“Plan B is not prepared. If you prepared it, it would be A ”, loosens Carlos Zanón (Barcelona, 55 years old) while he gives an account of the escalope in La Ancha, Madrid, in front of the Congress of Deputies. The conversation, however, is not about politics. Not even from Barcelona (Zanón is one of the most prominent authors in that abundant category of “writer from Barcelona”). He has published the novel love-song about a triangle of friends who play in a band and face the dilemmas of loyalty, illness or love.
Ask. “Bad luck forbidden,” says Eileen, the protagonist of her book.
Answer. We spend our whole lives trying to control it, but what’s going on? You met your partner because you bumped into each other when leaving a bar, your friends because they touched you in the same class or you were at the same concert, and you have a job because your new boss, while he was doing time in the office, started reading to you . But at the same time, there is something very mysterious about it all.
R. Because there is chance, which favors the encounter, but then there is intuition. The intuition that you like him or not, the intuition that you hook up with someone or run away from him. Or the love between two friends: someone you have had in front of you all the time and suddenly you see it differently.
All the culture that goes with you awaits you here.
R. Happens to us. I don’t consider myself a particularly intelligent person, but I am smart. It happens to me with people: if someone suits me, it’s very difficult for me to be disappointed. But come on, with the people and with everything. If you give me a weekend to make a decision, save it because I’m not going to get anywhere thinking. It’s better that I take it now, even if I’m wrong.
P. Writing is that?
R. Yes, you stumble upon the truth as you go along, but when you start you have no idea.
P. What was the truth of love-song?
R. Osvaldo Soriano once said that until your parents die, you don’t know who you are. That is to say: until you really cut the link that sustains you, be it friends, neighborhood or whatever, you will never know who you are. In this book, for example, I wanted to leave Barcelona. A year ago my father died. I wanted to talk about three friends who reach a point where they have to cut the Gordian knot. And that they were united by music.
What do I prefer from songs to books? That the most illiterate person in the world can make you a fucking song. That doesn’t happen in a book.
P. Was he very close to his father?
R. He died last July, but had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for three years. And before that, we had neither a good nor a bad relationship. But lately she had a kind of rage against him. Because he was disappearing and you know that you are not going to be able to have that conversation that you should have had. But I also asked myself a very natural question, and that is if it is very normal that we have to maintain a relationship with our father for 60 or 70 years. Now everyone lives so much…
P. What happens to men with their fathers?
R. I have no idea. I guess there is someone blocking the light in the room and you have to push them away. If they are very powerful they crush you. The idea he had of my father was that he was an invisible person that I didn’t have to overcome or confront. The problem with not having a very powerful referent on a masculine level is that you end up looking for it in songs, books or movies, and that can help you throw a little. But when you really have to know what it means to be a father or to be an uncle, you realize that a John Wayne movie can help you for a little while, but it’s nothing. You walk on a very slippery floor.
P. We give our children our names. It is considered normal.
R. The women carry the child inside. We are a delegation of eternity, so I suppose you want to prolong yourself in some way. And very complicated relationships are generated. But the relationships of the daughters with the mothers are not easy either.
P. There is less territoriality, less violence.
R. In men there is more weight of physical deterioration. My father was a taxi driver, for example, and the car was his last bastion. You couldn’t tell him a different route. She clung to him because that was where it made the most sense. “If I’m not the one who takes people to places, what the hell am I doing here? I rule here”.
P. As a child you did not like to read.
R. No, but I listened to the radio and waited for the song to finish to write a poem thinking about what he had said. She wanted the same thing that music has: to emit a special frequency. That someone you don’t even know who he is has written something for you. Opening a book and thinking that this guy has been dead for 200 years, he knows exactly how I am. And I tell you more.
R. When I didn’t like to read, my uncle died in a car accident. I went to live with my grandparents for a few months, and there my uncle, who was a teacher, had left a library. By reading his books I found a way to spend time with him. It was a conversation. I read until How to learn judo in 40 days. The book he was reading when he died was Jackal. He never knew whether or not he killed de Gaulle.
