Sergi Bellver is staying these days in a palace. A “borrowed” palace, as he himself clarifies, because the Barcelona writer has been living on the run for a decade now, without a fixed address, faithful to a lifestyle that he describes as “transhumance”. He has spent long periods on sofas and other people’s rooms, in houses lost in the woods, in Galician fishing villages, in remote Andalusian towns, in Barcelona, Madrid, a corner of Saxony, an attic in Prague, a hostel in Vienna, a studio in the Medina of Marrakesh…
He has gone to most of these temporary residence spaces taking advantage of the hospitality of a series of hosts with whom he contacts through social networks: “I am a digital nomad, now that the concept is so fashionable,” he jokes. Bellver (Barcelona, 1971) goes from one place to another with a backpack, barely 20 pieces of clothing and the occasional book: “I depend on the generosity of the people who want to welcome me, but I can’t help but be a guest a little fussy, because my purpose in life is to write, and for that I need space, intimacy and silence. Mine are hermit routines, so I can hardly live with families or with people who spend a lot of time at home. Like James Spader in Sex, lies and videotapes, travels light, committed to what he understands as an authentic life. Spader said in the film that you have to choose between a house and a car, because the moment you carry more than one key in your pocket you’ve already given up and you’re lost. Bellver subscribes to the sentence and adds an important nuance: he has neither a house nor a car. “I tried for years to lead a conventional life,” he recalls as he walks, “with food jobs, stability, a payroll. But it was horrifying to me, it made me very unhappy. I felt like he was betraying me.” With a late vocation —”when I was a teenager I drew and was a voracious reader, but then I left my parents’ house, I leaned out into the noise of the world and between the ages of 18 and 35 I didn’t do anything creative”—, today he knows that what What he really wants to do is “write and travel”.
The “palace” in which he stays these days is the avant-garde residence that the sculptor Xavier Corberó designed for himself in Esplugues de Llobregat, very close to Barcelona. Bellver has been here since last summer, in a room with views of a beautiful interior patio, motley and almost jungle, which reminds him of the Mexican city of Oaxaca. Here he put an end to his first novel, of silence (Wind Editions), recently published. In it is the true fruit of his years of nomadic life, the creative effort that gives meaning to his peculiar way of living. He previously published a book of short stories, Agua dura; another on travel, Variations on Budapest, and even a collection of poems, Gavia, which today he half denies: “I think it was a worthy effort but to a certain extent failed. At least it served me to finish convincing myself that I am a narrator, not a poet”.
of silence It began to take shape in the summer of 2015, at the height of the refugee crisis generated by the war in Syria. Bellver was traveling through Central Europe at the time, from German Saxony to the capitals of the Danube, and “the images of those people who had lost everything and had been forced to embark on an atrocious journey” made a deep impression on him. He wanted to write a newspaper article about it, denouncing “rich Europe’s rejection of these new victims of history.” But in doing so, he felt like a fraud: “I am not a journalist or a geopolitical analyst, I cannot pretend to lecture on a humanitarian drama that I neither know in depth nor have experienced up close, no matter how indignant and moved I am. My role in this life is to tell stories.”
of silence part of the past to pose an uncomfortable reflection on the present. It is the story of János, a young Hungarian who finds refuge in Paris after World War II and looks out there for a placid, perfectly conventional existence, as a locksmith apprentice and a lucid witness to the beauty of the world, which he finds in literature. , movies or music. This character with the vocation of a passive observer, who goes through life looking for spaces of introspection and silence, will be caught, much to his regret, by the vertigo of the story. He will return to Budapest, following in the footsteps of his paternal uncle who instilled in him a love of reading, just at the moment when Soviet tanks crush the Hungarian revolt. Years later, in Prague, the city to which he goes in pursuit of a love of youth, he will also witness the collapse of a second Velvet Revolution.
To write this fascinating story of historical and sentimental upheavals, Bellver acknowledges having documented “even sickly.” He consulted the press, literary sources and old almanacs to verify “what nights in the autumn of 1956 or spring of 1968 there was a full moon, which Parisian cafeterias Julio Cortázar frequented or what the car that Miguel Delibes drove on his first trip to Prague was like.” He wanted to create a well-furnished, “true-to-life” literary universe. One of those rich, dense and solid novels that he himself enjoys as a reader because “they transfer the pulse of reality, they offer full immersion and they don’t fall out of hand.” There is, of course, “very sensitive material” in it, taken from his own life, but János is not a transcript of Bellver displaced to another generation and another geographical setting: “At first I imagined him as the human being who could have to be me if I were born in Budapest in 1931. However, as the novel progressed, János gained in substance and autonomy, separating itself from my own experience and at the same time, paradoxically, becoming more and more real and closer to me. I was able to find his narrative voice, which in the novel evolves from 15 to 38 years old, preserving, at least I hope, his personality and his coherence”. of silence it is “a novel against noise”. The one of lies, double standards and forgetfulness. “If it has a message, it is the rejection of excluding nationalisms, selfish particularisms and ideological intransigence.” Bellver recognizes himself in people who, like János, “make an effort to build a rich inner life for themselves, but don’t turn it into a parapet against the world. On the contrary, they are willing to open up to friendship, love and solidarity”.
Bellver is already planning the next stage of his life itinerary. In the short term, he is going to persevere in his nomadic lifestyle: “I want to make it clear that I don’t see it as an end in itself, but as the means that has allowed me to be true to myself and focus on writing. I don’t rule out settling down.” In the spring he will publish moving target, his first essay, a reflection on his wandering decade: “I try, for the first time, to extract all the sense and explain honestly and precisely the meaning of that experience, which even some of my best friends consider insane and extreme, because living without fixed address is not always easy”. Has it been worth it? “Today I would say yes, because my novel is out, it lives up to my expectations and ambitions, and I feel like I couldn’t have written it any other way. But ask me again in a few years.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.