The line that separates an autobiographical novel from an autofictional one is very narrow, and the writers Manuel Vilas (Barbastro, Huesca, 1962) and Borja Ortiz de Gondra (Bilbao, Vizcaya, 1965) discussed where to draw it this Friday on the occasion of the celebration of the Frankfurt Book Fair 2021. Their books “Ordesa” and “You will never be a real Gondra” successfully combine parts of their personal life, relying on fictional elements.
Both authors agree that the first line of a book is crucial, just like the first song of a music concert, since it is the one used to capture the public’s attention. Who does not remember that mythical “in a place in La Mancha whose name I do not want to remember” with which Cervantes begins “Don Quixote”?
Ortiz de Gondra assured: “We are not inventing anything,” since already in Don Quixote Cervantes, appears as a character in the novel, or Alonso Quijano himself reads a book that talks about the famous hidalgo from La Mancha.
Vilas and Ortiz de Gondra are certain they write novels since, although they are part of them as characters, some elements do not conform to reality. Even so, they prefer that the reader makes the distinction according to their criteria. “The reader decides what degree of identity there is between reality and fiction,” said the writer from Huesca.
“I am my own character. I think I write novels because I don’t want to continue being who I am, and in the novel, I am myself, plus all that fiction that I allow myself.”Borja Ortiz de Gondra, writer.
FAMILY, A UNIVERSAL TOPIC
In both cases, his works revolve around the topic of the family. From a family that, even if they share their surname, it is not his own so according to Vilas, the “equation of reflecting real characters with those in the novel” in an equitable way is “difficult.”
Ortiz has lived in countries like Switzerland or the United States to become a “cosmopolitan” writer. However, he only felt that readers from all over the world connected with his writing when he told the intimate story of his family in the Basque Country when he shared his wound.
Along the same lines, Vilas asserted that “literature is at the service of life” and defined the writer as a “worker of words.” The writer from Huesca seeks inspiration wherever he sees the truth, even if it is in his closest environment because he can become a mirror for the readers. “I tell you my life because it is yours too,” he concluded.
“I like the idea of the writer as a word worker.”Manuel Vilas, writer.
Borja Ortiz de Gondra (Bilbao, 1965) graduated in Law, Theater, and Translation. His record as a playwright includes the Calderón de la Barca Award or the Max Award for Best Theatrical Authorship. As a translator, he has worked in international organizations. He lived in Paris and Geneva and currently lives between New York and Madrid. In 2020 he published his first novel: Nunca serás un verdadero Gondra (Random House Literature).
Manuel Vilas (Barbastro, 1962) is one of the main Spanish poets and storytellers of his generation. He has won the most prestigious poetry awards in Spain. He regularly writes for the newspaper El País. In October 2019, he was a finalist for the Planeta Award and the Jeane Monnet Prize for European Literature, with his novel entitled Alegría (Planeta). His latest book of poems is entitled Roma (Visor, 2020), and he has just published his new novel entitled Los Besos (Planeta, 2021).