Latin American writer Moya: Violence is not magic realism, but reality

  The last time the name “El Salvador” appeared in international news on a large scale was in June 2021, when the country passed the Bitcoin Law, becoming the first country in the world to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender. In a state of severe inflation, El Salvador believes that Bitcoin, which rises and falls, is more credible than the original US dollar.
  In March 2022, only two months after the storm of Bitcoin losses, El Salvador entered a state of emergency due to the deterioration of social security and the rebound in the number of homicides. In the 48 hours since March 25, a total of 71 murders have occurred throughout El Salvador. Facing heavy social security pressure, President Nayib Bukele passed a decree on the 27th, announcing strict restrictions on everything in the country for the next 30 days. rally activity.
  Horacio Castellanos Moya, a writer from the country who has long since left his native land to live, still regularly reads news from Central America, he said in an e-mail reply to an interview with Southern People Weekly. “Very frustrating” and said “I don’t recommend you pay attention”. “For me it’s like a bad habit. I try not to let it infect my life, but it’s hard to stay unaffected because there are memories of you and people you love.”
  At this point, he was reluctant. Said, “I’m afraid I need to do another interview about politics to talk about these issues. I’m very tired of this.”
  Gangs, refugees, poverty and other issues have been entangled for a long time. El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are collectively known as the “Northern Triangle” of Central America. . It was not until the 1990s that decades of armed confrontation between left-wing rebel groups and the military government came to an end. But peace did not come with the end of the war.
  A writer friend of Moya used three Spanish words beginning with V to describe contemporary El Salvador society: violence (violenta), evil (vil), and emptiness (vacía). From the civil war, which killed nearly 80,000 people, to the post-war period, when looting, kidnapping and murder pervaded the daily lives of citizens, violence has always been the most common means of resolving differences and has gradually become a part of society and culture.
  The writer Roberto Bolaño, who was also born in Central America, once concluded, “The real violence is impossible to escape, and it is the fate of those of us who were born in Latin America in the 1950s.”
How to tell a few bullets in the head

  Moya was born in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, in 1957 and moved to El Salvador with his parents at the age of 4. My grandfather and grandmother are both right-wingers, and they are not optimistic that the only daughter who just returned from studying in Washington will marry a left-wing person who is 23 years older than her. In other words, he was born into the whirlpool of political conflict.
  By 1969, two families and two nations entered a state of war together. “I was only 12 years old at that time, and I learned to pretend, and I can’t offend both sides.” My grandfather always maintained full respect for Moya, and never took the initiative to bring up topics that might lead to conflicts, let alone try to reverse his attitude. position and ideas. They still go for a slow walk among the pine forests every morning, then go to the restaurant to eat, drink, and chat. My grandfather was in his eighties at the time.
  Grandpa served as chairman of the ruling Kuomintang. Moya’s earliest childhood memory of violence was an explosive attack at his grandfather’s house when he was 3 years old. “Maybe it was this event that planted the seeds of fear, hatred and revenge in my heart. Maybe not, maybe it goes back even further. I imagine the face of my great-grandfather, General José Maria Rivas. He died in 1890 was shot by the Ethiopian dictatorship in 1932, and his head was hung at the gate of Kohutpeque as a mockery of his rebellion; or my uncle Jacinto, in front of the firing squad in the early morning of February 1, 1932, charged Farah Bendo Marti’s face contorted with weeping as he bids farewell; or my father’s trembling when he learned that he had been sentenced to death after the failed coup against General Martinez’s dictatorship on April 2, 1944. body; or the horrified look on my nephew Robertick’s face as he was about to be macheted to death by an assassination team one day in March 1980.”
  In a May 2018 BBC World News Channel In the interview, Moya explained that in a Central American society where homicides are so dense, paranoia and paranoia have long been part of the daily lives of residents. They live on thin ice, always vigilant wherever they go, and exaggerating the possibility of falling into danger. This is also the survival instinct they have to develop in such a social environment.
  Moya transformed this part of contemporary Mesoamerican society into a specific narrative style of fiction. In his writings, the characters often suffer from severe delusions of persecution, and they always suspect that they are being watched and followed. The world and self therefore become increasingly distorted, unfamiliar, and even insane at the same time.
  ”I live in a brutal reality, a crude, ugly reality, where crime is held as the highest value and society as a whole is dominated by the worst of human nature… I needed to find a way to deliver such a Realistic writing style. So I can’t take a flamboyant style like Gongora (Spanish Golden Age poet, playwright, founder of the ‘grandism’ style), or a baroque style, to tell how a person’s head is A couple of bullets in a row and stuff like that, because in reality it’s: bang, bang, bang, it’s over. That’s it.”
Our reality is not magical

