Fernando Mendes Light: “A lot of things scare me these days”

Few writers would dare do what he did Fernando Mendes Lett (Madrid 1944), Filmmaker, President Film Academy, from the cover of his first fiction book. He collected the words right there, in that perilous façade to fail And passionate. Here he explains why his novel, which, he says, is “a passionate chronicle of the transition ” An emotional failure on 50th Street.

Equipped for irony and for sorrow, the son of a city in which different modes of joy and nostalgia have lived, Mendez addresses Letty here as what could be, In addition to a political description of life in the capital, an animated street map of Madrid. In this interview, he also explains, from the title to the journey, emotional and also unsuccessful, what his character, a teacher of literature, will do. New Yorkchasing another street, who left a written or a hint, Truman Capote.

It is his first novel, it was published by Renacimiento, and it has 507 pages. Mendes-Light is so meticulous that he includes, among other aids to the reader, even map numbers of the Madrid streets of those times, when his character (himself?) was looking for tasty destinations in the city where he still lived.

Q: You wrote an address: Breton de los Herreros, 54. Tell me what happened there.

R. This was Ramon Gómez Redondo’s bachelor apartment [importante directivo de la Televisión Española de los tiempos de la Transición] This is where we met friends. During the transition we met people from different cultural worlds in Madrid who saw each other in Café Gijón, in Oliver’s Bar, in Dickens Pub & mldr ;. And there too.

Q: What role did politics play in the bonds of friendship?

R. great role. Because we were all united by the idea of ​​ending the Franco regime. We had many meetings to talk about: what will happen after Franco. There was a very showy camaraderie. There were those from the Comisiones Obreras and those from the Workers’ Party [Partido del Trabajo] and Christian Democrats. All, yes, with a great fondness for culture. This allowed us to realize many things. I was 28 or 30 years old, and those were my first years in Spanish television as a director and our aim was freedom and a challenge to the system. The truth is that it was already the 70’s and there wasn’t much fear left and that’s why we did so many things against the system…

P. It’s also time to open up to the foreigner.

A: Yes, but that was something I actually did in 1966, when I was studying law and went to spend the summer in Paris. Basically to watch movies, because there were all the movies, not like here where there was censorship. For three months I worked in the warehouse of a publishing house and there I met Jose Luis Cuerda in Paris. I remember we would steal political books on Marxism and so on. Maybe because I came from a very right-wing family and wanted to know the opposite. At university I was very politically involved, especially to kill SEU [Sindicato Español Universitario].

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Q: Does this moment we’re living in, of political uncertainty, remind you of a time in Spanish life?

A: No, it doesn’t seem like that. Because the world has changed radically. It is true that all over the world there is a resurgence of the so-called neo-fascism. Look at Italy, look at France with the rise of Le Pen. In short: extremism is everywhere, including in Spain. I miss moderation, because it is difficult for me to identify with what I see. But … As President of the Film Academy, well & mldr; I can’t express myself politically much. Suffice it to say: a lot of things these days terrify me.

Q: The word failure appears in the title of your book. In such a prominent place, such a word sounds like an editorial challenge.

R. Yes, but it’s a ridiculous title. It is a novel written in a very mechanical way, completely freely, without any self-censorship. The narrator tells his story, between jokes, right? He is a narrator who has a lot of me, of course. He has an education, youth in the sixties, cultural experience in transition, and a teaching career. He is also a very obsessive personality, and his madness includes the possibility of failure. In other words: as if the negative aspects of my personality had exacerbated.

Q: What are those negative things?

R. Radical attitudes towards customs, literature and cinema. The narrator is also very stubborn, I don’t think so, but hey. He also has a tendency to hate people and I think I have him too. I mind too. I’m a lefty, but I’m a Manichean, and I shouldn’t be. Anyway, here I talk a lot about my life as a student, and I’m immersed in sentiment. When I loved, I loved hard. That’s something I owe to cinema, I think. Because movies are full of feelings.

Q: The narrator of this book also recounts life in Madrid, such as drawing a map of the capital.

