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Home Culture Rafael Gumucio, writer: “The Latin American boom was the most misogynistic movement in world literature” | Culture

Rafael Gumucio, writer: “The Latin American boom was the most misogynistic movement in world literature” | Culture

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In the wake of his new novel, The poor relatives (Random House), passing through Madrid and displaying his disastrous bohemian elegance (unintentionally tight linen blazer, striped pajama-style pants and a deep blue shirt), Rafael Gumucio (Santiago de Chile, 54 years old) says that he had a strange relationship with José Donoso. The Chilean author of boom Latin American who died in 1996, three years before Gumucio took off with Premature memories (Random House), refused to let him attend the literary workshop that she regularly gave free of charge to young talents, and which was accessed by recommendation, in her case from Antonio Skármeta: “She preferred that he not go because I was the grandson of her friend, who had been her half-girlfriend, and she thought I could be a spy for her.”

My grandmother, Marta Rivas González This is the book that Gumucio dedicated to the woman who, to a large extent, forged her vocation as a writer in Paris, in exile after Pinochet’s coup. But, beyond the gossip that he now shares with amusement, in this new book he does not speak of his strict family, nor of his life, but of the vices of his country, making indirect references full of absurd humor. “I wanted to write a novel about Chilean literature and its great obsessions, basing myself on Donoso and laughing,” he explains this morning at the end of June in Olavide Bar de Libros in Madrid, hours before the presentation of the novel in that same establishment. “For many years I thought that this author did not interest me at all, but when I read his stories and short novels I was fascinated by his worlds and characters. They were the same as those of my grandmother, and mine. I was condemned to be from Donostia whether I wanted to or not. Now I have tried to do what he wanted, but could not, a parody and light book.”

Chilean writer Rafael Gumucio at Olavide Bar de Libros in Madrid on June 28, 2024. Samuel Sanchez

It is difficult to avoid the idea that the shadow of another of the great popes of Chilean literature, to whom Gumucio dedicated the biography, also hangs over his new work. Nicanor Parra, king and beggar. The old patriarch of the new novel has something of the legendary anti-poet. “This father, sculptor and artist, is a bit like Nicanor. This new book is the son of the previous one, although I didn’t realize it. Parra was obsessed with the work The Lear King Shakespeare, which he translated and then lived in some form. ‘This is what I get for writing Lear‘, he said. “I knew the Parra of old age, the one of the last years,” he explains.

senile incest

The poor relatives part of the passionate relationship of the elderly father of the family with his sister, Aunt Pilar, in a nursing home. The senile incest forces his 11 children to try to find a solution in a delirious chat familiar. “A novel always has to touch on a taboo, because without taboo there is no totem, as Freud would say. In this book I hit the maximum on page two. What to do next? Cannibalism?” jokes the author, director for 17 years of the Institute of Humor Studies at the Diego Portales University in Chile. In his family home, not having a sense of humor was a disqualification, and although he says he never had a vocation as a comedian, his work has connected with that vein. “People laughed, so it’s better to charge for it,” he admits, before adding his weakness for the “Fellinian atmosphere” of the Spanish streets. Member of the founding team of the magazine The Clinic and a regular on Radio Zero, Gumucio has worked as a scriptwriter and director on television programmes and, he says, decided to focus on humour in his latest books.

The first thing in The poor relatives, Gumucio says it was the title, the same as a Mexican soap opera, and a perfect synthesis of the snobbish fluctuations that guide Chilean and universal society. The country’s political upheavals are outside this family story. “I didn’t want to situate it in the sociopolitical and historical dilemmas that occupy almost all of my life. I wanted the book to be a symbol of something that is timeless,” she reflects. “The novel is a discussion about patriarchy, but I didn’t want there to be a feminist character either because then it would become a debate.”

One of the characters in the new novel, the first-born Rubén, with his poems and poorly concealed egoisms, tinged with authenticity new age, decides to travel on foot across the continent to get from Costa Rica to Chile y to meet the patriarch and his brothers again. “He is not the only one who is detestable, but he makes it more obvious. My doubt was whether to make him write well or badly. And that trip is a nod to the boom”, explains Gumucio. What has been your relationship with that movement that projected Latin American literature like never before? “The boom He focused on the novel, on creating worlds. The great paradigm was William Faulkner, with narrative techniques that were not linear, and letters, diaries, literature of the self was frowned upon. My generation starts from that miscellaneous self and the mixture of genres with a simple narrative, except for Bolaño, who rebelled against the boom “On the surface, not in his books,” he reflects. “At 54, I have gradually reconciled myself with that way of seeing the world.”

Gumucio thinks that the ambition of those great novels of the sixties and seventies returns today to bookstores with books signed by female writers, an important difference. “The boom “It was the most misogynistic movement in world literature, even though it was done by women like Carmen Balcells and the wives of all of them,” he points out. And on account of this sexist environment, of “Latin American machos,” Gumucio returns to the unavoidable Donoso, with whom he started the conversation: “He suffered a lot from being bisexual, if he had fallen into the Bloomsbury group and not the boom “I would have flourished,” he smiles. “But the truth is that every writer is bisexual.” He says goodbye, already thrown into a taxi, on his way to the next appointment.

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