Ricardo Silva Romero does not miss the opportunity to be modest. Hunched over on his sofa with a discreet, pristine and measured attitude, you can guess in him someone who hides the desire to be brilliant so as not to be excessive. At book fairs, old ladies compliment him and lament that they do not have him as a son-in-law. With the round glasses, rather chaparro, the writer and novelist (Bogotá, 1975) responds with a courtesy that may seem distant, but that is rather the way he has to hide his shyness. Sometimes he has a malicious joke on the tip of his tongue that he stops at the last moment by a flash of modesty. Silva Romero doesn't want to disturb.
Question. You are shy. How do you get in front of the public in your book presentations or in television interviews? Do you wear a mask?
Answer. From a very young age he was a loner. I remember being invited to children's parties and I didn't want to go. Going to school was a challenge. It was important for me to be alone. I'm not much different now. When there are a lot of people in a presentation I have some nerves until 15 minutes before, but at the moment of truth I do it calmly. I am authentic as much as possible. I make every effort not to play characters or falsify what I think. I do my best not to look smarter, but to be the person I am. I don't want to say I'm not still shy, but I overcome.
Q. It feels like he had an idyllic childhood, but it's hard to believe. Many novelists have interrupted childhoods.
A. I had good luck with my parents. I was very clear that they loved me very much. That saved me the problem of recognition, took away the desire for someone else to love me. It's lucky not to be desperately looking for love for the rest of your life. My parents were very present. I think that's the idyllic thing. Outside the country was very violent, but my house was a refuge.
Q. His mother was Virgilio Barco's legal secretary in the eighties. He drafted the decree by which they could extradite drug traffickers, something that infuriated Pablo Escobar. What was it like to live that terrifying time?
A. They picked me up at school if they killed any official. At that time threats arrived at the house. We had a phone that the president could call at any time. Sometimes it rang at three in the morning. My mom had to deal with the extraditions, in the safe of her office were the orders. It was the only thing the narcos feared at the time. It terrified them. Their slogan was that they preferred a grave in Colombia to a prison in the United States. They killed the minister of justice in '84. And in '86 that government went to war with Escobar outright. It was impressive. There was an escort picking us up and his gun would be lost under the car seat. In the building in which we lived in Bogotá, in the hundred with the seventh, there was a meeting of the building for us to leave. It was tense to live that and at the same time be happy as a child. It was a terrible time, but it is mixed with good childhood memories. My parents always knew how to preserve my tranquility.
Q. His mom offered his dad a couple of times for divorce.
A. They had been married for eight years when her brother, with whom she worked, was killed. They had an office near where he was killed. His name was Alfonso Romero Buj and he was a political leader of the left. His death was very confusing, some said it had been the ultra-left, others the ultra-right.
Q. It is also said that it was the PLA (the radical left-wing group Pedro León Arboleda).
A. It is possible because there were death sentences from the PLA against him. In the days following his murder there were cars passing by illuminating the windows of our apartment. It was a way of saying not to investigate. There were people who showed up at the office to threaten my mom. And that's when she told my dad that he was free to leave, that everything was a mess. But he stayed.
Ricardo Silva during the interview, on May 24, 2023.NATHALIA ANGARITA
Q. His father was rector and a much-admired physics professor. In Rodrigo García Barcha's book, Gabo and Mercedes, A Farewell, it is said that losing one's parents is like looking through a telescope and not finding a planet that has always been there.
A. Another definition that I like a lot is from Kubrick's daughter, who said that the father had always been an umbrella and since he had died it had not stopped raining.
Q. Very nice.
A. Nice, but terrible. My dad was never missing, he was extraordinary. Now I realize how difficult it is for someone to always be there, to never fail. And that is a very strong void. Since I am not ashamed of the invisible, I can come to think that he knows things and walks around here. He was, ironically, a physics teacher who read the tarot. It made me believe in things. And I know how to use what he advised me in life and that is an advantage.
Q. In his books he talks a lot about his father and mother, but there is a shadow over his older brother. Does he not like to appear in them?
