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Paco Ignacio Taibo: "Spain is increasingly rare"


The writer lives the Netflix series about his detective and the recovery of his novels in Spain as a very funny phenomenon. He has had to learn not to look at him with author's eyes

Paco Ignacio Taibo II has arrived in Spain by mistake.

Invited to Barcelona in February, he got the dates wrong and is walking around Madrid these days with a certain feeling of misplacedness.

But he has two other good excuses: one is that his detective Belascoarán (whom he already killed and resurrected decades ago in the manner of Sherlock Holmes) has come back to life thanks to a Netflix series;

and the other is an edition in Spain of these novels by Reino de Cordelia.

Born in Gijón in 1949, he has lived in Mexico since he was ten years old, where he directs the Fondo de Cultura Económica.


You often say that you share something important with your detective, Héctor Belascoarán: delicatessen.


I have dedicated ten novels to Héctor and, as you develop a character, you inherit things from him.

For example, he was born on the same day as me, January 11.

Which year?

Go figure.


So: Congratulations to both of you!


Thank you, yes, it's your birthday and mine.

The second thing that unites us is her love for delicatessens, the store windows where she checks whether a Spanish serrano ham is better than an Italian one.

Also his taste for travel agencies.

He never travels, but those offers of "seven days in the Philippines or Thailand" cause him a singular love, like me.

And the third thing is that he reads the same books that I do, that's why I know what he reads, why he reads it and what reading produces in him.

And one last thing: his motor is not detective wisdom but curiosity.

In a society like the one I lived in Mexico, where reality has nothing to do with the version of reality we know, curiosity is what allows you to enter.

Our societies are icebergs of which we only see the 10% that floats on the surface, compared to the 90% that cannot be seen.

And the novel must reach that 90% where journalism, sociology, economics, or politics do not.

There only comes literature.


What good is a detective like yours?


To tell us the untold stories.

To go further.

In the last 30 or 40 years, journalism has covered the surface, but not the depth.

This only does the novel.


What does the series that revives your detective mean to you?


A funny phenomenon.


Have you been resurrected in another way?


Yes, and that is inevitable.

I have had to learn to see the series with the eyes of the spectator and not with the eyes of the author.

It is a serious risk to measure a film or television product with an author's mentality.

You can't see well, you're cloudy.

Suddenly I have friends who have read the novels for the last 30 years and who tell me: "Belascoarán was not like that."

And I tell them: “damn, it wasn't like that because the one you have in your head is not the one that the director embodied;

the director embodied the one he has in his head.

Let's be fair."


Has the series brought you back into force?


He achieved something, yes.

To my surprise, a phenomenon has been created in book fairs and it is being seen a lot in countries like Italy or Greece.

The first three chapters have given a great intensity to the essences of Belascoarán.

He respects the essence of the novels: they kill women because they are poor, damn it;

and the police are the most corrupt part of the system.

Now come the next three chapters.

In the last 30 or 40 years, journalism has covered the surface, but not the depth.

This only does the novel.


Are you Mexican and Spanish today?

Spanish and Mexican?


I'm very weird.

I am very Mexican and Asturian at times.

It's funny, in Spain I don't feel Spanish.

But when I go down the mountains, I enter the green and the sea of ​​Asturias, in my childhood, then yes.

And so many years doing Black Week strengthens me.

But I am very Mexican, devilishly Mexican.

90% of my literary work was built in Mexico.


How has Spain changed?


It is becoming rarer and every time I return I am more surprised to see how formal Spain evolves.

I am left with the feeling that I shared with Manolo [Vázquez Montalbán] that the transition never reached where it should have, that it was a clean slate that was not true.

It was a clean slate.


And today should I go further?


If we can, and I put myself in Asturian perspective, it is hard work.

One of my first strongest shocks when I lived here for two years and wrote the history of the 1934 revolution, was to see how it was possible that this Spain, which was built on migration, which experienced republican exile in its own flesh, is not today hypersensitive today to immigration.

In my double condition of son and grandson of exiles, for me to see an Argentine or a Senegalese in Black Week was recognition, not ignorance.

I felt like a family, identified with them.

But I was very peculiar.

Taibo on his double status: "I'm very weird. I'm very Mexican and Asturian at times."Samuel Sánchez


Do social classes still exist?


No, no.

They were no longer as we knew them.

This classist essence that was so strong in Asturias, that I rediscovered when I returned to write about the revolution of 1934, has vanished.

It has become an aspirational, weakened middle class.


But inequality persists.


It has moved and affects other sectors.

When I have returned to Asturias in past years, it has been exasperating to see the debt crisis, the banks, the evictions of a sector no longer identifiable with the working class but which was marginalized by society.

Spanish society continues to generate inequality, but I come from Mexico, where inequality is even stronger, despite the tremendous efforts that the government is making to smooth it out.


Is the left failing in this?


No, it is not succeeding, which is different.

We learned that there are no absolute wins or total defeats.

There are partial phenomena.

I am experiencing a very positive mass phenomenon: we have given away five million books, created neighborhood libraries, reading clubs throughout the country, lowered the price of books... In Mexico, reading is growing splendidly, but this is a sector collateral, peripheral


How do you remember Vázquez Montalbán?


We were very, very friends despite our coincidences and literary differences.

We shared the idea that the detective story was one of the most interesting genre spaces that were being produced at the end of the 20th century.


And how would you define those differences?


It was brilliant.

But I used to say: I prefer Manolo when he is wrong than when he is right.

And he looked at me as if to say: what am I wrong about?

(laughs) And he kept my mouth shut, leave it a mystery.


Would Carvalho and Belascoarán have been friends?


No, no, no.

There is a defensive cynicism in Carvalho that Belascoarán does not share.


Should Spain ask for forgiveness, as the president of Mexico demands?


No, because Spain is a generic.

Ask for forgiveness... Those who think that the conquest was a journey that took civilization beyond the oceans, they have to ask for forgiveness, because it was not like that.

Let those who think that it is plundered territory apologize, those of the transnationals who believe that the Mexican electricity industry should belong to them and not to the nation.

Those are the ones who have to ask for forgiveness, not the ordinary citizen who sympathizes with and suffers from the same transnationals in Spain or Mexico.

Paco Taibo, Mexican writer, in the Juan Rulfo bookstore, in Madrid.

samuel sanchez

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2023-01-12

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