A: It’s a very live map, yeah. The norm is metro trips, I think. But, well, it’s a very bourgeois Madrid, too. But because this was Madrid. It is the Salamanca district of Madrid, the city center of Arguelles, the university city. They are my landscape.

Q: Those sites, friends.

A: Yes, because friendship is very important. I had a very lonely childhood, I grew up with my grandmother and great-grandmother in a big house on Alcantara Street, relatively far from my parents and sister. This is how I lived the first nine years of my life.

Q: Why?

a. well … I don’t know. Because I never asked. When I was one year old, my sister was born and my parents took me with my grandmothers. This is why I had a lonely childhood and as a very sheltered kid obsessed with movies. At the age of 10 I moved back to my parents’ house and … By then, I had many communication difficulties. It took me a long time to have any friends and then in my teens I struggled a lot to be recognized. It’s all a very long story. I spent a year in a boarding school, surrounded by many children with Down syndrome and other problems. It caused me a lot of insecurities. But when he got to Colegio del Pilar, fortunately, things changed. I came out of my inner ostracism and found a place in the sun.

Q: How did what I lived affect building this fantasy now?

R. In this novel I didn’t want my cinematic side to show. But cinema appeared on the second page [risas]. I have been passionate about cinema since childhood, it was of enormous cultural importance to me, because it was thanks to cinema, history and literature that began to interest me. Then I got interested in drawing and music. In other words: each film piqued my cultural interest more. At school, I was the one who knew about movies, and I liked that. My classmates came and it helped me a lot to socialize.

Q: There are also musical episodes in this book, but with foreign musicians. Maybe because from Madrid he goes to tell New York.

Yes, the origin of this story is a movie I couldn’t make: a relationship story that takes place in a limited time period in a city that isn’t mine. The protagonist has limited time to make an invasion and & mldr; New York appeared from the first moment. Maybe because New York has always been great to me. I went for the first time at the age of 21 on a scholarship and was very impressed. That’s why I’ve been back so often my whole life. I recently found out that a movie I loved as a kid, The bells speak It has a scene where some nuns go to New York and are fascinated by the city. Well, I get to know a lot about this scene.

Q: There are literary games in this book, as if the novel were also a movie.

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R. I would say the opposite: in the novel I got into literary games that I would never get involved in in the cinema. In cinema I like classic narratives, if at all possible in one continuous time, because time jumping makes me very nervous. On the other hand, in the novel I changed my perspective, creating many wonderful things within something that seemed realistic. In other words: here I play, I jump & mldr; And in the movie no. Pure literary reflections amuse me a lot. For example: defending conditions. As I tell here in the first person, well … I need a lot of conditions. All with great respect to the book, huh. Because I know that this novel is the intrusion into a field that is not mine.

Sometimes I feel like the only person who buys newspapers is me. I buy about five a day, go through them, and cut out the ones that interest me and then read on.”

Q: Newsstands appear in the novel, which you refer to as a species destined to disappear …

R. Yes, what a pity. Sometimes I feel like the only person who buys newspapers is me. I buy about five newspapers a day, review them, cut out the ones that interest me and then read them. I have a little Diogenes syndrome. with newspapers, postcards, movies, and mldr; But, well, I have a feeling journalism is about to disappear. digital and mldr. I don’t understand them very much. One day I sat in front of one of the booths and saw only old customers arriving, no young people. Unfortunately!

Q: What are your literary connections?

R. Well, American literature above all. But Spanish literature has always interested me greatly, A.I. I read a lot of news. And I really like Manuel Vazquez Montalban, Javier Marías, and mldr; authors like that

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P. in the book says: “Life Rhymes ”. It is a good title.

R. This is a phrase that Anna Belen told me and I loved it. Life songs, yes. My life, for example, rhymes with serendipity, with unforeseen circumstances that changed my destiny, both personally and professionally. through thick and thin. I could not have written this book without having traveled a lot to New York in the eighties, and it just so happened that in the eighties I held the General Directorate of Cinema, which I came to by chance. Someone mentioned my name to Javier Solana and he called me and I accepted. I also married my first wife because a TV colleague introduced me to one of her friends. And I married her. Look how lucky he is, what a wonderful coincidence. Well, that’s how much my life has been: shell after shell.

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