retiro, at the Madrid Book Fair.Santi Burgos
Pleasant overwhelm or tiring rest
In the queue of Fernando Aramburu, on Saturday afternoon at the Fnac booth, there is expectation, and the author arrives in a hurry. He has never come to the fair as a reader, only as an author. "I'm fortunate that my books generate interest, so I always have a lot of signatures, but I don't get tired, it's flattering," he says. Although it was not always so, he was also one of those writers who spend the afternoon watching passers-by. "I prefer this pleasant burden to the tiring rest of other times. Having gone through that seems to me a lesson of life, of modesty, I do not think it is fortunate to succeed immediately."
A few meters away, in the same booth, is Elvira Navarro, in front of a mountain of her latest novels, Las voces de Adriana (Random House Literature), and without so much queue. How does it feel? "I feel like a cockroach," he jokes. Navarro only attended a book signing once: it was to get Paco Umbra's signature on Mortal y rosa. "It was a very cold thing, because Umbral was up to the balls to sign," he recalls. Sometimes those desired encounters are not entirely satisfying, and idols turn out to have feet of clay. "The more famous the writer is and the more demand he has, the less time he has for his followers," observes the novelist.
"Luckily this lasts as long as it lasts: if it were always like this, it would be crazy," says Sara Mesa, very smiling, as she signs a copy of Un amor (Anagrama) in the booth of the Grant bookstore. "I really like to sign, but at the same time it stuns me," he explains, "because I'm a shy person, people tell you things, and many times I don't know how to respond to praise." The book's owner, Xandra, sets out to explore Mesa's universe. "This seems to me a more personal way to buy the book, rather than a big platform," he says. The novelist regrets not having asked for signature, out of shame, from some authors she admires, such as Mariana Enriquez. "She is a big one, and I have seen her several times, I know her, but I have never asked her to sign me, so as not to disturb."
The truth is that the author's rubric is a way of personalizing an object that is serial, industrial, identical and is produced by hundreds or thousands in each run. When we find a copy in an old bookstore, for example, what makes it unique and different from all the others is the signature and dedication. In a world where we strive to distinguish ourselves, a firm is an asset against growing uniformity. It makes us unique.
Elvira Lindo at the Madrid Book Fair, this Saturday. Santi Burgos
A bubble of intimacy
"For me you were always the book of the summer," says reader Pilar to Elvira Lindo, at the Antonio Machado bookstore. He has a copy of his latest novel, En la boca del lobo (Seix Barral), signed as a series, of those that are bought already signed in bookstores. But it's not the same, so bring another one. "If what I want is to see Elvira and say hello," he adds. The writer is busy signing. "At first I get nervous, you don't get used to this exhibition. Here you hear everything, what they say about you from the tail," she laughs, "that if she has cut her hair, that if her husband is in another booth ..." Lindo observes a very strange thing: in the middle of the noise of the fair sometimes a bubble of intimacy is formed between reader and writer. Especially in the case of an author like her, who generates an extraordinary bond with the public. "That intimacy impresses, it's like peering into the abyss of a person's heart."
Miguel Ángel Hernández is walking around, leaving to sign his novel Anoxia (Anagrama) and wandering around the hot dog stand. "It's a moment of anthropology, the moment of meeting people who are unimaginable, and curious situations occur: they just asked me if the bookseller was my wife," he says amused. He also appreciates the moment of companionship with which he signs next door. For example, Santiago Lorenzo, with whom he just hung out. "We've become very friends," he says. "Since he signed a lot and I signed a little, he told his readers to buy my book. Friendship of signatories".
Marta Sanz, in the booth of the Altamarea bookstore, is immersed in a little notebook where she meticulously notes the copies of each title of her large production that she signs. "This way I see what survives in time or what interests only in a moment of time," he explains. It's the age of data, so Sanz makes his modest explorations of Big Data by hand, "even if it's letters." His novel Clavícula (Anagrama), for example, always sells well. Farándula (Anagrama), which won the Herralde, was a sale of alluvium. "After so many years, I've learned that the best way to enjoy yourself is not to worry about comparative grievance," he says. He doesn't care about the success of celebrities or youtubers, he goes about his business. "Of course, the concept of literature has been narrowed by the logics of the market," he explains, "and only the most commercial literature is considered. The most intrepid of us are being parked."
On Friday afternoon Sergio del Molino appeared, after a deterrent downpour, of those that it seems that this year the gods will throw frequently on this fair, in the booth of El Corte Inglés. The author of Un tal González (Alfaguara) has reflected on many occasions on his condition as a "feriante" writer, who travels the world making presentations, attending events and giving talks, meeting people. The modality of the signature is not one of his favorites. "This thing of being like an animal exposed to the wrath of readers and walkers happens only in these weeks. It's nice, sure, but maybe sometimes we exaggerate this connection with readers. Sometimes it's also heavy." The animal is a pertinent observation, because when walking through the booths and seeing the writers sitting there it seems that we are going through a zoo, because of the situation of exposure of the writer, somewhat helpless, and because of the variegation of his furs. Perhaps Del Molino is sometimes burdensome because he has never given much importance to signatures, and even has books of friends (some deceased), which he has presented or prefaced, unsigned. "For me, a book is, fundamentally, a working instrument," he says.
Fernando Aramburu has been another of the authors who has participated in the Saturday day of the Madrid Book Fair.Santi Burgos
Let that scumbag give it back to me
A few booths away, Leonardo Padura, Princess of Asturias Award for Literature, chatted pleasantly with the booksellers of the Méndez bookstore. "We always talk about meeting with readers, but signing is also a great opportunity to chat with booksellers," he said. He also recalled the restrictions of the pandemic: "I found it touching the huge line that formed outside to enter something as important as buying books. They weren't queuing at a mall, but here."
He wanted to take advantage of the Cuban to issue a message that he has already aired occasionally in the media: he has been looking for a copy of And God entered Havana, by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, given and signed by the author, in gratitude for the help provided for its preparation. "I lent it to someone I don't remember and that someone didn't give it back to me. I know he's a friend, because I don't lend books to enemies. If that scumbag reads this, let him give it back to me."
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