José Merat, journalist and writer “I don’t like delving into irreparable pain”

At just 24 years old, the journalist José Merat (Seville, 1998) presented his first novel, the covacha (Maledictio), in the past Seville Book Fair. He frames this work within magical realism, being set in Punta del Capullo, a place that does exist. In it, there are sheep races, women who have lived many lives, and talking fish. The book is, above all, a tribute to the teachings that his father left him.

–This book is the result of a university project.

–It was born thanks to Paco Pérez Valencia. He entrusted me with the task of writing a leadership manual on the inheritance that my father left me when he died. It was complicated because the novel is about how a father teaches a son to be an adult. It’s what my father did until he passed away. It was complicated, he passed away on the 8th and this was the 22nd. I said: “I’m going to edit this for the first Christmas without dad” and it was very sad, like a farewell manual, it wasn’t going to cheer up the family. I edited it, I corrected it and it kept coming out sad, I put an absurd point in it and it came out the covacha. I have to say that I did it about my father because he was the one who died, but I brought both my father and mother into the teachings. I can’t tell because they were a duo.

–And a sad book did not come out.

–I do not like to delve into irreparable pain. I don’t like that Judeo-Christian mentality that we are going to die of grief. There are sad things, but I wanted it to sound relatively good even if there were sad moments. The novel talks about many very sad things: everyone is poor, has no resources… It seemed to me that it was okay to sweeten them with that absurdity.

–And what is the greatest teaching that your father left you?

My father was a person who suffered a lot for justice. It is what I keep, justice, social above all. Unfair situations irritated my father a lot. Justice displays the rest of the virtues my father had: generosity, honor, loyalty…

–It is an old Seville that knows Curro.

I don’t know what Seville is. I set it in Seville, but the place that I have most imagined was my town, El Viso del Alcor. People are always walking, it is a constant path. In my childhood in El Viso everything was in motion, everything was on the way. The covacha, the Punta del Capullo… everything is a plain. From there I invented a Seville. It could be the Seville of La Peste, the series I had seen not long ago, the Expo, a prehistoric Seville that almost doesn’t exist. I don’t know what Seville is, but I hope that one day I would get that Seville.

“It makes me very aware of everything knowing that the one next door is just as good”

–In history, the Guadalquivir has a fundamental role.

-Is a character. There is a civil war on the river. I wonder why I wrote about the river if I have never lived next to the river, I have never lived in front of the sea. It was all a bit foreign to me. I wrote it continuously and sometimes I think that this novel is a bit foreign to me because there are many things that do not belong to me and I have poured them onto these pages.

–In the book, a clock marks the life of each person, what marks yours?

-Time. On the cover we put a clock without needles because time overwhelms me a lot and I think it’s something generational… It’s totally generational. I did it because the father says: “You have to find the owner of the watch because it tells the times of another person”, it is an act of justice. That justice implies generosity. It was the best way to sum it all up. Time is something that worries me a lot. I tell people about it and they think badly of me. Every day I think that I am going to die tomorrow. I do not live a constant carpe diem, but it overwhelms me. I hope I go to a psychologist specialized in time management.

–The prologue is signed by Fernando Iwasaki.

–Friends, they are help. I think you have to take advantage of that and you have to be aware. I don’t like these neoliberal speeches of: “I have worked a lot.” Maybe I write half well, if this wasn’t good, Fernando Iwasaki wouldn’t have put his name in the prologue, but it doesn’t come from my courage, from my tenacity. We deceive ourselves when we think that it is only effort and work. Luck is needed. It makes me very aware of everything knowing that the one next door is just as good.

What authors inspire you?

– This is not a political act, but of justice. I like to read classics, but above all I like to read contemporaries because you have to be updated. I really like the contemporary and not only new authors who write very well, but, above all, new authors. I don’t think it’s a provoked thing, it’s meritocratic. Right now they are the ones doing the most interesting things. I feel real envy every time I pick up a book by Sara Mesa. Hopefully write, hopefully score like Sara Mesa! It seems supernatural to me. Laura Gost is a girl I recently discovered and she has the world becomes simple (Barret Publishing House); Andrea Labreu, with donkey belly (Barret Publishing House).

–A book, a podcast, a blog, an NGO, what is left to create?

–Put a plasterboard ceiling. It may sound very unreal, but I would like to try my hand at literature. My dream would be not to live from this, but to enjoy this. I’ve already won, I’m here, I’ve presented, I’ve been read by people I don’t know at all… And create a publishing house! Ninì, for the people who neither study nor work, but write. Surely there are very good people, in their town in the Sierra de Málaga writing very well, but who do not have the means or the relationships to publish on a site like me right now and we are missing out on a lot of very good literature. Editorial Ninì is non-profit, to lose money.

José Merat, journalist and writer “I don’t like delving into irreparable pain”