P. What do you prefer about songs versus books?
R. That the most illiterate person in the world can make you a fucking song. That doesn’t happen with a book. That you listen to a song when you’re 14 years old and you’re grateful all your life, even if the rest of his work sucks, and you keep buying his records hoping I don’t know what.
There is little cynicism when you get on stage. It always has to be the perfect night no matter what you play. The public is absolutely sacred and does not care if you have a bad day, if you are hungover or drunk, or have few
P. Eileen, Jim and Cowboy. Three inseparable friends, two of them (Eileen and Jim) a couple. And that powerful chemistry that Jim knows Eileen has with Cowboy, which is a friendship so deep that her boyfriend doesn’t have access to it. “He had the girl’s body and heart, while Cowboy had part of her brain and her love that wasn’t lodged in desire.”
R. Delicate territory, huh? But that’s what I wanted, it was. Each of the characters has a sphere, but Cowboy and Eileen are joined by a membrane so sophisticated that it leaves out the rest. And this is always so. That relationship you had as a teenager with friends you were with all day, slept at their house, listened to the same records and read the same books. You didn’t kiss because you didn’t like each other, but that relationship was perfect.
P. And the powders between friends. I correct: the disastrous powders between best friends. That you don’t even know how to start, that you either laugh or cry, that it’s a miracle to make you horny.
R. Because it’s never a big deal, sex will never live up to your friendship. And then something happens, when you are close friends with someone you love and end up being a couple, they already know too many things about you. When you fall in love, you do it with a kind of mystery, not knowing what my life will be like with that person. If you are close friends with the other person, you already know it. The lie has to be built on a fantasy; if not, it doesn’t work. A friend knows all the tricks, she’s met all your girlfriends, she knows the things you say when you flirt and when you don’t, when you lie and how, and when you don’t. The mystery is important, because you fall in love with a fantasy; of what is going to be, not of what already was.
P. The protagonists go to live in 1985 playing only songs from that year. Why?
R. It was going to be 1982. I told it while promoting my previous novel in Argentina, and the announcer said: “The year of the Malvinas?”, and I quickly told him no way. Why should I lose the four readers I have there!
P. And he didn’t write a Barcelona novel either.
R. In Barcelona there are more writers from Barcelona than things that happen in Barcelona.
P. Did you have a band?
R. He was very young, he played fatally.
P. It was the singer.
R. No, he was the one who spoke loudly. That was not singing. What I really liked was writing the songs.
P. Didn’t you learn to play?
R. I have zero learning ability. Playing an instrument: useless. Speak English: useless.
P. There is a moment when Cowboy feels like they are “really playing”.
R. I think there are very few musicians who don’t respect that. A guitarist told me that the stage has to be always clean “because it’s where I work, and it’s sacred”. Nobody drops a can here, and if you drop it you’re not a real musician.
P. Little pose there.
R. There is little cynicism when you get on stage. It always has to be the perfect night no matter what you play: covers, own songs, old songs or songs from the new album. The audience is absolutely sacred and doesn’t care if you’re having a bad day, if you’re hungover or drunk, or if few have come. You have to do your job the best you can.
P. Does heartbreak begin when you are lazy to answer questions that are vital for the other, as happens to the leading couple? They travel a lot, spend amazing moments together, meet a lot of people. As if they exhausted everything. And only those who do not live do not wear out.
R. In Eight and a half there is a moment in which the director who plays Fellini says to Claudia Cardinale: ‘The problem is fatigue. Of course I could fall in love with you, but I’m exhausted. To fall in love, to fall out of love, to realize that this is not going. It would be wonderful, but I’m exhausted. Fiction and life have worn me out. I don’t have the capacity to believe fiction and I don’t have the capacity to believe life a little’. This happens a lot in relationships, but it can be tolerated because you are always nearly.
Exclusive content for subscribers
read without limits