Felipe Benitez Reyes (Rota, Cadiz, 62 years old) assures with sarcasm that he writes because “anything else would have been worse.” To reaffirm himself before any other hypothetical vital choice, the man from Cadiz treasures essential titles in a long off-road career that includes a dozen collections of poems, a similar number of essays and some of the most acclaimed novels of recent decades.
Among them are The Boyfriend of the World, which made him, perhaps despite himself, a cult author; The thought of monsters and mirage markets (Nadal Award in 2007). He has also signed songs, plays and translations of Elliot and Nabokov. And now, in a short literary breath, the Renacimiento publishing house has just brought together his prolific short story work under the necromantic title of Los abracadabras,
Through the stories of Felipe Benitez Reyes, human beings in permanent internal conflict parade, always placed on the edge of life. To the overflowing imagination of his author, who progresses through a delirious realism, with logical approaches that die in crazy mouths, is joined by the gift of style: there is no page that is not unmistakably his. “Imagination and style must be combined, talking about each thing by its side would be an artificial separation. The own conception of each writer hybridizes the two factors; after all, literature is a matter of stylistic treatment and organization of imaginations ”, reflects the writer from Cadiz, where he has his second headquarters after his native Rota.
“The short story allows very different strategies, because if you write a novel you have to maintain some kind of coherence, while if you write a story you can write a completely realistic one one day and the next month a science fiction one. What attracts me to the genre, above all, is the thematic freedom it gives you. And also stylistic freedom. The novel, one way or another, demands coherence, however kaleidoscopic it may be. I understand the story as a kind of narrative lightning. It is something that starts from a minimal occurrence. And then the success or failure is in getting it right or not, in giving it a convincing development”, assures the writer.
In this obsession with stripping contemporary man of his clothes until leaving him only with his human condition exposed, Benitez Reyes can place his characters in apparently uninspiring settings such as a vacation cruise or a barracks during military service, for from there “to analyze the infinite possibilities of behavior that human beings have and how strange it can be”. “I like the human condition because I don’t understand it. As Chesterton said: ‘The human race to which so many of my readers belong…’, he reflects with a smile.
Most of them, and in most of the stories, are melancholic beings, less chaotic and delirious than the characters in his novels, conditioned by the presence of death, but as in everything, Benitez Reyes shows it intricate in an apparent normality. , without the transcendence that can be assumed. “I am interested above all in the characters who do not quite understand their destiny. Both in the novel and in the stories, when that fracture occurs between the life that one wants and the life that is given to you, the one that is imposed on you”.
Los abracadabras brings together a total of five short story books —in addition to other subgenres such as reports and collages and other amusements of the author— with 1982 as the starting point, exactly forty years of literary exercise that Benitez Reyes understands as a work in itself. and not as a stylistic training between novel and novel. “I believe that the story has its own code and there are times when a story comes out very fluid, as can happen with a poem. But other times you can spend years and years thinking about it until you find the formula, the solution. Stories, like novels, are also picked up, released, and picked up again.
In these four decades, the evolution of an unclassifiable writer and, without a doubt, one of the most unique voices in current Hispanic literature can also be observed. Known for his extremely high level of self-demand —he assures without shame that he is capable of getting up at three in the morning to correct an adjective—, looking at his first stories “sweetly assaults” him. “Any writer who has a little control over vanity is doomed to disappoint himself. Because you want it or not, you have an archetypal, platonic idea of yourself, of the literature you want to do. And then, when you forget what you’ve written and read it again, you realize that the archetype is often far away. But hey, I think it’s normal and it’s much more comfortable, because the main muse of any writer is dissatisfaction”, she is sincere.
Be that as it may, the Roteno assures that he is not aware of style. “I know that I write in a certain way, with a certain sentence rhythm, with a use of adjectives that I more or less believe I control, but I don’t know how to see myself from the outside, and that is a professional mistake”. Oh yeah? “Yes, because I think that the first thing a writer has to do is double as a reader of himself. That is, the moment you review something of yours, you are becoming the reader of something of yours. But then, once it’s finished, you no longer know if it’s right, if it’s wrong, or what your style traits are. I don’t have much interest in knowing either, you know, there are things that are sometimes better not to know”.
In this incessant narrative task, with its comings and goings, Benitez Reyes is struggling these days to finish a novel with which he has been living for two decades and which he hopes we will be able to read soon. Or not. “I have been thinking about it for more than 20 years and I am not able to find a spine. Let’s say he already has the tendons, the muscles, the liver, all of that. But not the spine. And I continue to search, like an archaeologist. I know that she is buried somewhere, but I still don’t know where ”.