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Pablo Maurette, writer: “The police genre has the potential to explore evil”

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It is the end of the millennium and in Buenos Aires the atmosphere is heavy, full of anxiety and some hysteria due to the arrival of the number 2,000. Silvia Rey, secretary of the Buenos Aires Prosecutor’s Office, has her suitcase ready and is impatiently waiting for the hours to go on her long-awaited vacation: “The little beer in the hotel bar looking at the sea, smelling the sea.” But life can be very badass. The night before the trip the phone rings. “It’s killing me,” Rey thinks. In fact: they called her from the Prosecutor’s Office, because a dead man has appeared in her apartment, with signs of torture.

Thus begins an intense plot in The golden girl (Anagrama), a high-caliber detective novel, in which the writer Pablo Maurette (Buenos Aires, 45 years old) presents an explosive cocktail of crime, corruption, pseudoscience and black magic. But it is also the rhythmic dance between good and evil, impunity and the thirst for justice. This is the second novel by Maurette, who had previously published the work of fiction The migration and the trials The forgotten sense: essays on touch, The living flesh, Illustrated atlas of the human body y Why we believe stories: how evidence is constructed in fiction.

Maurette brings together grotesque, strange and singular characters in his novel, but also endearing ones. Rey is not a Poirot-style heroine, but a woman in her early 40s, divorced, alone and fed up with the bureaucracy and corruption that hinders her work. But she is a heroine, because she has a deep commitment to what she does, a utopian idea of ​​justice. She will put all her efforts to clarify the crime of the man found dead in his apartment: a shy and self-absorbed professor, a quirky person passionate about albinism and genetics, who studied pseudoscience and aspires to find discoveries that will elevate him to the world Parthenon of the brilliant minds.

It is because of this passion for albinism that the plot becomes entangled. An albino boy, Copito—allegedly guilty—appears, who sells his body in the streets of Buenos Aires, a friend of a dwarf who is also a prostitute. Mounties, African sorcerers, businessmen hooked on curses and lucky amulets, selling brutally severed human parts. Kidnappings, human trafficking, smugglers, drug addicts, corrupt police and a decadent system are the backdrop of the novel.

Pablo Maurette, professor of Renaissance literature, recently visited Mexico to present the work with Colombian actress Margarita Rosa de Francisco. “A lot of people came to the event, but for her,” jokes the author at the beginning of the interview, which takes place in a cafeteria in the Roma neighborhood, the fashionable neighborhood of Mexico City. The writer states in this interview that he enjoyed writing The golden girl, described as “high literature” by some literary commentators. It is without a doubt a resounding book, a work that recalls the best of the mystery novel classics.

Ask. Vi The talented Mr. RipleyAnthony Minghella’s film, to put me in tune with your novel, because you said that you read Patricia Highsmith before writing it…

Answer. I love it!

P. Well, that, the first thing is to know why a detective novel, you coming from the essay.

R. I come from fiction, because the first thing I wrote were stories. I also wrote a novel that I never published. The essay helped me gain the confidence to publish fiction. I don’t want to disparage the essay, which I love, but it was the way I found to encourage myself to publish, because publication for me was always a great conflict.

P. Because?

R. Because I felt like it wasn’t good, I wondered who would be interested in it. I didn’t feel good enough to try to publish.

P. How does an author discover who is good enough to publish?

R. The rehearsals gave me a certain feeling of security. I started to find a tone and feel comfortable. The first things I ever published were papers academics, which is something very impersonal, based on evidence, bibliography, etc. The essay was a step forward in terms of creativity.

P. Until you get to the police.

R. For me it is the same creative impulse, which took different forms and the last form it took is this detective novel.

P. And what a boost! You said you finished it in a month and a half. How can it be possible, with such a complex plot?

R. The first novel I published, The migrationit took me five years due to a matter of meticulousness, obsession, and feeling a little insecurity. The golden girl It was in a way an exercise, because I told myself ‘I’m going to try to write quickly, one chapter and then the next, not go back, not reread until the end.’

P. Tell me about the research. In the novel there is very detailed information about albinism, there is pseudoscience, genetics. A professor obsessed with albinos.

R. Albinism was one of the ideas that functions as the seed of the novel. I discovered this in my academic studies, I came across this theory about albinism and I found it fascinating. I said, ‘I want to use it sometime.’

P. Reminds me a little of Mengele.

R. Yes. Of course, it is quite wandering around. Mengele also had a lot of interest in albinos. When he started to put together The golden girl The theme entered as an element. What I worked on most at the investigative level was how the judicial and police investigation works in the Argentine system, where the Prosecutor’s Office is in charge of the investigation and delegates interrogations and the collection of evidence to the Police. I found out by talking to a prosecutor in Buenos Aires. I asked her all kinds of specific questions, because she wanted to know all the details. Of course, since she is Argentine, she told me that it all depends.

P. I think that in the novel there is a criticism of the Argentine justice system. You write: “The cloak of impunity whose shadow in our poor country always lengthens and is never cut.”

R. Impunity is the great drama of justice, not only in Argentina. The horror of impunity is that in a crime, let’s call it a homicide, a rape, something serious, there is the affront that the guilty, who many times people know who they are, do not pay or pay in a symbolic way, that Get out of jail very soon. Impunity is the height of injustice.

P. Tell me about this dance freaks: Copito, the albino, a dwarf prostitute, a frustrated professor obsessed with genetics, an African sorcerer, acrobat. Why this weird dance?

R. In part it is a personal interest in these extravagant, museum, circus characters. And, on the other hand, I like contrasts in literature, in what I write. There is sordidness, but there is also tenderness.

P. There is also witchcraft, black magic. Because?

R. I also think it is a personal interest. The issue of albinism has this relationship in the real world with black magic. It is also a topic that I came across years ago and that I found creepy and fascinating at the same time. Perhaps there is an attempt to reconcile interest, morbidity, compassion. I believe that curiosity is a passion that works as a cocktail of many different feelings. The novel basically arises from many curiosities.

P. I think he had fun writing it.

R. It was a great training, a great writing exercise. Of the literary genres, crime fiction is the one I know the most and I think it is a genre that has a lot of potential to explore one of the themes that interest me most, which is the theme of evil: where it comes from, if it is human, if there is a transcendent evil, whether evil is error or true will to destroy.

P. And have you reached any conclusion? Are we bad by nature?

R. I have not reached any conclusion, but I am quite convinced by the Platonic explanation of evil, the explanation that Socrates gives at least, who understands it as an error, in the sense that the person who does evil is always ultimately looking for the good. It can be a totally wrong good, it can be immediate pleasure, it can be about improving your own life by stealing, assaulting someone.

P. And yet there is a counterbalance to evil. Silvia, the protagonist, always seeks to do good.

R. But he is not an angelic character either, he is a human being with defects and virtues. What he does have, and this is the highest degree of heroism that I allowed myself to imagine, is that ethical commitment to his work, that he wants to do it well, because doing it badly is degrading to him on an existential level.

P. In the end, a person’s determination to do the right things can be the triumph of good over evil.

R. If it is not the triumph of good over evil, it does prove that it is a constant struggle and that evil will never completely win.

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