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Sònia Hernández

GRANTA 113: THE BEST OF YOUNG SPANISH-LANGUAGE NOVELISTS

The Survivor’s a funny story, and I don’t mean just comic, something that made me laugh as I found myself agreeing with its logic, though I did that more and more the deeper I got into it, but funny in the way it’s put together, that initial metaphysical heaviness – since we’re talking about existence and its lack of meaning – giving way as the narrator goes from person to person like Chekhov’s sadsack hack driver, trying to find someone close to him who finds his life of value, to the running cosmic joke, at once pathetic and terrifying, that he might as well have died, or perhaps not even lived (his great achievement providing affordable couches for the asses of Spain). It’s a tale of dis-ease that leaves the reader chuckling uneasily. We've survived it, yes, but now we have to do something with the rest of our lives. – Stewart O’Nan, Best Young America Novelist 1996

Each of our contributors answered a questionnaire on their influences and the role of the writer in public life. Here are Hernández's answers:

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

Right now, I’m very excited by the work of authors like James Joyce, Italo Svevo, Enrique Vila-Matas, Melania G. Mazzucco and Siri Hustvedt.

Have you published literary criticism?

I’m a contributor to the Cultura supplement of La Vanguardia newspaper, and I’ve written for magazines like Letras Libres, Qué Leer, Quimera, Revista de Libros and the Mexican magazine Crítica.

Which languages do you read in?

Spanish, Catalan and English.

Do you have your own web page?

No – I find it dangerous how easy it is for writings from the personal sphere or literary gossip can become published on the Internet.

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

I dedicate my time to teaching and literary criticism, as well as working for publishers by doing book reports, page layouts and copyediting.

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

As is the case with most categories that aspire to organize reality, I think that one can establish many subcategories within the epigraph ‘writer’. Among them is an author’s typology, capable of creating its own world in a kind of isolation, through necessity or through discomfort with the society in which it exists. It is perhaps this typology with which I identify most. In the best examples, the creation of these special worlds contributes to the intellectual development of the readers, which should create a population that is more aware of the limitations and pathologies of reality – a preliminary step in achieving a more responsible and respectful society. However, it is also true that there are writers who do believe in the power or social influence that their intellectual condition grants them. I call into question this power – undeniable in some cases and at certain levels – through which an author or a group of authors can propagate a certain way of understanding all the phenomena that shape the present and impose a certain interpretation of evolution. Often it’s a harmful influence because instead of contributing tools to help people interpret reality, it imposes a specific model in which a privileged place is frequently reserved for those who have contributed to the dissemination of this explanation of ‘public affairs’.