  This style of language is particularly evident in his recent novel, Insensatez, published in China. He compactly, forcefully and even nervously expresses the living situation that “hell actually exists in the brain, not the body”. Whether the characters in the novel are listening to the marimba playing by the door of the tavern, or sitting and chatting with friends, They are constantly vigilant about whether they are being monitored, and whether there is an executioner in ambush in the store.
  Even when sexual fantasies arise in the mind or when sexual needs are fulfilled on a physical level, persecution paranoia goes hand in hand with the dangerous situation in which it is placed. “Just knowing that the woman lying next to me is actually an officer’s woman has scared me to the core.” Moya explained that it is this psychological state that determines the character’s perception of space. It is the inner psychology of the character that determines everything.
  Unlike the cynical, frightened protagonists of the novel, the author behind the pages has gray hair and looks peaceful and relaxed. He likes to sit on the patio of a big city café, chatting with friends, or observing pedestrians, their expressions, their clothing, their exposed emotions. He laughed at himself: “At my age (now 65), there’s not much fun left, just being alive is an adventure: a scotch, a good meal, a good cigar. What more could you ask for? ?”

Publishing novels in China is obviously beyond his imagination, and can be regarded as a small wave of regular life in Iowa City, the United States. Once a week he goes to the University of Iowa to teach creative writing in the Spanish department for two and a half hours. The students who came to the class were adults, some of whom were already writers. The content of the workshop is mainly to read and discuss the students’ work. Moya on the podium concluded with a sharp, “in a workshop like this, it’s important to maintain a sense of proportion. It’s about how each student develops his or her narrative voice and narrative space. There needs to be a balance between freedom and respect. Keep a balance.”
  Outside of lectures, his time is allocated to four things: reading, writing, eating, and drinking. He lives alone, so he’s lucky not to be disturbed. He likes to write at home in the early morning, and the urge to write stories is especially strong when the residence is unstable. “You can write anytime, anywhere.”

A homeless man sits on the street in San Salvador, June 28, 2022. Figure/Visual China

  He spent most of his turbulent life, attending primary and secondary schools in mission schools, and in 1978 was admitted to the Department of Languages ​​and Literatures of the University of El Salvador. At the beginning of the following year, parents saw the chaos on the eve of the Civil War and hurried to send their son to Canada. He was forced to drop out of university after only one year in Toronto, and then came to Costa Rica. After that, he traveled to San Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico City, Frankfurt, Madrid and other places, leaving a collection of books and memories.
  The one who stayed the longest was the United States, he admitted, “I think our generation of Latin American writers is closer to American writers in terms of how they understand the world and what we talk about than magical realism. García Márquez The universe or world described, to me, it’s like he’s talking about Africa or Persia. I’m closer to the literature related to Los Angeles or other American cities than to the literature related to Macondo. I mean, we What does this have to do with magical realism? Our reality is not magical.”
refusal to fully trust oral histories

  In exile, Moya worked for more than two decades in news agencies, magazines and newspapers in Mexico and Guatemala. He recalled those years, “It had nothing to do with magic at all, but more about the corruption and depravity of human beings and their institutions.” These dark witnesses were not without merit, at least the inspiration for his writing, “Insanity” That is, from his participation in the “Historical Memory Restoration Project in Guatemala (initiated by the Guatemalan Catholic Church in 1995, gathering a group of social activists, scholars and intellectuals to collect and sort out the oral data of the survivors, in order to record and expose the 36-year-old history of memory)” 442 Massacres of Nationals, Especially Minority Groups, by the Army During the Civil War)” real experience of revision work.
  Like the protagonist of the novel, he was also responsible for proofreading the oral history of the surviving aboriginal people after the war. “Those oral histories certainly terrify me, but at the same time, their written form brings me aesthetic pleasure. The two are not mutually exclusive. Horror can also be beautiful, as long as it is supported by form. Here, Form refers to the construction of language.”

Pavement collapses due to heavy rain and flooding from tropical storms in San Salvador on July 3, 2022. Photo/Xinhua News Agency