A. It's another kind of relationship. I could talk a lot about him because when I was a child it was common for parents to go to work and one was left alone with the older brother. Over the years he has hair and I don't, everyone might think I'm the oldest. There is nothing dark or bad. It's another love of life. But maybe I'm more embarrassed with him.
Q. You had a failed first marriage.
A. I was 23 years old when I got married and went to live in Barcelona with her. After a while it seemed to each of us that we were good friends, but that perhaps getting married had not been a good idea. The marriage declined, had a couple of years of painful disagreements. It's very helpful to have been through that. It seems to me that those first relationships are like an important postgraduate degree to get married for real.
Q. He became obsessed with obtaining a marriage annulment.
A. That was a religious crusade on my part. The nullity trial began in 2006, with the doctrine of the previous popes. It was practically impossible to get unless you knew an archbishop who spoke to the Vatican and processed quickly. For nullity it must be proven that the other was monstrous or violent; Here it was as simple as a disagreement. I did not understand why I ended up getting married by the Catholic Church, an institution that by the time I got married I did not care but when it came to separating I did care. If we had married for the Maradonian church or the Star Wars church I would also have sought annulment. The fact is that they denied it because neither of them had murderous instincts. The church charged me the highest rate of the process because I worked at Semana magazine, where I did film reviews. They'd think he was a millionaire. I had to pay with my savings. I also got a lawyer which cost me a plate. It was a disaster. I wrote this delirious story in the novel Official History of Love and years later I met a kind priest from the ecclesiastical court, he told me that he read the book and that he could help me. Pope Francis made this an express one, that it takes a few weeks. It was achieved and now I only have one marriage.
Q. The tarot told him that his next wife would be a woman with a child.
A. One day a friend told me that she had met a great tarot reader, Catalina Gómez. His family had lost a wallet with millions of pesos and told them where it was. It was the most effective business card. So I went to her. At that time I was suffering in the middle between the end of marriage and nullity. In that hangover that follows a divorce I didn't know where to grab. Catherine told me that the person in my life was a woman with a child. This was in the year 2007. And I met Carolina in 2008 and I thought she was fantastic, but she didn't have any children and we both had a partner at the time. But she then had a child, and it turned out that with her it was the marriage she had seen in the tarot.
Q. In Poeta Chileno, by Alejandro Zambra, there is talk of an emotional relationship between a stepfather and his stepson. What is yours like?
A. My relationship with Pascual is similar to the one I had with my dad. We are both confident that there will never be a problem. Pascual can call me stepfather, but I think and feel and know that he is my son. But the grace of being a stepparent is that you understand that you always are. There are limits with that son because he has his mom and dad. There is a time when it is not mine. But that's how any child should be treated because no child is one's. One cannot dispose of people, even if they are children. It has helped me to be Inés' father. I treat and love them both the same.
Q. In his books there are always people coming back from the dead, as in Dead River, as in Human Zoo. Do you believe in the afterlife?
A. I want to believe in the afterlife and then I make the books believe in it. Books assume there is one. I know a lot of testimonies about the afterlife and it sounds logical to me that this idea that one comes from a place that is supposed to be death, occupies a body, that body ends, wears out and one returns to the place from which he came. It is a belief alive since ancient times. It fascinates me. But my beliefs are always a pulse. I can one day be very sure that it is impossible such a blockbuster that is every life so that it does not go somewhere later and the next day it does not seem so clear to me that this will happen. I am impressed by the theme of people dying and returning. Neurologists have an explanation: they say that this idea of an afterlife can be manufactured by the brain, that experience of meeting people from the past and seeing their own life projected as a movie. I don't rule anything out. When one sees the father reading the tarot since childhood believes that there are many inexplicable things.
Q. In his novels it is always 11:11, 4:44, 3:33. Why is there always a capicúa hour in your texts?
A. No one notices. It's kind of an inside joke. It is now very common for people to attend to those hours as signs that something is going to go well. People say they see it's 1:11, and they think it's a sign that everything is on track. I find that very moving. Really everyone lives filled with reasons and signs.
