Guillermo Arriaga is known to be privileged. The Mexican author, a bestseller in the literary world in Spanish, has been writing since he was 20 years old and over time he has not only established himself as a cult narrator, but, he says, writing has become not only his passion, But in the activity from which he lives he has supported his family. “My life is dedicated to writing. I don’t mind failing. I prefer that to doing things that I don’t like,” Arriaga stated this Saturday in a speech at the Hay Festival in Querétaro.
Arriaga has traveled to Cadereyta, a semi-desert municipality in Querétaro, to present Extrañas, his most recent novel. The residents of the town packed his house of culture and many of them expressed their surprise because the Mexican author, who achieved fame with the movie Amores perros, came to this town where the most innovative thing that happens is the local fair with stalls barbacoa, a meat stew that Mexicans really like. Before an audience that followed him in ecstasy, Arriaga spoke about his creative processes and how in his writing he prefers the story or the people to weigh more than his own style of narrative. “In this novel he wanted to reproduce the way of writing from the 18th century. I had to avoid words like consultative or solomonic. I don’t use “that” or “although.” But I didn’t want to impose a style, because I believe that the style should be subordinate to the story,” commented the screenwriter.
Arriaga’s novel (edited by Alfaguara) tells the story of aristocrat William Burton, son of a wealthy landowner in England at the end of the 18th century, Burton is destined to become the heir to a huge fortune. But the young man has other plans: he is attracted to medicine and science in a world full of superstitions. He tells his family about his plans and his father reacts furiously, because in those days studying medicine was frowned upon, a minor trade. Expelled from his rich condition and uprooted by his father, Burton begins a fascinating personal journey, which leads him to explore the world and encounter the presence in the world of humans who have been born deformed, crippled, or creatures that seem supernatural, such as the strange calls. “Stories come from strange places. One doesn’t even know where they appear from,” Arriaga told his audience. In this case the story occurred to him while he was driving with a friend on a highway in the United States. He had thought of a work in five parts, but then decided to unite them into a single book.
Arriaga – nominated for an Oscar for Babel and winner of the best writer award at the Cannes Film Festival for The Three Burials of Melquiades – has said that with his work he likes to “create hypnosis”, that the reader gets hooked on his novels and Don’t let go until you reach the last page. “Submit all my literary tools to tell a story. All works have a difficulty. Writing is exhausting, it is a very big challenge, but that is the most attractive thing about writing,” Arriaga explained in the presentation organized by EL PAÍS and coordinated by David Marcial Pérez, a journalist for this newspaper. Arriaga has been asked what influences him when choosing his stories, books that have had great success. “Life influences me. What happens to me around me. It is wonderful. This book, for example, is a reflection on differences, love, medicine. What I do is obey what the characters dictate to me. That is what we novelists should do,” he stated.
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