What was said about the second collection of poems by Fran Gayo, The white fires, —“a book in which Buenos Aires and Asturias merge into one”—, one could also say of his first novel, Christmas of the Wolves (Trojan Horse, 2022). One could even say about the author himself, director and programmer of film festivals (such as Gijón or Bafici in Buenos Aires), musician and writer who moved to Argentina in 2009 and is comfortable there, in La Ciudad de la Furia, a place that has allowed him to take action on the distance that separates him from Spain and from the Asturian child and adolescent that he was, to which he frequently returns without exaltation or nostalgia, rather with astonishment.
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Gaio wanted to write a horror book and one of his trip to his roots came out. “The idea I had at first was to write for fun, I wanted to have a good time, without limits, even if it didn’t get published, but I preferred to spend my free time writing than hanging around puddled”, the author explains. “He came very exhausted from The white fires, that for me it was excessively mobilizing to write and I grabbed poetry fear, respect. I felt the need to step back and write a horror book,” she continues. “What happened is that when I realized my grandmother was already involved in the book,” she reveals. “And the moment my grandmother shows up, the book starts to morph into something else.”
The book has a protagonist, a narrator voice, who is Alberto Garrido, “the unhappy one”, a man who left his native Asturias and now lives in a pandemic Buenos Aires, temporarily alone, isolated, leaving the door of his house open for enter the ghosts Alberto receives a call from his mother announcing that his grandmother has died. “I opened my eyes and Mellos was sitting in a chair at the foot of my bed,” he writes at the beginning of the book. When Mellos, the grandmother, dies in Asturias, it is her when she comes to life, so to speak, in Buenos Aires. The grandmother appears to the protagonist “as a spectral being, who almost seems to be taken from a short story by cartoonist Junji Ito,” she says in the interview. Alberto wants to show that this death does not matter to him because it belongs to his past, but the way in which his life as a child, his grandmothers and the ancestral Asturian culture filters into his present is torrential. “Alberto is a character who is permanently on the run from himself and from his surroundings, as if a curse had fallen on him and he thinks that the only way to get to have his own name and surname is to escape from all that. But that flight never ends, he arrives in Buenos Aires and the first thing he does is change his name because he wants to be someone else, he turns a deaf ear to the death of his grandmother but, on the other hand, the whole book is built on nostalgia and the longing he feels towards her. The character only feels sheltered when he is in “a situation of permanent darkness and loneliness, which is something that scares him, but fear is a feeling in which he feels protected.”
Gaio fictionalizes a family that is very similar to his own, based on scraps and domestic stories that, without having to be truthful, have the overwhelming force of an invocation of a world that no longer exists. “The book comes out of those two tensions: the initial idea of the horror book, and something that had a continuity and coherence with my two previous books. There came a time when it made no sense to continue fighting and I let go of the book, I followed it as best I could and put the words without further ado, ”he explains. Why did he go somewhere else? “There is a strip of mysteries that I don’t feel like working on, I have no idea what happened.”
In any case, the status of a grandson is very important in this story and Gaius clarifies that he does not start from fear at all, but rather from love, respect and admiration for his grandmothers. “The relationship with my paternal grandmother, Remedios, was one of the most complex, complicated, difficult, rare and half-baked that I had in my life, but also one of the purest love I had,” he emphasizes.
Fran Gayo was born in Gijón in 1970. He participated in the city’s acclaimed and fertile music scene, the same scene from which Nacho Vegas emerged, at the very end of the 90s and the two thousand years. Instead, his proposal, the Mus duo with Mónica Vacas, started from a place very different from that of the dominant Xixón Sound: intimate pop, at some point close to folk and sung in Asturian. They released four albums, culminating a very careful and brilliant career with Life (Greenufos, 2007). The third of his albums was called divine light (Acuarela, 2004), a title in which the name of Gaio’s other grandmother, the maternal one, Luz Divina, resonates. The author has said that both works, that album and Christmas of the wolves, They start from the same place.
“It is even the same geographical site. The first song on that album, raw School, talks about a child’s first contact with death. No one is born with the built-in idea that death exists and that at some point life ends. There is someone older than you who tells you that this is over and it is a key moment in life that I remember, ”he explains about those parallels. “The memory I have of the recording of divine light It was incredible, especially the construction of a practically physical space that in many moments coincided with the same place that my entire maternal family comes from, a very small town on the border with Galicia, where my mother was born and where I used to go when I was little. and teenager in the summers. That impregnated the album with a very particular state of mind that is also present in some parts of the book”.
The distance, both in time and space, has allowed Fran Gayo to reflect more deeply on the Asturian identity and culture on which he has worked. “In order not to play dumb and not make the wrong decisions, distance is important,” he says. “I began to understand many things about the Asturian idiosyncrasy from Buenos Aires. And what I understood was not pretty, rather the opposite, ”he points out. “The Asturian has a certain conviction that, as a people, we have very particular values, based on historical events such as October 34, and a moral height above other people in the State, which is completely ridiculous.” For the author, among Asturians there is “a fear of making an immediate observation of the present: where we are and what brought us to this place” and precisely what he is most interested in is “looking at what is now”. “Today, I don’t feel particularly proud of being Asturian. It’s not hate, but it’s already indifferent to me”, he says, remembering that after 13 years living in Buenos Aires, there is a part of the “porteño countryman” with which he identifies more and more every day.
“There are things that force you to have a distance of 11,000 kilometers and things that force you to have a distance of 35 years to begin to understand them,” he insists. “It relocated my relationship with where I was born, and made it healthier and more balanced, instead of going through phases of incredible hatred at thinking that she was born in the best place in the world. The distance led me to think about things more and handle a hot blood that could give me some moments of joy but also led me to make many mistakes, ”she adds. But there is only one place, a single terrain, from which she cannot distance herself, which is paternity, an important condition also in her novel: “It crosses you and that’s it. Now it is the vantage point from which I see everything.”