“Will you go up to my room?” I ask Elisa Levi (Madrid, 27 years old). She, still soaked after agreeing to take a portrait for this report dressed in the hotel pool, concentrates on not sending me to fry asparagus. I review my phrase in my head and notice how bad it sounded… “Nooo! Elisa, excuse me, no, no… It’s just that the photographer wants to take a picture of you from here with you leaning on the balcony of my room, which is the one over there ”. And I point to a balcony of this INNside by Meliá Calvià Beach hotel in which the Expanded Literature Festival takes place, among whose programming, in addition to the Scottish writer Irvine Welsh or the multidisciplinary activist Samantha Hudson, is this young writer who has just published I don’t know about other things (Today’s Topics). This October afternoon he has scheduled a talk with Hudson and the actress and composer Clara Ingold entitled Literature not suitable for boomers.
“If you want, I’ll give you the key and you can go up by yourself,” I say. There is silence, until the editor of the Madrid woman reminds me that what I propose is impossible: the key in this hotel is a bracelet. The first question has been unfortunate, but perhaps not enough to merit the amputation of the left hand.
I don’t know about other things is the second novel by Elisa Levi. In it, Little Lea, a 19-year-old girl who lives in a remote place, tells a silent stranger about her life, her concerns, her traumas. He talks about the townspeople, the strangers who come and the neighbors who leave, never to return. Everything could seem more or less normal if it weren’t for one small detail: the world ended in 2012. So what is this? “I wrote the fat thing in confinement, I needed to go to another place, to one that was alien and unknown to me. Since I couldn’t go – I was, like everyone else, locked up – and also the world was ending, that’s what we all thought, I created a character to tell me all that. I found that voice and listened to it. I had been writing a novel for a year that was not going anywhere because it was very close to me, it was the story of a girl in London. [La escritora vivió en la capital británica, donde estudió teatro]. Look, Elisa Levi doesn’t interest more than her family and friends. I didn’t feel like anything close. I set my first novel [Por qué lloran las ciudades] in Tokyo and in my life I had been in Tokyo ”.
Lea is a small voice that speaks of adult things, of adults, and on the scale of great things, the end of the world is quite well positioned. Talk to this stranger, but he hardly responds, because this book is not an intergenerational treatise. It is closer to magical realism than to any current literary trend that a 27-year-old writer would be tempted to ascribe to. “I have created my Macondito”, he happily affirms in reference to the famous town invented by García Márquez.
In confinement, Levi reread One Hundred Years of Solitude and immediately that volume became a key influence in understanding I don’t know about other things in all its magnitude. “I’ll talk about myself when I have no more to talk about. We all have the perception that we have many interesting things to tell about ourselves. I see it especially in people my age … And look, I don’t know. Not equal. I prefer to tell a story. I want to experiment. Lack of imagination, re-inventing things. We tend to exploit what works until we kill it and get lost along the way. Now I will tell you a phrase for mugs and t-shirts: ‘We cannot kill the imagination,’ he jokes.
Elisa, are you at the bar that has no name or the one with the facades? “Did you meet me in a bar with looks to finish the interview?” She asks, somewhat indignant. Two weeks later we have met again in a central square in Madrid to finish the interview that was left half in Mallorca. We sat on the terrace of a bar that has no name. We talk about the author’s passion for theater – in 2017 she premiered her first play, Twigs in her hair, in Madrid -, of his temporary abandonment of poetry –Lost in a bowl of cereal it is to date his first and only poetry book published— or on social networks. Levi prefers the representation that she creates on Instagram than the one required of a medium like Twitter: “I don’t want to have an opinion on everything. I do not have it. I want to be able to doubt and change my mind tomorrow ”, he says.
We return to the eternal and unsolvable issue of generational conflict. Elisa feels observed, but she does not believe that these young people of today – among which she is included – are being more scrutinized than those of previous generations. “I’m still wrong, but, I don’t know, I want to think that,” concludes this writer who is said to have great potential, something that, we told her, is beautiful, but she misses her current work a bit, which already it has enough value on its own. “Shit, I hadn’t thought of it that way. Like when I stop having potential I suddenly become a boomer ”, he points out.
It starts to cool off on this terrace. And looking for something in Elisa Levi’s work that does fit with current trends, with what young people are supposedly expected to write, we find the rural world. Although yours is fictional and has been ravaged by an apocalypse, it is true that there are some elements in I don’t know about other things that can converge with some recent literary successes located in that thing called Spain emptied. “What is this about emptied Spain?”, He intervenes. “Let’s see, I do know what it is, but I want to say: what do you expect us to do? What is the idea? I don’t see the intention of the concept ”.
“Have you read any of those rural nature books that everyone talks about?”
-I loved I sing and the mountain dances [de Irene Solà], too Donkey belly [de Andrea Abreu]…
“Umm… conflicting.” I read it in summer and I got mad … We went down to the beach and I carried fair under his arm, sulking. And my partner would tell me: “Stop reading it.” It’s just that it made me hysterical. I don’t know how they sell it. If it is a novel, it is a brutal autofiction, almost a self … biography?
-That! fair it is the autotune of literature.