Rosa Montero: “You write to bring light to the darkness that human beings have.”

Jun 1, 2017 | Interviews

Interview with Rosa Montero
by Rayma

I have realized, after reading your interviews, that Rosa Montero has been asked about “everything”, but the most surprising is that she has answered “everything” so patiently.

Hahaha, well, how I could not be patient and grateful if I have been an interviewer for many years and I know very well what an interview is. But yes, I feel I have been asked about “everything”, and I have been doing interviews for 40 years.

Does being a journalist,  more than a writer, help you get the other side and make further concessions to journalism?

Well, sometimes it’s annoying because you realize that there was no preparation or that the other person is not even listening to you. I always said the golden rule of journalism is “Never asked a question if the answer doesn’t interest you.” It could seem a truism, but it isn’t. If you are not curious to learn, why are you a journalist?

How do you deal with the rational journalist and the fractional writer?

It’s very easy; there isn’t a writer that works on a single literary genre.  As we say in Spain “being a nib”, which means being a writer in Media, is also a literary genre, like any other, poetry, fiction, and you can be excellent in any of them.   The book “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote is a spectacular reporting and book.

So, all writers have different genres. For example, Octavio Paz was a poet and an essayist, and they are opposing genres, more than journalism and fiction. However, when it comes to dualities, people never ask how you combine poetry and essays, but they frequently do about journalism.

In the other hand, most of the novelists are journalists too, for example, Hemingway, Graham Greene, Garcia Marquez, the Nobel Prize winner Naipaul, among others.

I think of myself as a writer that develops fiction, journalism, and essay, but fiction is my living environment, my absolute passion. I, like most of the novelists, began to write when I was a child. My mom dated and kept my first tales that I wrote when I was five about talking little frogs. Those tales are at home. That’s why as long as I can remember I have written fiction, and that’s the reason why this activity is an organic part of who I am.

It’s like an exoskeleton that keeps me standing right, and I wouldn’t know how to live without it. I mean it belongs to my most intimate self, whereas I was a teenager when I chose journalism for a living. I like journalism, and it has taught me a lot, but it is part of my social being, it’s profession, and I could quit it, but I could not quit fiction.

It is hard to combine novel with your livelihood because you should not live off the novel. The novel must be your space of absolute freedom. You already have a lot of pressure from the market to worry about bills; that would be fatal.

That’s why you have to live off a different thing.

In journalism, clarity is a value, the more clear and less ambiguous a newspaper article is, the better. Meanwhile, ambiguity is a value in the novel, the more readings a novel has, even contradictory, the better.

In journalism, you talk about trees, but in a novel, you talk about the forest. The relationship with reality is different. In journalism, you write about what you know, search, and ask, but you don’t choose the novel you write, it chooses you. It’s like dreaming with your eyes open, In a novel you talk about what you don’t know that you know; it is a more unconscious process.

Is writing a sort of relief?

Writers are literature workers because you spend hours and hours of your time creating a character with a fictional mustache, fictional patent-leather shoes crossing a red door that doesn’t exist, and that takes you three years. No rules are telling you if what you are doing makes any sense, but you are so needy that you look for someone on the other side telling you that what you are doing works.

The wynwood times Rosa montero

Novelists are like children that have not finished growing up. We have a powerful imagination that works by itself. You are in the street looking at a dog walking by, and you imagine it as a dragon. It is said that at puberty those imaginations leave, but writers never let them go and keep playing with things because we write with our head.

Thus, we live among thousands of imaginations around in our heads, coming and leaving. But, at some point, one of these unconscious ideas arises from the place where dreams are born and amazes you. There, you feel that is something to tell and share. That’s the origin of a novel.

When you have a writer’s block, I had one after my third novel (I’ll treat you like a Queen)  I couldn’t write for three years. I began a novel but it died. After 100 pages I just threw it out.  However, in these moments, your head is blocked, not your writing. José Donoso called it “Being dry”, and he was right because you lose the imaginary game and lose contact with writing, it’s like not feeling life.

A Fernando Pessoa’s verse says:

Poets are pretenders
That pretend so completely
They pretend feeling pain
off the pain that they truly feel

Somehow, your psyche and how you relate to the world are in these stories.

Is there a thread about Ariadna in your work?

All of us write about the same things; you write about your obsessions. You write not to show but to learn things. You write to bring light to the darkness that human beings have. Contemporary literature focuses on death, but I am an existentialist. So in my books, since I was 28, death is the essential topic, the meaning of life, if there is one, the passing of time, and how time makes and breaks us, because living is like melting away in time.

