(And Other Stories)
(And Other Stories)
The debut novel of Catalan poet Eve Baltasar is a brief and lyrical work that follows a self-centred and self-destructive lesbian narrator from city to city and relationship to relationship. As she searches for meaning she is only plunged deeper into depression until the weight of unexpected responsibility cracks her permafrost.
Your protagonist is hedonistic but ultimately unhappy and the thawing of her permafrost comes from that familial love in the end. Is this book a morality tale?
I don’t see it as a morality tale, and I find that unhappiness and hedonism are compatible. In fact, in the book hedonism rescues the protagonist from her suicidal fantasies whilst, to some degree, becoming part of these fantasies. The thawing of the permafrost allows the warmth of the world to enter the protagonist, meaning she is no longer protected and isolated from an outside world she perceives as aggressive. It seems natural to me that this arrives hand in hand with love. The fact that it is familial love is coincidental and not moral.
Thoughts of suicide course through Permafrost but there is no obvious single source of your protagonist’s discontent. Are these thoughts part of the human condition?
I think they may be a logical consequence of the existential vacuum of our time, more than part of the human condition. The protagonist is a woman who has never really had to fight, and who hasn’t suffered great trauma, but she demonstrates many symptoms of our era: she is self-centred, uncommunicative, and refuses to assume responsibility for the happiness of others. None of those aspects seem to me to be inherent to the human condition.
From the form of the novel, with its short chapters without paragraph breaks, to the musicality of individual sentences, Permafrost is clearly the work of a poet. Does writing in this way require lots of careful consideration and time or does it flow from you naturally?
I trained as a writer by writing poetry, so it’s the only way I know how to write. My ability to dance with language is something that flows from me in a natural way, but it’s also true that it is the most challenging part of each novel and requires time, surrender, respect and the desire to have fun.
Tell us about the translation process – that careful selection of words in poetry must add an extra layer of complication to it.
Of course. Permafrost is a short novel but enormously challenging to translate. It has rhythm, musicality and poetic weight. I really appreciate the work Julia Sanches did in translating – almost co-authoring, in my mind – and the opportunity to have discussions with her about the book.
Can you tell us something of the Catalan literary tradition and whether it informs your work? How does its literature relate to calls for Catalan independence, if at all?
The Catalan author I most admire and re-read is Mercè Rodoreda. And I would still admire and re-read her if she wasn’t Catalan. I’m interested in the relationship she creates with language, and the capacity she has to constantly recreate that relationship. I am interested in books that exude that exquisite perfume of poetics, joy and freedom. And, in answer to the second question, I don’t see my work as relating directly to calls for Catalan independence, although it does radically express the right to live and to be in this world in a way that is free and true to one’s own soul.
Permafrost was released in Spain in 2018. Has its meaning to you changed since you wrote it and what have you been working on since?
Its meaning hasn’t changed, but it has become richer for me as I have spoken to readers. Since its publication, I have been working on the triptych that I opened with Permafrost. Boulder was published in Spanish in 2020, and I am about to finish writing the novel that closes the triptych: Mamut. In the meantime, I have also written my eleventh book of poetry, which will be published in Spanish at the end of this year.
Is death transferable?
I don’t believe in death.