“Revolutions are won by those who appropriate them”

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“They all end up with a Daniel Ortega on his farm,” laments the story that is the novels of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata in Mexico. “The novelist who stops learning is dead, and there are many who do not know that they are”

Arturo Pérez-Reverte (Cartagena, 1951) knows that revolution rhymes with disappointment. Despite this, he believes that revolutions are “necessary” and that “we should not stop making them”. The writer explained it yesterday at the massive press conference in which he presented his latest novel, precisely titled “Revolution” (Alfaguara). It recreates episodes of the Mexican uprising of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata through the eyes of a Spanish engineer who joins the uprising, and three women. The author acknowledges that without being autobiographical, «it is the novel in which the protagonist has more of myself».

It is not a historical novel. It’s about adventures and learning, about someone who spent ten years in the revolution. Nothing he tells has happened to me, but the view of the protagonist’s world is mine. What I learned from the war, the spoils of my adventure, I lent him,” says the writer and academic. He refers, for example, to the young and idealistic Spanish engineer Martín Garrett Ortiz, who arrived in Mexico to work in a mine without suspecting what his fate awaited him. Originally from Linares, he was an acquaintance of the writer’s great-grandfather and his history as an occasional mugger and with the rebels, repeated in the writer’s house, had haunted him forever.

“I write novels about the past to better understand the present. I use history as a key to understanding the present. Without it we are orphans,” he says. “I also believe that a current novel would be vulgar, just like the present time, narratively speaking, vulgar. I come from the 20th century. That’s where I feel most comfortable and that’s why I take my novels back to that time,” he says.

If we look at the revolutions of the 20th century, from the Bolsheviks to those of Cuba, Romania or Nicaragua, the balance is more than disappointing. “Revolutions are lost by those who make them and are won by those who appropriate them,” admits Pérez-Reverte. “They get up and are done by force, but those who risk it and leave their souls behind are left behind when everything ends and whoever was behind seems to say he is in charge,” he laments. “All revolutions end with a Daniel Ortega on his farm, which is very sad, but they still have to be carried out. In any case, make sure the bad guy bleeds through the nose,” he says.

‘Revolution’ is thus ‘a chronicle of the struggles men waged for their ideals and the promises they could never fulfill’, ‘a reflection on the transformative power of experience’ and on ‘how the revolution ultimately devours its children’. Martín Garret personifies “the temptation of risk and the chasms that surround it”, but his revolutionary illusion, like all others, ended in disappointment. A long century after Villa and Zapata took up arms against power, “Mexico survives injustice, violence, inequality and drug trafficking.”

To counterbalance the disenchanted hero are three great female characters: Maclovia Ángeles, a rebellious soldier and guerrilla fighter; Yunuen Laredo, a young woman from a wealthy family “a strawberry, as they say”, and Diana Palmer, a seasoned American journalist who travels the country with the insurgents.

“By writing novels, you believe you’ve learned everything and you haven’t. At the age of 71 I am still learning. Every novel is a pretext to grow and learn. A novelist is a hunter who goes through life with his shotgun and his bag in pursuit of stories and words. That hunting instinct is formidable. The novelist who stops learning, hunting, is dead, and there are many who do not know they are dead, says the veteran narrator.

He repeats that in this, as in all his novels, his heroes “have no ideology.” “I don’t want to make a novel with ideologies that are so easy to identify from the outside: Nazi, Communist… But when you get closer to the human being and become more interested in him, the ideology is no longer relevant and you see the contradictions ‘, says the writer, for whom war is ‘geometry, coincidence with rules’.

As happened to the young war reporter Pérez-Reverte, Martín Garret wants to understand the world, the rules that rule it and why people, for better or for worse, act a certain way. «The intellectual education of the novelist is literary; that of the main character is scientific. But they are united by the same thirst for understanding,” he notes. «I want to show the contradictions that appear in man in revolutions, when you see the hero in the morning and the villain at night. Those opposites are life and they form a worldview that is different from the one usually presented,” said the creator of the ‘Alatriste’ saga.

He has also mastered the Mexican language and idiom that will test his already difficult translators, such as the Chinese who write to him for help in translating Mandarin “for my sacred balls.” “What I did in Mexico, where violence, tenderness and loyalty coexist, is to capture that rich language that they steal your wallet and treat you with,” he explains with a smile.

To tackle this novel, which will be in bookstores all over Latin America and the United States this Tuesday and next week, Pérez-Reverte claims to have read “all the books” and “all the movies” about a Mexican revolution “that the cinema has faked a lot.» “Antonio Banderas’ film as Pancho Villa was not good, as was Paul Newman’s Zapata,” he says.

His “very strong sense of disaster” keeps him “on alert,” he says, and prevents him from being caught off guard by events such as the invasion of Ukraine. «I live in a healthy insecurity and don’t relax. It was clear to me that we were going here. I come closer than others, I see what they don’t see and I detect it earlier. But you also can’t warn that a meteorite is coming every day.” “The prophets are annoyed. We must not remain silent, but we must not overwhelm ourselves with bad omens,” he concludes.

With more than 30 novels translated into 40 languages, Pérez-Reverte has more than twenty million readers worldwide and has made his fiction film and seen on television.

Source: La Verdad

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