Bookslut has an interview with the Peruvian author Santiago Roncagliolo. It doesn’t go into some of the scandals he has been involved in (some of which I’ve mentioned here). It is a review worth reading to get a sense of where he is coming from and they go more into his childhood than I have come across in the Spanish press. I wonder if I would find Red April funny. Listening him talk I know he’s got a sense of humor.
Red April is terrifying in parts, and gory, and Kafkaesque, in other places, but at the same time it made me laugh my socks off – and I felt peculiar about that.
[Laughing] I spent one night with a couple of African writers a few years ago. We were making political jokes and we found that had the same jokes, we just used different names. In poor countries humour is blacker than in rich countries, and more politically incorrect. I had to moderate myself when I arrived in Spain because I would say things I found really funny and everyone would look at me.
It’s beautiful when someone tells me I made them laugh. I love to write humour and terror because I like very physical emotions. When you laugh it’s your body moving, when you’re scared, it’s your skin crawling. These are powerful emotions.
For us, Red April is relatively new, but you wrote it ages ago. Is it hard to reconnect with the man you were then?
Yes. It’s a date with your own past. I am surprised at what this novel did. It won the big prize in Spain, and it was a big bestseller, and keeps being reprinted. In Peruvian society it was the moment to begin to talk about the past. After I wrote about Abimael Guzman, I went to the jails to talk about the books, and it was amazing. I was talking to army people and Shining Path people and guerrilla people in the same auditorium. I would speak then they all begin to tell their own stories. It was a bit of a metaphor of what was going on in the country. Everybody had the feeling that it was time to listen to each other, even to the killers, even to the evil ones, to understand why people arrived at this place. My generation can do it, because we were children when this happened. We were innocent, we have no past. So it was like a liberation for us, and for the people participating.