Believe Ana Merino (Madrid, 1971) that goodness sustains the world. This belief bases, in turn, ‘The map of affections’, his first novel and winner of Nadal in the 76th edition of the prize. She received it excitedly and recalling the “formidable” coincidence in 2020 of the centenarians of Galdós and Delibes, two references for her. «I trained by reading ‘nadales’ how ‘The shadow of the cypress is elongated’, ‘El Jarama’, or ‘Between curtains’. I believe in literature with the same fervor that I believed as a child in the Magi and could not have a better gift than Nadal, which tells us about the continuity of literature that makes us empathize and deepen the human soul, ”he congratulated himself with the prize in his hands
-Your novel, hopeful, he says, part of very painful events.
-Yes, with a preschool teacher, Valeria, with doubts about love, who accompanies a five-year-old boy who has lost his mother. Then there are different characters, emotions and affections that evolve and interact. In the world we are very different people, in communities of relationships in which sometimes terrible things happen and that affect us in a very different way: passion, restlessness, losses, revenge, disappointment … We will see how, in the face of painful events, the Goodness helps and facilitates overcoming.
-Is goodness the core issue of the novel?
-Yes. I fervently believe in goodness, in the literary space and in life. I try to see how we respond with kindness to the toughest moments and try to understand things. In this case in the American and Spanish space, with several veterans of a war very present in the novel and representing evil, and Spaniards going to America. In the novel and in life terrible things happen that scare us, but goodness helps us to put ourselves in the place of those who suffer, and overcome them.
-Is it a plea for that kindness?
-I think so. Some of the characters, with whom I identify most, make their own plea for goodness. Someone has to claim it. It’s very important. I am very interested in the concept of goodness as a substrate of humanity. That we are here, that societies advance, that there are discoveries that allow us to continue and face adversities is thanks to goodness. It is a literary proposal like any other, but it is mine. Goodness is often criticized and despised, but it is what sustains the world, which makes us understand and collaborate.
-You are a couple of Manuel Vilas, writer and finalist of the Planet two months ago with ‘Alegría’. It seems that together they will celebrate a bubble of happiness.
-We are very different, but our communion is the celebration of life. We are aware of suffering, of course. He has a very clear perception of suffering, as much as I do of evil. But that communion is what has made us fall in love.
-Is Vilas your trusted reader?
-Of course. And I yours. As I am a trusted reader of my father, José María Merino.
– Does your novel have some of the literature of your father, writer and academic?
-I wish he had his talent. Yes I have the impulse of love for the books he has transmitted to me, for that wonderful library that I grew up with and that was my creative workshop, and the love of comics. Also the rigor with the words, because he is a magnificent novelist, and the same illusion when writing. It’s lucky to have some genes that get excited writing. Also the genes of my mother, Carmen Norverto, a great reader and enormously pragmatic woman, have allowed me to survive these 25 years in deep America, face the circumstances and develop a peculiar imagination.
– Is your novel a mirror of that rural America in which you have spent half a life?
-Yes, but also from Spain. Of the relationship between the two. The teacher travels to Spain and there are Spanish characters who go through that rural and poor America over two decades. That exchange is what I have lived and lived. It’s about seeing how we think of others from another place.
– Have you understood Spain better from a distance?
-Yes. All the Spaniards of the diaspora have an enormous nostalgia. We see reality differently. We are the ones who love our origins the most and empathize with them the most. We value our literature, which is our great refuge, which makes us remember how wonderful our culture is.
-Women are a minority in Nadal. There are only 15 in its 76 editions.
-So it has been with everything in life so far. But it is changing. In the master of creative writing I rode in Iowa there are now more women than men. There are few in the Nadal, but they have been charismatic: Laforet, Matute, Martín Gaite … seems like compensation. A poetic justice.
– Does poetry pollute your novel?
-My poetic world is full of narrative winks, and vice versa. Poetry always leaves a wonderful ground and rhythm. I reach the novel with some maturity in plots and characters, and my concern is formulated from the narrative level with a reflection on the world. When I work from emotion it is different, but everything feeds back, like theater or pedagogical articulism.