Q. I don't know if he remembers Aimé Jacquet, the French football coach of 1998. He was guided by astrology to make the alignments and thus won a World Cup. Do you do the same with the luck of your characters?
A. Much of France hated him because they were unbelievers. I do that a lot of times too. 20 years ago I was very interested in the enneagram and each character had one of those nine personalities. I have a book called The Secret Language of Birthdays, which defines people by the day they were born. It is more complex than it sounds because it is made with astrology, numerology and tarot. There is a mixture of portraits that I find super useful for character building. In Historia oficial del amor, as there were so many dead characters, I asked Catalina Gómez to read the tarot to those ghosts. Some things served me, like traits I hadn't thought of. For example, from my grandfather, a liberal coastal politician who led an unstoppable electoral career. It had been all that could be.
Q. Less president.
A. There was always the question in the family as to why he had not become president. The answer is that he had many enemies. He was a very explosive person, very brutal.
Ricardo Silva.NATHALIA ANGARITA
Q. He has written many books, plays, diaries. Have you never been blocked?
A. I don't think I've ever suffered one because I write a lot. I am writing all the time and I believe that when you write without stopping you are not suffering each text as if it were definitive, as if you had no revenge. I write a column every week [he does it in El Tiempo, a Colombian newspaper], plus the novels, the diaries, whatever. I think that if one article does not look good, the next one does, and that saves a lot from the blockade. I think of those people who make a film or a novel every eight years, what they must suffer when they publish it and nothing happens. That's why I prefer to be taking things out and if nothing happens with one, with the other yes.
Q. He has written more than 20 books.
A. My criterion is to be writing. When I do it I also feel that it is something fundamental for me, that I am doing something that is my therapy, my craft, my life. There's a part of me that's very office-worker. While I write I feel that it is very important, but when I finish I manage to detach myself and not suffer.
Q. So he disagrees with Baudelaire, who said that he could not be sublime without interruption.
A. It may be that taking out so many things makes it difficult to recognize the sublime. But I'm not interested. For me, writing serves as therapy and containment, it is a way of holding myself. If I wasn't writing, what do I do, what do I go out into the world. I think everyone has to find their therapy. Taking out a novel after working on it for two or three years, presenting it for another two years and writing another one in five, doesn't work for me. It helps me to be doing things and then the sublime operates in a different way. There are some books that are lost, but others that people find sublime.
Q. Are you worried about being remembered? Is it a consolation for death?
A. I can't imagine that if the soul gets somewhere they congratulate her for having written a book. If one comes out of this body, he sees all the glories ridiculous. He sees the successes, the failures, the worries as ridiculous. If you get out of this time, you don't care if you sold more or sold less. This is just a satisfaction or a frustration while one is alive.
Q. He looks like a man without vanity. Is it a pose?
A. I have a very wearable vanity. I know I have it because I sign the books and I'm excited to have them read, but I have a lot left over after writing the books. I wouldn't need to present books or go to festivals. Sometimes I'm embarrassed to get on a stage to present a novel. Among all the trades in the world, writing is a service that an equal renders to equal. Treating readers with vanity is strange. My dad was the rector of his university and my mom was really important in governments, they were very admired. And I never saw them feel better than anyone else.
Q. Do you ever cry?
A. Yes, but I need help. I use scenes from movies. When I got divorced I went to a psychiatrist with whom I still have contact...
Q. Lina Maria Gonzalez.
A. She. He heard the whole story of my divorce and said that something was missing, I needed to get angry or cry. I had to be angry or sad. He asked me when I cried and I told him that at the ends of the movies. I told him about one that fascinates me, which is Running on empty. It has a final scene that is devastating to me. Another one that kills me is E.T. I really cry, I'm not talking about having tears in my eyes, but about sobbing. And another that beats me isIt's a wonderful life, the cliché movie of gringo Christmas. The story is beautiful and especially that last scene. Lina wanted to know what these scenes had in common and we saw that they were demands and farewells. She explained that I was broken because I felt in my previous relationships that I had given everything and had not been reciprocal. All this connected him and seemed to me of extraordinary lucidity. What for me is at stake in the background is to give everything and that it is not enough.
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