Monday, May 23

Natalia Carrero: “The character is a paper life that must be respected as if it were flesh and blood”

Natalia Carrero was born in Barcelona in 1970, was reborn in Madrid in 1997 and became a writer in Caballo de Troya in 2008. The label that the publisher Constantino Bértolo used at that time to discover new voices was the place from which hers emerged. In that first novel, I am a box Nadila appeared, a writer in the shadow of Clarice Lispector who was searching for her voice while fighting a life or death battle with words.

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Almost fifteen years later, Carrero signs Other, her sixth book —a production that also includes graphic novels and children’s books— in which the protagonist is another woman who writes: Mónica. Monica is a woman upset by the psychiatric illness of her brother, whom she turns to. She is a well-to-do mother and wife who wants to be productive and invents a job; it is not that she pretends that she has it but that she creates one to her own measure, although there is a part that is a pretense. Monica has a partner: drink.

“I could affirm that Mónica has been the character that has inhabited me for the longest time, to whom I have most resisted giving up space, rather I have tried to silence her, I did not see her or did not want to see her with the projection of going out in search of interlocutors, readers and readers”, explains Carrero, who made the protagonist’s “moderate alcoholism” appear for the first time in several texts for the medium Ctxt. The author wrote a monologue that served to observe the “audience reactions” to the text. From then on she began to think that “perhaps it was worth exhibiting and unleashing that Monica” that she carried inside her.

The character’s right

All the characters in Natalia Carrero’s novels have something in common, they are crossed by oppressions that grip women in the present. Each one faces it as she can. On an improper room (Caballo de Troya, 2011) the protagonists appear to lead normal, pleased lives, but the author’s gaze reveals an immense inner emptiness in them, an anguish that is linked to what is expected of the person, to what they represent.

“The character is a paper life, you have to respect that life like any flesh and blood person,” says the writer. “How would I like to relate to people, to lives? In a fluid way, as hypocritical as possible and as sincere, even if it is painful or requires effort and more generosity, not only made of shiny words but of deeds, ”she adds.

2016 was an important year for Carrero. Almost at the same time, two different works appeared that contributed to raising his voice: myself i guess (Rat, 2016) and the comic rebel letter (Infinite Beauty, 2016). In this expedition that she herself makes towards the visceral center of her relationship with words —and with herself—, the author becomes a line and traces herself in the drawn world, a parallel plane where words also become line and, in this way, both coexist in the same plane and, therefore, cohabit in more, let’s say, equal conditions. As a result of this exploration, her drawings appear inserted in her novels, but she also turns to narrating in graphic format, as she did in rebel letter or accompanying Belén Gopegui in the children’s story the cloudsfury (We are Books, 2021).

Other it is a fragmented book: there are drawings, small stories, longer ones, different formats, cuts and cuts. “Since I set out to write with the intention of telling something for which I had no words but the need to share, writing and life are inseparable for me”, he explains. “From there I write as I can, the time and the context is multitasking, interrupted, swift and unfair. I do not believe in watertight labels and I am not at this moment the same one who writes the point to the sentence; From there I try to express myself. My sense of time, of meanings and movements, I guess, leads me to move on, avoid comforts that can be like traps to believe that we have already done and written everything. No, there is always a lot to do. Other it is written with its cuts, its assemblages and mixtures, it is like that, form and background as inseparable as my body from these occurrences that I write”.

evaporate a novel

Three themes are the axes of his latest story: mental health, addiction and precariousness, if these three are not really one. Monica drinks at any time, she loses consciousness and control, sometimes she hides and sometimes she doesn’t. “Glu Glu”, is the onomatopoeia heard throughout the book. “Alcoholism is the addiction that I have known the most since I was thirteen years old, the one that has given me the most problems and pain of all kinds, the one that has worried me the most,” admits Carrero. “Now I have isolated and delimited her to write her, specifically, as a Western woman, fifty years old, white, middle class, a mother who, of course, offers her human imperfection to her sons and daughters as what there is, since they come from there”.

after the chapter Memories of a good drunk, in the second part of the book, Monica provides a sticker album of other drinkers. “After monopolizing the spotlight, she decides to pass the microphone on to the others, any drunk, anonymous, so that we can hear her voice. Monica has already told us that she has been observing them, listening, learning and comparing herself to them for a long time”, explains the author. For example Blanca, journalist freelancing, 37 years old, her mother drank to float, her father did it to gather strength, she does it in an instrumental way, she says, to calibrate life from an altered perspective. Or the furniture restorer Teresa, 48, for whom 24 hours of abstinence would become a hell of thoughts and memories against herself.

Although Natalia Carrero began to amass the material of Other Three years ago, before the start of the pandemic, the novel was titled Drinkable. He broke it in confinement: “As if it had evaporated,” he says. There he reconverted it into something closer to a collage — “illegible” — which he titled evaporated novel. “I tried to post it after the lockdown. Now I’m glad I didn’t get it. The refusals made me rethink everything, take it up again and rewrite it, condense it back into lyrics”. After confinement, Monica returned to the screens of Ctxt with an episode entitled The novel we will not write. Which he did do and is now published by Tránsito.

For a woman today to be able to dedicate herself to writing, she must “leave decorations”, she points out. “That ‘devoting oneself to writing’ does not mean a pose but a lot of daily actions that awaken consciences, provide consolation and imagine changes”. Among I am a box and Other, the author “has passed the years”, she says about herself. The years is not only time, but also “readings and rereadings”. “I have learned very little, surely, but I have learned something very important and lasting that we should repeat and listen well: We must take care of the planet and its surroundings,” she warns.