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Álvaro Pombo

Álvaro Pombo: "Exploration of a specific universality: the novel as a case study to the narrative truth" URL:

This snobbish title, Exploration of a specific universality: the novel as case study of true narrative, has the advantage of wanting to say much, but at the same time, allows me to calmly express what little I have to say about the poetry of my narrations.

Novels lack nature, they have no essence, but do have story. Or if you wish to put it simpler: novels only have an embryonic essence that appears more or less the same in all the narrators of this world, literary ir not, and which consists of a wish to tell stories and listen to stories. There is no more essence than this. But the story, the progressive development of this elemental semi-essence, of this embryo, is fascinating. I intend to tell you here with certain detail what is my side of the story. My part in the general story of human desire, of the human tendency to tell and listen to tales.

I could present the history of my own narrative experience referring to increasingly wider concentric circles: The first one, and closest, would be my empirical ego, my infant and juvenile ego that enjoys listening to oral narrations, which were frequent in my home and family, but also enjoys inventing similar narrations. This is the origin of everything, and every time somebody asks me about my starting point as a narrator, I refer to this initial narrative experience: the happiness, the joy of capturing foreign attention, my naive family listeners, my first friends, my German fraulein, my grandmother and my grandaunts. A a child I was chatterbox who gave conversation to all visitors. And my home was a house full of women who talked a lot about everything.

 This experience is common to all narrators of all times. We could cite the first tales of the Bronté sisters, or the desire of Marcel, the Proustian narrator, to run back home after a ride in a carriage just to talk about how the shinny bell towers appeared and disappeared in that side of the French countryside. A third concentric circle is the wish to represent and express the reality we perceive, either within our conscience or outside it. Many great narrators remain in this circle, and I insist, they are great, but their narrative intentions are only limited to telling and re-telling their own experience.

There is a fourth narrative circle in which I locate some of my novels, but not all. For example, my first collection of stories with the title Relatos sobre la falta de sustancia was not only an attempt to express my experience of this world and myself, of my thirty years in London, England, but it was also an attempt to present a universal concept: the impossibility of establishing universal or substantial connections between individual persons or individual consciences, and the world. A famous quote of T.S. Eliot expresses this situation: I can connect nothing with nothing. I have an entire series of my novels, up to El metro de platino iridiado, which are chaired by this idea, and that was the specific universality they expressed.    

After El metro de platino iridiado and up to my  last novel, Contra Natura, things have changed a lot and I could speak of a fifth concentric circle in which apart from expressing in a universal way a specific experience from a particular empiric ego like mine, I wish to find a truth in my stories that has universal validity. This truth should not be philosophical, it should not be scientific, but should simply be a narrative truth. Obviously, this is the big issue I hope to be able to clear out in this conference of the Fundación March.

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