Guillermo Arriaga: “Stories come to me in moments of distraction”

Guillermo Arriaga at the Panama International Book Fair

Mexican novelist and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga He wanted to be a boxer and his books and films were amazing. His writings, written between Mexico and the United States, focus on the violence associated with drug trafficking, illegal migration, or how lies can be forced on society for the supposed common good.

In his second novel Sweet smell of death (1994), the discovery in a Mexican town of the dead body of a young woman who has been murdered will trigger a revenge born of a lie that will soon be assimilated, they choose to believe, with consequences they cannot escape.

“I believe that this book, what it says Sweet smell of deathis that sometimes people prefer to lie to maintain social stability, at the risk of destroying it,” he explains. Arriaga in an interview during Panama International Book Fairwhere he presented his latest novel Foreignwritten as if it were an eighteenth-century work.

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According to award-winning screenwriter loves dogs, 21 grams or BabylonThe “most interesting criticism” of the novel was made in Germany, where he was told: “This book helps me understand Nazism, how the whole city begins to believe lies and accept them as truth.”

IN save the fireAlfaguara Novel Prize 2020, Arriaga It shows the pervasive violence associated with drug trafficking in Mexican society, as well as the inner traumas and fears that sometimes control our lives when prisoners are in physical and mental prisons.

Arriaga’s stories transcend borders and media: from novels to films (Photo: EFE)

Arriaga (Mexico City, 1958) is well aware of the phenomenon of migration to the United States, its alienation, border barriers and the reasons that make someone leave home and embark on this dangerous path, whether in films such as Three burials of Melquíades Estrada or in a comic Ana.

“The fact is that my comrades are migrants, Melquiades is a migrant, Pedro, Rosa, Nereida, all my friends, my godchildren were forced to migrate. Almost all layers had to be migrated, because the possibilities are running out, ”explains the screenwriter.

The writer reminds that there can be no double standards in the phenomenon of migration. “We complain that gringos don’t welcome Mexicans, but here we are, Salvadorans, Hondurans, Guatemalans, Venezuelans, Haitians, we don’t welcome them with open arms either.”

IN Anacomic book created in collaboration with the NGO Save the Children, Arriaga recounts the journey of a Honduran girl to North America, emphasizing the reasons behind the migration of many “refugees from the economic war”.

Despite the fact that a priori a person may have a harsh idea of ArriagaLost his sense of smell due to serial fights as a child, with a work also saturated with texts and images riddled with violence, this author is the exact opposite, with sharp, intimate humor.

“Practically every social class in Mexico has been forced to migrate because opportunities are running out,” says Guillermo Arriaga (Photo: EFE/Bienvenido Velasco).

IN Sweet smell of deathThe place where he tells this story, which he knows “perfectly” because his “comrades, illiterate peasants” live there, he says, has the greatest impact. Then the magic happens.

“My friends cannot read or write, but in the novel they appear under their own names. I gave them a book as a courtesy (…) and when I return next year I will see everything full of fingers. It turns out that Lisbeth, the 12-year-old daughter of Lucio, my compadre, read it aloud to him at the end of the day (…) and the peasants were going to listen to it every day,” he explains.

“And then some of the other villages found out that they were also named, the children read to adults who could not read, read the novel aloud to them. It seemed to me one of the most interesting things that happened to me in my life.

Arriaga He writes novels, scripts, makes films, is a producer. You say you suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, but some of your latest books are over 600 pages, after clarification of a similar amount in the edition, isn’t more concentration required?

“I write all day, but I get distracted very easily. I go, I come, I go to the Internet, I read a book, I come back, I write. But it’s all part of the writing process, I don’t feel like I’m not writing. I’m writing, it’s just that these little breaks help me settle the story, since I don’t know what it’s about, I make it up as I go along. This story comes to me in moments of distraction,” he says.

“I write all day but get easily distracted,” Arriaga admits (Photo: EFE)

This attention deficit also influenced his characteristic fragmentary style as “he makes you jump from one subject to another”, as well as the “idea”, which he heavily influenced, the Mexican Juan Rulfo and American William Faulkner“Every story has an organic structure within it.”

Although many associate Arriaga especially in the field of cinema, he explains that he first wrote books (his first novel, Guillotine Squad, this is from 1991), but they began to buy the rights to their “novels to film them”. “Someone asked me if I could write films” and that’s how it happened, I ended up collaborating with a Spanish screenwriter. Rafael Asconaauthor Executioner or Calm“one of the greatest prides of my life.”

Guillermo Arriaga was the screenwriter of Amores perros, one of the greatest Mexican films of all time (Photo: Altavista Films Press)

Directed by Arriaga burning plain (2008) what a star Charlize Theron or Kim Baseger, and although he has not returned to feature films, he continues to direct. It also produces. His biggest pride now is the debut of his children Mariana and Santiago. open skybased on a script he wrote 30 years ago.

Arriaga he has a habit: if he likes a book, he contacts the author in search of his friendship. Are there any recent friends?

Julian Herbert, Guadeloupe Nettle, Fernanda Melchor, Pedro Juan GutierrezOf course, there are a few that I’m looking for and I say to them: “Hey, I liked your book” (….) Right now there is a girl I’m reading your book and I’m going to find it. that I’m going to ask her to be my friend.”

Fountain: EFE.

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