In â€œSpiderweb,â€ your story in this weekâ€™s issue, an already sour relationship is tested by a road trip north to Paraguay. For you, is there a particular significance to the charactersâ€™ journey into the north? Or is there a more general idea of the north that Argentines might have? The story notes that things take longer to disappear there.
I have a personal relationship with that region, the northeast of Argentina. My family on my motherâ€™s side is from there. But I also chose it because itâ€™s the region of Argentina that fascinates me for several reasons: the feeling of the tropics, the stifling heat (similar to American Southern Gothic fiction), and also the sense of a border or an edge, since itâ€™s very close to Brazil and Paraguay and all of those cultures and people are mixed together. In addition, the tradition there of ghost stories, local monsters, and saints is very different from what you can absorb in Buenos Aires. Even in the cities of the northeast there is a relationship with the supernatural that is not cynical and sometimes can feel deeply disturbing.
Though itâ€™s the geographical opposite, Iâ€™m reminded a little of Borgesâ€™s famous story â€œEl Sur.â€ In both stories thereâ€™s a sense of dissatisfaction with oneâ€™s everyday life, and an idea that a â€œchange of sceneryâ€ might improve thingsâ€”though this thought becomes increasingly complicated as the story continues. In your story, is the trip a way for the narrator to work out her problem? And is the narratorâ€™s problem in some sense â€œsolvedâ€ by the final events?
It is solved, certainlyâ€”in one way at least. But considering Borges: to him, the south of Buenos Aires, especially at the time when he was writing, was considered to be â€œthe unknown.â€ Unknown in all of its aspects: the sense of adventure but also of fear, the Other that you want to meet and perhaps even become, but also the Other that can kill you. That has changed a lot since Borgesâ€™s timeâ€”the region is much more developed now, with poor areas, industrial zones, neighborhoods for the rich. Now, to me, the trip that can have a true sense of adventure and radical change in your life has to occur by going north, where our continent is, where Latin America is.
In your collection of stories, thereâ€™s a recurring interest in ghost stories, or, more generally, the gothic. â€œSpiderwebâ€ approaches those ideas subtly, but they become increasingly insistent as the story goes on. What draws you to these strange or unexplainable events, or maybe to the genre as a whole?
Iâ€™ve loved horror and gothic fiction since I was a child. From Henry James to Lafcadio Hearn, Emily BrÃ¶nte to Stephen King, or locals such as Horacio Quiroga, it was all I read for ages. Iâ€™ve broadened my taste in literature since then, but to me the genre still maintains its fascination. Itâ€™s popular, which I love. It produces physical reactions, something that I always crave in fiction. And itâ€™s a marvellous genre to be deadly serious and touch very serious stuff (politics, death, fear, dissatisfaction) while being entertaining at the same time. I donâ€™t know if I achieve those things in my stories, but itâ€™s what I aspire to do.
You mention the political subtext to the storyâ€™s disappearances as well, which becomes more apparent as soldiers enter the storyâ€”they seem to mark the increasingly dangerous mood. Do these threads of the political and the supernatural come together easily?
To me they do. The sheer terror of the institutional violence and the dictatorships in South America has always verged on something that is beyond just a governmentâ€™s mechanical repressionâ€”there was and is, when it surfaces, something more essentially evil about it. Itâ€™s definitely a story with a political subtext. I care about politics and Iâ€™m interested in history, so it shows up in my work. The fact that I choose a genre that doesnâ€™t usually deal with this is important, although I think that contemporary genre fiction approaches these issues more and more often now. But to me itâ€™s just a circumstance of my writing.
Another thing that stands out in the storyâ€™s imagery is the insects. They disgust the narrator, but she also spends a lot of time thinking about the right way to talk about them. Why do you think sheâ€™s so preoccupied by their names?
Oh, I donâ€™t really know. When she, the character, started thinking, thatâ€™s the way she found to express them. I really dislike insectsâ€”Iâ€™m terrified of them. I scream like a girl in terror if I see a nasty bug. Maybe it was a kind of exorcism.
Finally, are there any extra clues as to the fate of Juan MartÃn?
I donâ€™t really know what they did to him. Well, thatâ€™s a clue I guess. They did do something to him.