Subscribe to Granta today

Andrés Ressia Colino


The fathers of girlfriends, or wives, are always interesting for male writers. Why? Because they offer a tantalizing and often disturbing insight into what we ourselves might become down the track.

And they seem always to be in a position of power. This is because of their age, their experience and because they have something over us: they have long ago committed to and experienced a long-term relationship with a woman who is a genetic prototype of our own partners. They have been where we have yet to go.

And much as we might not have anything ostensibly in common with her father, much as we might disagree with his politics, his behaviour, and privately be mystified about how we have come to be sharing a room or dining table at all, we cannot escape the fact that we do indeed have something in common: if it is only a profound admiration for his daughter.

In his story ‘Scenes from a Comfortable Life’, Andrés Ressia Colino explores the ‘meet the parents’ formula. It’s familiar territory, but Colino handles it with originality and subtlety. The father knows exactly what it is to be in the role of the young suitor. And the young man knows he knows. And as the men tinker with cars in the garage, and charge a battery, they are not just male-bonding but partaking in a primitive and rather disturbing ritual.

It sounds like a simplistic device – the car/girl analogy – and in the hands of a less skilful writer it might have been, but Colino’s skill transcends that of your average lad-lit author. For one thing, he is brilliant at capturing the narrator’s self-consciousness and discomfort. He does it through varying sentence length, awkward syntax and shifts in rhythm. At the same time, Colino is able to capture his narrator’s paranoid awareness of everything that is happening in the scenario. And this is what I admired about Colino’s writing most of all: his ability to capture the complexity of a crowded, nerve-wracking moment in all its detail – the meaningfulness of every small gesture. – Ben Rice, Best Young British Novelist 2003

Each of the Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists answered a questionnaire on their influences and the role of the writer in public life. Here are Ressia Colino's answers:

Name the five writers you most admire at the moment (any period, language or genre).

A little hesitantly, because I find it difficult to narrow these things down, I’ll mention James Joyce, Thomas Pynchon, Paul Auster, Pedro Juan Gutiérrez and William Faulkner.

Have you published literary criticism?

No, never.

Which languages do you read in?

As well as Spanish I read in Portugese and English, although not with perfect fluency.

Do you have your own web page, or blog?

No, neither.

Is your fiction your sole source of income? If not, what else do you live off?

I earn my income through my position as a professor of biology. My earnings from literature amount to very little, except prize money from certain awards.

Should writers play a role in public life beyond the publication of their work? If so, in what way?

I think it’s interesting when a writer, through his ir her work, achieves something like that, but I don’t think it's a duty to loof for influence in public life. In writing I think there’s always a dialogue going on with some aspect of life – that might be with something public, or at other times something intimate.