WRITING AS A RESISTANCE: ANGEL CABEZA

 

(Pedra de Toque): Is there anything silencing the contemporary Brazilian Literature? What or who do you think is doing this?

(Angel Cabeza): I don’t believe literature may be silenced. It will never shut up. Vargas Llosa has already said literature is a weapon that we writers have to face the villainy of reality, to change the meaning of things, to prevent from drowning. What actually happens is that some writers use literature as a bridge for the ego. As well as in any field, in literature we find the duel of egos, the groups, the abuses. But this shouldn’t interfere with the work itself. The personal side of a writer must never suppress his work. If that were the case, many writers of our literature would be forgotten because of their particularities.

 

(Pedra de Toque): Do you consider the activities of a writer himself to be like the activities of another professional or do you see any difference?

(Angel Cabeza): Yes and no. I think the writer is a professional like any other, no doubt. He needs to read, to absorb knowledge and culture, to study, to learn about his tool. Like João Cabral said, “writing is like sorting beans”. The more one writes, the more one develops tools. There isn’t only inspiration as some think. What distinguishes a common professional from a writer is the stone he carries as if he was a Sisyphus. This burden of writing – perhaps I’m here romanticizing the work – is bigger than the writer. There’s a major latency. Many times, the writer looks at the ground, at the tiny things (which are not the ones we are used to), at what is beyond and the common things cannot offer.

Different from other professionals, the writer needs to have eyes to observe what is not there. But how come one finds something that doesn’t exist? This is the work.

(Pedra de Toque): Can you mention someone you deem to be a great author and was lost in miserable “likes”; one you see to be below mediocre and is a laureate; one who deserved the laurel wreath and one who deserved to be forgotten?

(Angel Cabeza): This question is a bit complicated, because I would have to shame someone. I wouldn’t like to be incisive with names, but I can say that many “trendy” people have less literature and more influence. But we have a kind of pleasure in fame that exceeds the very work. There’s no maturation of writing. I mention, for instance, the poet Orides Fontela. She has never taken part in groups, never flattered anyone in order to be known. She ended up forgotten. However, her literature is extremely qualified in terms of aesthetics and now it’s back to the literary world. In many contemporary writers we see much more activism than literature. Sometimes even patronage. It’s like the conceptual work in visual arts: we have a concept more than a work.

 

(Pedra de Toque): As far as activism is concerned, what do you think about it? Do you think it’s hegemonic or pretentious compared to what one can accomplish individually?

(Angel Cabeza): I believe activism – and here I don’t mean political activism, although the word “politics” may be expanded – must exist in any environment. How can you be absent from what you create? How to get exempted from your own literature if you are a part of it? It’s necessary, but with reserves. When I mentioned activism, the context was that there are authors who are much more concept than art. In other words, I meant that there is a tendency in the creation of veiled groups, of literary “districts”, in which some get in some not, some are laureate and others not. There are many good things hidden and many bad things being catalogued. And such groups also influence new other groups and authors. I may say, yes, we have something like a hegemony and pretention in several moments. As an individual, this is philosophic, we’re individualists, egocentric. We expect for applause without having bent on the work as someone who exhausts himself on a war artillery. There’s pretention, but who’s not pretentious about what they believe? It may be a kind of jealousy of mine for not being part of such groups, who knows? [Laughter].

 

(Pedra de Toque): What do you expect from a publisher? What does “communicating an author” mean nowadays?

(Angel Cabeza): I’m speaking from the publishing market and I can say the writers don’t expect from the publisher more than professionalism and the work inherent to the profession. The elitized or romanticized figure of the publisher was overcome by the machine. That thing of Maxwell Perkins, who discovered “Fitzgeralds” or “Hemingways”, is over. Of course great writers are discovered, but there’s much work done by the publisher. Today he needs the author much more. Some publishing houses bend on marketing to find authors. It’s not in vain that platforms like Amazon, of independent publication, generate best-sellers. The publisher today is more like a means than an end. The work by the publisher is critical, sure, because he lapidates the work, transforms water into wine. But the author may choose with whom he does and publishes his work. And if the author knows how it works, he himself can produce, publish and get his work known.

Although I still believe in the romanticized figure and know exceptional publishers, I know it’s a hard and joint work.

 

(Pedra de Toque): How do you distinguish Vidro de Guardados [Glass of Treasured Things] from Sempre Existe um Último Momento (There’s always a last moment]? In which of the two do you feel more at ease? In verses or prose?

 

(Angel Cabeza): Vidro de Guardados was my first poetry book. I edited, proofread, disclosed, and some people know me by it. By observing with a certain distance, I believe it could have been better. At each book written, the previous one becomes lower, because we grow old.

It was a good experience. But Sempre existe um último momento is a collection of chronicles about relationships.

Both genres please me and somehow complement each other. The chronicle demands a little of this poetic view of the writer. See Rubem Braga, Paulo Mendes Campos and other great chroniclers. The difference is that for me chronicle is more superficial than the poem. In chronicles, we can simply discuss about amenities without this sounding like something fool. Not that in the poem we may not be shallow (the joke-poems by Oswald or Millôr, for example), but poetry demands a rhythm that is different from that of the chronicles.

I like both and feel at ease in both elements.

 

(Pedra de Toque): Can you mention two authors who inspire you the most in your creation and production. Talk a little bit about them and the mimetic relationship of their work with yours.

 

(Angel Cabeza): We are inspired by what we read, whether in prose or poetry, but I wouldn’t say mimicry, because there’s no copy or an approach that makes the voice get lost, only a tenuous reverberation.

One needs to keep the voice free.

I’m too thankful to Bandeira, Gullar, Adélia Prado, Drummond, Affonso Romano, Marina Colasanti; to the Russian and Polish; to the North-American poetry confessional discourse…

It’s a convergence of readings.

 

(Pedra de Toque): Who do you write to?

(Angel Cabeza): I think the more appropriate would be “what for”?, but I write for those who want to read, for myself, to redo the meaning of reality and not to drown.

In my first book, Vidro de Guardados, there’s a poem called “Decalogue”, where I write the following verses: “[…] I write / to reinvent myself. […] the only clothing / that dresses me / is the word […]”.

 

(Pedra de Toque): What do you do more, read other authors or write?

(Angel Cabeza): I’m writer, above all. There’s no writing without reading.

Those who don’t read, don’t write. The consequence of reading is writing.

 

(Pedra de Toque): Do you believe that dealing with the commercial affairs of the book is an activity that may interfere unfavorably with the literary creation itself?

(Angel Cabeza): Absolutely not. I think if the author knows, he makes the understanding of how the market works quite better. I believe it’s necessary that he learns about it. What can happen is the loss of romanticism of the author, because he will understand how the machine works, and it’s not so beautiful as he usually thinks.

 

(Pedra de Toque): Angel, what is life?

(Angel Cabeza): Life is an uneven creation of men, it’s this sea that we bring in the heart. It has no meaning and that’s because it’s so meaningful (I’m sure I will forget about it and will define differently later).

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