Writing As a Way to Reduce Self-Reproducing Violence. A Conversation with Fernanda Melchor


"I like the idea of going into the real world and exploring it, finding roots and stories," says Mexican writer Fernanda Melchor in this week's episode. We recorded it while Fernanda was visiting Lithuania and presenting her work.

Fernanda started out as a journalist but now is an awarded novelist, whose book Hurricane Season (Spanish: Temporada de huracanes) is translated in over 35 languages, including Lithuanian.

Hurricane Season won the International Literature Award of the Haus der Kulturen in Germany and was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize last year.

However, this conversation is not about the books that Fernanda has written but rather about the themes and topics she explores. For instance, what is the impact of violence in everyday life, what the lack of love does to people and communities, how the crisis of identity and inner conflict might break us and how to find the escape routes when you feel trapped in a reality that is hard to bear?

Most of us are probably familiar with magical realism – a genre that is seldom associated with Latin-American literature. Fernanda's work, however, was referred to as nightmarish realism instead.

"When you grow up in a dysfunctional family, I think it makes you more sensitive to violence around you. Because you learn to read behind the perfect facade of the family that you have to put up with. To have an alcoholic parent makes you hide everything from everyone. And you can detect when people are lying," says Fernanda.

The first three books Fernanda bought for herself with her own money at the age of twelve were books about crimes: Extraordinary Stories, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer and The Silence of the Lambs.

Reading about crime, violence, and death was cathartical, Fernanda says: "I couldn’t speak about this in my normal life, so reading about it made me feel safe. Because I thought: "This happens, it is true that there's evil in this world, not everything is perfect." And that connected with the deep reality of my own hate, of my own negative feelings, with my own ambivalence."

Authors that Fernanda recommended at the end of the episode:

Mariana Enríquez
Jazmina Barrera
Valeria Luiselli
Pilar Quintana
Antonio Ortuño
Emiliano Monge
Luis Jorge Boone
Carlos Velázquez
David Toscana

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Music featured in this episode is composed by the Lithuanian artist Viktoras Urbaitis, also known as TEATRE and Intuicija.

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