  In a 2009 interview with New York’s Guernica magazine, he elaborated on his boredom with witness literature, “‘I am a victim, I have suffered this, you have to listen to me, and once you listen to me, you would accept or accept my political stance, my story is the truth’ – and what was our reaction (of this generation of writers)? We rejected it all. We rejected this type of narrative. What we realized was, Reality is more complicated…there is no real narrative…when you believe she exists, when you believe it completely, you have problems.”
  To avoid falling into the superstition of telling people who have experienced it, he is writing about historical events. Before the novel, I will read all the material I can find. “The more information you have about a subject, the richer and more varied options you have when it comes to storytelling. Different perspectives, different versions of historical telling, all contribute to enriching the plot and characters. A single perspective, that is, the belief that there is only one A point of view of historical truth kills literature.”
  ”It is important to understand that in every human being there is a potential victim and a potential perpetrator at the same time. This is reflected in “Derangement,” the protagonist, That proofreader identifies both with the victim and with the officer who committed the murder. These are two opposing emotional states, and he falls into one in one situation and the other in the other. Read Human Rights The abuse report has alienated him spiritually.”
  ”Insanity” is a dark comedy, but it’s still a work of politics. The narrators in his book occasionally allude to conquerors, reminding us that the murder of indigenous peoples by the military in Guatemala and elsewhere is an old story. Mario Vargas Llosa writes: Although the Spanish outlawed the novel in the New World, their highly unreliable chronicles were actually the first Latin American novels. These stories of bloodshed, brutality, and horrific genocide had a direct impact on contemporary writers like Moya and Bolaño, who inevitably put chaotic chronicles at the center of their work.
Violence is like air

  Moya has published 12 novels so far, as well as some collections of short stories and essays. His novels basically revolve around Central America and Mexico, which was previously known as Mesoamerica, and the characters are basically from El Salvador. , Guatemala or Honduras.
  How to continue to describe the realistic materials of Central American society into novels in the years away from the homeland, his response to this is, “My novels are more about the inner world of human beings, their emotions, desires, and concepts. These things do not happen overnight. It will change, it will take generations, and sometimes it will not change in the past. For example, the homicides that are very common in El Salvador society have changed in form (more with knives before, now more guns), but the essence of the phenomenon has remained the same from the early 20th century to the early 21st century. In general, my novels explore human emotions, profound conflicts between human beings, and specific historical events in Central America, I write about violence, sex, intimacy, family, the breakdown of families due to differences in ideology and politics, etc.”
  The violence that I witnessed as a child and the breakdown of families that I experienced due to differences in ideology and political stances have no doubts He had a complex and long-term impact, on the one hand giving him the indifferent vision, “I have been made what I am. I participate in the world, but also see it with a distance. I am amazed at what humanity has achieved so far. Achievement, but also abhor the constant hypocrisy and cruelty deep inside human beings. In short, I think what is on this side now, may go to the opposite side later, because life is governed by a pendulum, control Not in our hands.”

  At the same time, these experiences allowed him to “form a habit of escaping struggle”. In real life, he was caught in the family opposition camp and seemed to be able to devote himself only to the flow of paper and ink. In the future, the creation of novels that directly point to violence and conflict can also be regarded as a manifestation of resistance. “Literature creation can indeed be understood from this perspective. Literature is a form of knowledge, but it is also a way of standing in the world. , this way of standing means resistance, means questioning other ways of understanding the world.”
  In an article discussing Latin American literature and politics, Moya expressed his concern for “political fiction writers” and “violent fiction writers” such as He resists oversimplifying labels, but admits that elements of violence do permeate his writing. However, he emphasizes that it is not because he writes about violence for the purpose, but because political and social violence exists in the air the writer himself has to breathe, forms part of his personal and collective memory, and is a daily life he has to face. Reality and an existential situation that is difficult to detach.
  Moya’s attitude towards violence is often not an angry accusation, but a humorous confrontation and resolution. In his 1997 book “Disgusting” (subtitled “Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador”), he deliberately invited such a pessimistic and miserable European celebrity to visit El Salvador’s capital, where supplies were everywhere. Scarcity, people are struggling to live, public security is chaotic, the ruins left by the war are everywhere, and the rural economy is stagnant; the common people still have lingering fears, and depression, disappointment, and dazed emotions permeate these families and the entire society.
  Many Salvadorans could not tolerate such ruthless ridicule and attack on their homeland, and soon after the novel was published, the writer received death threats and had to go into exile again. But oddly enough, Nausea was reprinted several times in El Salvador, and in 2007 it remained one of El Salvador’s bestsellers.
  Faced with such threats, Moya said, “I never stopped being afraid. Nietzsche has long said that fear is a fundamental human emotion. The problem is only how to deal with fear. As far as I am concerned, so far, fear is Not strong enough to paralyze my writing, and hopefully not in the future.”
  ”The need to write, to express myself through words, came to my mind when I was a teenager, but I didn’t think about a literary career because in El Salvador at that time—and perhaps still is today, writers were not Think of it as a profession. I think every writer wants to have readers, but this is not something a writer can control. I write because I have to write, it is a need for expression, which sometimes comforts me, sometimes makes me I’m tortured. It’s a fate.”

error: Content is protected !!