– The writer and literary critic of this newspaper, José Ignacio García, has just published, just like you, a book of stories set at Christmas. What is so special about this period that it is so recurrent in authors who practice short stories?
– On the one hand, writing Christmas stories is testing yourself in a literary tradition, writing within a genre, which is also a way of growing as storytellers. And, on the other, Christmas as a subject invites us to fable in an ambiguous but very fertile ground, it seems to me, which is the conjunction of the real and the wonderful, a society that is already present in what we could consider the first story. Christmas story, the birth of Jesus.
– The irruption of the unusual in everyday life is very present in your books and especially in your previous publication ‘Fábrica de prodigios’ (Páginas de Espuma). I don’t know if Christmas is an even more propitious framework for this phenomenon to be repeated?
– Yes. The wonderful, more than the fantastic, nourishes the experience we have of Christmas. And what fosters, above all, this record is that kind of universal agreement that works during the last days of the year to suspend the disbelief of others. Here is what is truly exceptional to me: that adult people, often lacking in imagination, for a few days behave like a storyteller perpetuating a heritage of fictions, all in the service of preserving the credulity of a child. There is no other more universal theater –with what theater implies of figurative language and the promotion of illusion– than that of Christmas days.
– You say that your father was a great storyteller and that around these dates he would tell you and your brothers stories set at Christmas, with the particularity that all those fantasies came wrapped in a costumbrist setting. Have you somehow followed his teachings when composing your Christmas stories?
– My father’s stories are not strictly similar to mine, but without them I would not write as I write. I would say more: without them I would not even write. In the case of my Christmas fables, I think the biggest debt has to do with the existence of a moment of illumination in one of the characters, a fact that transforms them, almost always derived from a magical event. Often in my father’s stories there was a character who redeemed himself by turning from denial to credulity. And there is another aspect that I also consider typical of his trades as a storyteller that I have ended up assuming: the freedom with which, in a familiar space –the one in the town where we lived– he arranged the adventures of fabulous characters, notably the three Wise Men. . This intrusion of the portentous into the ordinary has always attracted me when writing.
– You have also said that the Christmas story is especially indebted to that oral relationship that takes place by the fire, which in these parts we know as filandón. Could you delve into this reflection?
– All stories, not just Christmas ones, begin by making good the fascination that emerges from a voice. In that the story is similar to poetry, which was born to be recited before a group of listeners. If the fable is to abound, in addition, in wonderful elements, the work of the voice –now I am also referring to the written voice–, will be the key to convince the reader of the truth of the story, that is, of its credibility. The call for fire is, to a large extent, instrumental in Christmas stories: the season calls for it. But fire is a very valuable element to fascinate because it appeals to a collective memory of words spoken around it since the origins of the species. Fire and fable go hand in hand from the beginning. This concord also helps to stage an ancient time, which is the best for situating a fiction that claims to be timeless and that also owes its debt to the mythical and the fabulous. The Holy Family and the Three Wise Men are the best examples of this fluctuation: they belong to historical time but are ageless because their appearance is renewed every year.
– Dickens is one of the authors who have universalized this genre. In his opinion, what is the difference between Anglo-Saxon writers and the great names in Spanish literature who have cultivated the Christmas story?
– Perhaps the awareness of a tradition. Since Victorian times it was an English custom to tell stories on Christmas Eve. In general, they were gothic stories, capable of disturbing the most childish public that attended those fables on a winter night where ghosts were common. Dickens established such inheritances in writing and also created a Christmas story model that, without being religious, has a deep commitment to spirituality. I say this because the great argument of his fable is the possibility offered to his protagonist to redeem himself through compassion with his neighbor.
In Spain the cultivation of the Christmas story is greater than it might seem, although we lack a foundational model of the value of Dickens’s ‘Christmas Song’. But the truth is that when one investigates, he finds that almost all the great storytellers have done a test, which is scattered among their storybooks. Rarer is the case of those who persevere in the genre and manage to put together their own book of Christmas stories that does not make the attempt anecdotal.
– Our perception of Christmas changes as we stop being children and become adults. Do your stories try to recover the child in us?
– I think that the rescue of innocence is the great theme of Christmas literature. And as much as the rescue his hesitation or his threat. Christmas is a state of mind but also an experience that passes, at some point, through disappointment. The transition from childhood to adolescence through a disappointment –in this case, that of a fantasy that has been renewed winter after winter until arriving at one that suddenly invalidates previous convictions–, is one of the earliest admissions that there may be in adulthood. But it is not bitter at all because the farce – let’s say it like this – then extends from the other shore, that of maturity that works to sustain the dream of childhood. This is how adults, at least for a few days a year, can rescue emotions that we experienced as children and prolong them, transmit that inheritance that fosters candor and credulity. Something of both attitudes appears in my Christmas stories.
– What can you tell me about the illustration work done by Lucie Duboeuf for ‘Herencias del invierno’?
– Lucie’s drawings evoke a candid atmosphere without resorting to too many elements and without falling into sentimentality. The line is simple and the color notes are barely suggested, a preference for gold, yes, which is very well reconciled with Christmas iconography. She has done it without fanfare. In addition to the full-page drawings, which are evocative of an atmosphere, he has led each story with a modest motif – a chestnut, a bell, a pipe, a rocking chair – which have been enough to emphasize that what is small is often Notice the big in these tales. On the other hand, there is a kind of rest in what she has drawn that agrees with the mood that predominates in the stories: a lot of expectant silence to listen, the snow falling unhurriedly, the starry skies, a man who attends to a distant . I find a kind of suspension in the drawings, of voluntary abstinence for reflecting too many things. What she shuts up is the trade of the words of the story.