Although he now presents his first narrative book, Jaime Rodríguez Z. (Lima, Peru, 1973) has been dedicated to writing for a long time. Besides being a writer, he is a journalist and editor. He has dedicated himself to the latter in the cultural magazine Lateral and as director of the literary magazine Quimera. He did the third by promoting the publishing house This is not berlin. And to the first of all the above.
Antonio J. Rodríguez: “All men have exercised violence from our privilege”
After publishing two collections of poems called The apparent cities (Editorial Colmillo Blanco, 2001) and Song of Vic Morrow (TREA, 2009), Rodríguez ‘debuts’ in the narrative with an anthology of stories entitled Only we are left, which has just been published by Galaxia Gutemberg. A book that exudes a hurtful honesty, at the same time that it functions as a catalog of narrative registers in which the writer unfolds with total naturalness.
In one of the stories, one of his sons falls while riding his bike. He picks up the boy and asks him if he will tell his mothers what has happened. “Yes, he tells me, you always have to count when it hurts because otherwise how are they going to know how big the wound is”. A large part of Rodríguez’s accounts seem to reflect on this: Only we are left he tries to measure, weigh the pain and look for a possible remedy for a wounded man.
Only we are left is the first book in the Interspecies series that Galaxia Gutemberg is going to launch together with the writer Jorge Carrión. How and when was this book born? Is it your proposal?
Carrión is one of my closest friends and he has always encouraged me to do things, most of the time to no avail. But the book is actually born from a very particular personal moment, when the pandemic exposes me in a quite violent way to a feeling of vulnerability that I have always wanted to not only fight, but to deny. It is from what I decide to inquire about that attitude that is partly patriarchal mandate and partly personal baggage. In fact, Only we are left He was on the verge of dating two other publishers before Jordi and I realized that it fit his vision of the new collection he was preparing for Galaxia.
In his second story, entitled I was going to give a workshop on new masculinities, the pandemic appears as a theme that will later be echoed in other stories. Do you think there is some urgency to treat the pandemic from fiction?
More than urgent, it seems inevitable. This has been, is being, too large for no record to remain. Then it will pass and other issues will come and generate new responses. But I like that you talk about fiction because the book also reflects my own frustration with that type of writing. A crisis that is resolved in the book itself, hence the chapters are in the form of chronicles and stories interspersed, two genres whose limits are gradually diluted towards the end. Or so I think.
Do you see it plausible that the coronavirus becomes a literary object of a generation of writers and writers? I think of the Nocilla or the Kronen generation, who came out of different identity crises, and if now we are witnessing the birth of another …
It is difficult to say, was it polio? What about AIDS? There are very interesting books that incorporate these evils or even deal with them, but they have not turned them into literary objects. Nor do I think it happens with this. The human experience is bigger than any pandemic. I do believe that those examples you give, Kronen or Nocilla, are products of times with less global constraints. I think that the Z or the ‘pandemials’ are developing their own neuroses. We’ll find out.
In other stories like Tools, Lesson, Stand up (for your rights), Brothers in arms or The perfect man, a masculinity in crisis appears that tries to find its place. On The old new masculinity (Anagrama, 2020) Antonio J. Rodríguez described the ‘new masculinity’ as something more in tune with feminist demands, but that essentially had not changed that much. Do you think that what has come to be called ‘new masculinities’ has ended up becoming a useful label but that deep down men still have a lot of work ahead of them on equality issues?
It seems to me that for a man of my generation, even for Antonio’s generation, it is practically impossible to unlearn everything we learned from the privilege of cis men. Abandon the softest and stinkiest parts of the whale (Antonio Cisneros dixit), besides, it’s not cool. I mean that for many of us it is arduous, thankless and often unsatisfactory work to go into deconstruction or the ‘process of’. Of course, it is also a very exciting time in which we have the possibility to free ourselves from certain flaws. It is a part that I enjoy a lot and that I have learned above all by sharing with my colleagues and with my friends.
Regarding the label of ‘new masculinities’: I assume it, as long as it contemplates, precisely, the plurality of the male subject. Like feminism itself, masculinity is not one, it is diverse and is crossed by racial conditioning, class and identity variants within a spectrum. Of course there is a lot of posturing in all this too, it’s very easy to become the asshole who looks at the camera and says ‘it’s good to be an ally’ by putting on a Mel Brooks face. I have been that asshole, and many others. There is a chapter in the book, Stand up (for your rights) in which I laugh, a little, at the experience of the ‘deconstructed’ man because, what the hell, it is also a laughable experience.
I assume the label of ‘new masculinities’ as long as it contemplates the plurality of the male subject: like feminism itself, masculinity is not one, it is diverse
In the aforementioned Brothers in arms portrays a behavior that seems to mark a male behavior pattern: men who make sexist jokes or criticize feminism in private, and to the public they present themselves as someone ‘in the process of deconstruction’. Do you think it is possible for one process to take place without the other? That someone laugh the thanks of a macho joke or consume non-feminist porn and in turn be ‘an ally’?
As I told you, it is easy to be cynical or hypocritical about these topics. There are jokes that no longer make me laugh, especially jokes that involve violence or a feeling of superiority over another. There are other things that I do laugh at because they are funny and because they operate on my own insecurities.
With this WhatsApp groups, the same thing happens to me as with nationalism and football. There are few things that I find more stupid than nationalism, but if they play Peru or Spain I am going to die. They are limited spaces that we will also have to resignify, eventually. It’s all the fault of capitalism. It’s a joke. No. Whatever: actually Brothers in arms It is a love letter to my friends, whom I adore. I love that the years go by and we continue together, with our jokes and our codes and our already unconditional love.
On Padremia addresses the relationship with his daughter [Rodríguez utiliza el género neutro para referirse a una persona de género no binario]. In the book New good men the anthropologist Ritxar Bacete said that one of the most direct ways of accessing the understanding of feminism by men was paternity, which opens the door to a universe of care historically imposed on women. To what extent has fatherhood changed your understanding of your own masculinity and caring?
I think that the issue of male care is still halfway through, but progress has been made on that for a long time. It is not something recent. It seems more interesting to me to think about the challenges that parents of my generation have – also the most recent, but I speak from my perspective – to assume the multiple identities of our daughters, sons, daughters. Before we went through adolescence almost blindly, towards something that they told us was our identity and if we got there, well, and if not, to suffer for deviants. Now they are all lighting their way with their mobile phones and of course the old identities no longer serve them. It’s a challenge to understand them, but I find it incredibly stimulating.
I am fortunate that there are trans people among my beloved people, and I can tell you that theirs is a constant and exhausting struggle to achieve the fullness of their freedoms.
His daughter Coco appears in several of the stories of Only we are left. How do you see the reality of trans or non-binary gender minors in Spain?
There is a pattern that is repeated among people who invoke the Royal Academy of the Language because they do not like inclusive language, people who are scandalized because they can no longer open the door to a lady (with how beautiful it was, hear you!) or the people who suffer when they tell them that it is possible to reread Lolita with a feminist perspective. They are all extremely boring, anti-evolutionary, reactionary positions, come on.
Not being a trans person, I am not very certain about their reality in Spain, but I am lucky that there are trans people among my beloved people, and I can tell you that theirs is a constant and exhausting struggle to achieve the fullness of their freedoms. On Padremia, In the chapter you said before, I also try to reflect the double isolation that Coco suffered as a non-binary person —which is a fucking way of being in the world, by the way— in a society that barely registers them.