The literature against violence in Guatemala

Photo: Valérian Mazataud The Duty
In the interview, the author saves his words for moments, as in his novels.

With a few armed guards in sight, it is in a chic shopping centre of the capital city of Guatemala, that The Duty was joined a few weeks ago, Rodrigo Rey Rosa, voice of the major works of Latin american literature. The novelist of guatemala is preparing to leave the country for a couple of weeks to travel, see friends, and to lose the habit of the violence that permeates the entire daily life.


“I love being able to get out of the country. When we stay here too long, everything normalizes, violence trivialize. It becomes insensitive to force to live here, ” he says.


Rey Rosa has a hard time living in a country that he doesn’t want to leave. Thus he writes of the brutal, also to take a step back relative to these reflexes for protection, these little walls erected around itself constantly, in a place where the homicide rate is among the ten highest in the world.


Small walls that are in some of the windows almost opaque as we go back as soon as the city limits are crossed, sometimes real barricades around the “close quarters” that surround the entire city of Guatemala. Neighborhoods hemmed in by security guards, a veritable caste, ” said the novelist, when one knows that they are much more numerous than the police of the country.


“The friends of my niece have almost all of the weapons. My sister doesn’t let them enter with their guns. How do you do that when it is normal ? “The economic heart of the territory is, and this” prototype town hard, where the rich people around in armoured vehicles and men of affairs who have the most success wearing bullet-proof vests, ” he wrote in Stones enchanted (Gallimard).

When readers believe they hold in their hands of the detective novels, they are disappointed !
Rodrigo Rey Rosa

“The countries with the most beautiful, the most ugly “, statue-still in the introduction of the same story, but it’s no longer a question of to live elsewhere. Rodrigo Rey Rosa, however, has already tasted life in several countries, spending several years in New York from 1979, and then to Tangier, where he participated in the writing workshops of Paul Bowles. It will not settle in the native country that, in 2001, where he was ordained in 2004 by the national prize for literature Miguel Angel Asturias, the name of the writer nobélisé in 1967.


Another author of the Latin american well-known it was also a great admiration for Roberto Bolaño, which contributed to make him known. “Rodrigo Rey Rosa is the writer the most rigorous of my generation, and at the same time the most transparent, the one who weaves the best stories and the most luminous of all. “


The truth is stinking and slippery


Bright also, backed by an aquarium, a range of ceviche ready to be swallowed. Rey Rosa is not quite like a fish in water during the interview. Warm and distant at the same time, he saves his words for moments, as in his novels. The artifice is at a minimum, the narrative takes up all the space and catches the reader in its spiral, with a virtuosity akin to that of Borges, admired by Rey Rosa.


Spirit subtle, the Guatemalan is not the type to point out who is guilty and who is not. “When readers believe they hold in their hands of the detective novels, they are disappointed !” he said, laughing.


Some libraries — including the Grande Bibliothèque de Montréal — is a strategy yet to be classified in the section ” Police “. His novels do not provide, however, no response ; on the contrary, the development of the plot is more important than the outcome.


This is the life, which is a noir novel here, not the writings of Rey Rosa. And the truth is always evasive.


After almost 40 years of organized violence, between 1960 and 1996, the creation of the Commission on the clarification of history, he says, will at least used to say the name of the conflict : genocide. A genocide that has given way to a war of the country against itself, in which the mercs are sometimes recycled as traffickers, or security guard, and where the soldiers are paramilitary yesterday or tomorrow.


“The manner in which the massacres of the Mayans took place is one of the proofs that it was really a genocide. It would have been impossible to implement a violence of this order without the racism of the deep racism that makes the other an animal, an animal that does not deserve to exist, ” sums up the author.


The other being ” the indigenous, the Maya “, killed by the soldiers of the central power, or ” transformed itself in the washing machine to kill the natives “, the self-hate fuelled since their recruitment to 16 or 17 years old.


The Story refusing to come to the end of the old oligarchies, it is feared that the conditions of this racism are alive and well still in place. “At the base, the guatemalan State has criminalized. And the crime is perpetuated “, coldly said to Rey Rosa.


In this context, the literature can be used as a self-criticism to a minimum, or, at best, of a warning shot. “The corporate slave owners were not evil. Here, it is a bit like that. At least, literature can be a shock, a kind of a wake up call for question. “His stories have this privileged space for” suggest a lot, ” while respecting the complexity, the nuances of reality.


We find for example in The deaf a part of the genesis of the civil war, which may well be other wars to come as its ferments seem common. Of people mounted one against the other, sometimes exploited, sometimes dispossessed, the enemy dehumanized, ” special operations “. But there is also the distant past that can vouch premises ” a different future “.


“Who needs to know these things ? Person. I was the one who needed to tell them. “And we read, emergency, for us to understand a little bit more.

Rodrigo Rey Rosa in three books

The human material, Gallimard, 2016, 217 pages.


Stones enchanted, Gallimard, 2014, 126 pages.


The deaf, Gallimard, 2014, 278 pages.


As a bonus, for fans of the genre ” non-fiction “, Do not touch the tail of the dragon should appear in 2018 in France, in The Atinoir.

Stones enchanted

Rodrigo Rey Rosa, translated from the Spanish by Andrew Gabastou, Gallimard, Paris, 2005, 144 pages