Although the author had already signed several works, it was the appearance of Change of idea, in 2019, a defiant confession full of lucidity –or dynamite–, which confirmed Aixa of the Cross (Bilbao, 1988) as one of the most interesting voices of his generation: his speech had the substance of those who have a lot to say. the heiressesa novel published by Alfaguara that the writer presented yesterday at the Seville Book Fair accompanied by Rocio Rojas-Marcos, confirms the determination of the woman from Bilbao to wonder about the world around us and make readers participants –or accomplices– of her thoughts. The premise of four young women who meet in the house where their grandmother has committed suicide gives rise to the writer to address issues such as job insecurity, mental health or doping with which we sometimes face life.
–In the final note you state that you wrote this book “during two difficult and rare years like few others”. Was that difficulty due to the pandemic?
“Yes, he caught us with a nine-month-old girl, and that made things particularly difficult. We spent a hard confinement in Bilbao, in a house of 40 square meters, and working, because despite the fact that the world was sinking outside there was no respite, work obligations did not stop. When the confinement ended, we thought that this had been the straw that broke the camel’s back with respect to the city: very high rents, apartments that when you put them to the test you discover that they are not habitable… They let us out and we decided not to go back in. We went to a village in Burgos where my grandfather grew up, we went with suitcases for two weeks and we stayed two years. All of that is inevitably spilled over into the novel.
–The protagonists perceive the grandmother’s suicide as a curse that they carry in their genes. But one of them, Nora, believes that “if we are crazy, it will be because they have driven us crazy.”
–That sentence sums up part of the central ideological proposal of the book: we have four characters who arrive with different loads of psychic suffering and to different degrees all of them have learned to explain that pain as something private. Lis, for example, has internalized the idea that she is crazy and assumes that it is a consequence of postpartum depression. It amuses me how postpartum depression is sold to us as these hormonal things that happen to women, and not as the product of births that are sometimes traumatic, of suffocating material conditions, of an upbringing in which you spend two years without sleeping. I wanted to emphasize what Nora says: that everything has external causes, that we must learn to name what is making us sick.
– Something that is said in the book is surprising: that the percentage of people over 65 who commit suicide is very large.
“That surprised me too. This idea has passed into the collective imagination that suicide is more typical of young people, something that the romantic poets made us believe. The hard part is that this is not the case, and it is not difficult to imagine why: we live in a moment of atrocious individualism in which dependency is conceived as a scourge, and the elderly are dealing with enormous burdens: loneliness on the one hand, and on the other, feeling expendable, seeing themselves as a weight dragged by their relatives. Some even think that it would be better if they left.
–Nora has fallen into addiction to cope with overwork. “There is no way to answer fifty emails“, the Mint.
-I don’t know when it happened, but I notice it in myself and in my surroundings: that in the last five, seven years the division that used to exist, that should exist, between life and work has been completely eliminated. This availability to which WhatsApp and all social networks force us, that your day ends at an hour but you always have something to update, something to answer… that’s terrible. And we also participate in the gear: maybe we are vegans and we want to go against the system, but we call Amazon to have them bring us a package on a holiday, we make someone work that day.
-In the book you denounce how the system allows and encourages some drugs, you maintain, to force us “to produce more and better.”
-Nora’s case is perhaps a bit extreme, but going to more everyday situations there would be the widespread use of benzodiazepines among women, which are already in any toiletry bag. We end up resorting to drugs so that sleep is restful, and so that the next day we can produce. There is a lot of hypocrisy with drugs. In the novel, one of the protagonists remembers walking hand in hand with her grandmother, at the time of the heroine, and seeing little boys lying on the ground. It is very interesting how these ultramedicated women looked at the junkies with contempt, when in reality both were victims of the same phenomenon. In the heiresses There is talk of how in my grandmothers’ generation many women were hooked on Optalidon, a drug that made it easier for them to do daily tasks with enormous ease. There was a lot of withdrawal syndrome when the drug was banned.
–Beyond her diagnosis, Lis would represent the obstacles that a woman encounters when she is a mother.
-Yes. The idea of conciliation is a utopia, absolutely. I have come across situations that I did not expect before deciding to be a mother. If, for example, you don’t have retired parents, and they live in your city, having a child impoverishes you a lot. Until recently, my daughter entered school from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and in those hours it is not possible to carry out a productive job with a salary that covers basic needs, it is most likely that if money allows it, you will end up hiring someone. Before, and this is certainly not ideal from a civil rights point of view, women stayed home and men went to the office. Today, with a ridiculous salary, you have to work, take care of your children… and answer emails at 11 at night.
In your book, spirituality is very important.
Yes, it was one of the topics I wanted to talk about. I am not baptized or raised in any faith, but I have become a very spiritual person. I have experienced the process as something political. At this time, with the climatic challenge we have, I realize that mystical experiences, the connection with nature that they bring you, could save us, but at the same time I am aware that spirituality has been and is something individual by definition , and it cannot be collectivized without going through the usual institutions. It is something that is in the novel, but that I am not yet able to solve. Spirituality is not exempt from the market either: when I was in town I began to be interested in yoga and it amused me to see how companies incorporate mindfulnessThey give the workers half an hour of meditation to make them perform better.
Aixa of the Cross. Writer “We go against the system, but we make someone from Amazon work on a Sunday”