Identity, incredulity on reality, and how we understand it, are conventions and imaginary creations in so many ways, and they are broken all the time. Memory as an invention, we believe that we remember, but actually our memory is an invention, a tale that we tell to ourselves and that we change over time.

Our memory is a tale under construction, so my childhood memories are not the same as twenty years ago.  I have a brother, when we remember things about our childhood and family, my brother’s parents have nothing to do with my parents, because he invented them in a different way.

The wynwood times Rosa montero

Another issue is power and how people relate each other through power relationships, passional and no passional love, and the need for others to feel that life deserves to be lived. We are social animals, and we need others.

My books seem to be different from each other, but actually, they address the same issues, but I look for another way of telling it to myself so that I find a deeper, precise, and beautiful way of telling it.

I think you are a philosopher that instead of writing very elaborate essays, takes from the daily life, little metaphors for life.

Yes, that’s beautiful. The thing is that I am made of two parts combined, one logical and rational, and another one crazy and imaginative. I find it perfect because both parts go together well.

How do you handle the male stereotype of the contemporary world?  You were born under Franco’s dictatorship, is writing a relief?

I think that’s the origin of my interest in issues like power, abuse, fanaticism, and dogmatism which are present in most of my books.

Are there other kinds of dictatorship like time, age, and everything that oppress us as women?

Yes, the search for truth in life, being able to live the closest to what you want and how to find it out. We always try to answer to others’ wishes instead of pursuing our own dreams that can be camouflaged.

Tell us about your last book “Flesh”.

This novel has a better sense of humor than other novels of mine. I did it so because otherwise, it would have been a huge melodrama. It is about serious issues but addressed with some humor to set things right. It shows that human tragedy is small, also that we are similar and that pain, when is shared, hurts less. Humor serves as a solace too.

Your main character is a 60 years old lady living a sexual experience that women could not tell in most societies.

It is perfectly natural to me. My intention has not been to break any taboo; I just wanted to talk about sex, that’s all.

I am surrounded of men and women about their 60s that are looking for sex like everybody else, that want to have as much sex as possible. What happens to women? Are we disconnected at certain age? One day you wake up and zaz! Somebody turned you off?

Nobody says that Richard Gere is brave to talk about the sexuality of men over their 60s that sleep with and marry girls 30 years younger than them, and what about the Rolling Stones, all over their 70s. I mean this is completely natural to me.

I live in a world where elder people, men and women, keep flirting, looking to get laid, as much as they can.

You have the opportunity of living in an open society like the Spanish one, does Latin America enjoy those same privileges?

All I know is that women have a hidden life. Now, when we look backwards, we think that there weren’t women because they were judged and oppressed. The reality is that women couldn’t study at the university until the early 20th century and vote until the mid-twentieth century.

However, many women have managed to do incredible things, and what’s truly unbelievable is that they were silenced by the Patriarchate or historians that vanished them from history.

That means that women’s life has been a secret, clandestine, and forgotten.

For instance, a woman invented the Rudolphine Tables, the first written text was not the Gilgamesh, but one written by a woman, and everything has been withheld.  It is said that men cheat and women are faithful, that’s a lie.

Studies show that in Spain and the world 34% of men and women cheat in the marriage.

The fact is that women live in the shadows, we are the Resistance. That’s why I’m sure that women and men in their 60s get laid equally, but we keep it quiet, hehe.


I think that’s the origin of my interest in issues like power, abuse, fanaticism, and dogmatism which are present in most of my books.

Do you think, after writing your book “Flesh”, that we live in a cannibalistic society?

It’s a rough world out there, life is hard, and we do what we can. In particular, my character, Soledad, has been very unfortunate in her life.

She is in her 60s and hasn’t had a lasting relationship. I wanted to investigate how a man or woman could feel if in his/her 60s has had a lot of lovers but never a stable relationship, and then he/she can say “I’ll never find love”. How much would that hurt?

While I was writing the end of this book, I realized that there are a lot of men and women that have been married for twenty years, or that have married and divorced several times, and even then, they share the same feelings as Soledad, the same hurt.

Because, they have had partners, but they have never felt the love that they needed and have never given that pure love reserved for that special someone.

This happens because we don’t know how to live without making our life a bloody mess.

Oscar Wilde once said, “To most of us the real life is the life we do not lead.” This is a perfect phrase that addresses the human dissatisfaction, the need of fullness that drive us to failure because that fullness is impossible.