Juan Gabriel Vásquez
Colombia | 2008
Juan Gabriel Vásquez was born in Bogotá in 1973. He studied Latin American literature at the Sorbonne between 1996 and 1998, and now lives in Barcelona. His stories have appeared in anthologies in Germany, France, Spain, and Colombia, and he has translated works by E.M. Forster and Victor Hugo, amongst others, into Spanish. His essays, reviews and reportage have appeared in various magazines and literary supplements. He was recently nominated as one of the Bogota 39, South America’s most promising writers of the new generation. Translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean and published by Bloomsbury in May 2008 and in paperback in April 2009, The Informers is Vásquez’s first novel to be translated into English.
Before I came to Santa Maddalena, I had never been able to begin a book away from home. Beginnings require rituals, they require that you cover your insecurity in secure surroundings; so going there to start this book I’m about to finish was risky, unprecedented. For the first two weeks I stayed in my room at the Tower taking notes, adding them to the ones I’d been taking for some time, and one day I asked Beatrice if I could sit at her husband’s desk. So I wrote the first page of this book I’m about to finish there, at Gregor von Rezzori’s desk, looking at the things he might have looked at while writing, for instance, The Snows of Yesteryear.
And over the next days I wrote many more pages in my room. My routine never changed. I came down in the morning, had a cup of coffee with Nadeem Aslam and worked until noon, when both of us had lunch with Barbara Trapido and our host – before going back to work. Santa Maddalena offers the most important commodity for a writer: time. Not a minute there is wasted. That’s as high a compliment as I can think of.