miguel angel oeste in an increasingly sick world we would have to talk more about our problems

Miguel Ángel Oeste: “In an increasingly sick world, we would have to talk more about our problems”

miguel angel oeste in an increasingly sick world we would have to talk more about our problems

After shaking up the world of spanish letters with ‘I come from that fear’, a shocking first-person account of a family devastation, the Malagueño Michelangelo West (1973) published ‘Black dog’ (Tusquets), a beautiful novel about the drift of some characters obsessed with the English musician Nick Drake, whose untimely death marks the 50th anniversary this year.

How was your interest in Nick Drake born?

In 1998 or 1999 a friend made me listen to ‘River Man’, and it was like lightning. Boom. It seemed to me a supermodern and unique thing. It was kind of a revelation for me. His music connects with that strange place of unconsciousness that makes you want to know more, or at least in my case it was like that. And I started looking for his records and tracking down all the information I could find about him, which wasn’t much either. I even went to visit his grave in Tanworth-in-Arden.

From that obsession, a first book about the musician was born, published in 2014.

Between 2002 and 2005 I was researching, and I wrote a book entitled ‘Far Leys’, which is the name of the family home where Drake died at the age of 26. It was published in a very small print run and was read by three cats. That book had a much more biographical approach than this [‘Black Dog’]. Now I have thoroughly rewritten it and the first part, for example, is completely different. This is a new book for me.

“The music scene of the 60s was more fascinating and free than the current one, in which everything is more opaque”

The novel also reveals a great fascination for the musical and artistic scene of England in the late 60s and early 70s.

 Yes, totally. It was a time when it seemed that music was going to change the world, with a lot of musicians experimenting and producing some amazing things, much more innovative and groundbreaking than those that come out now. And taking that experimentation to other fields. Nick Drake was there, a little out of the way, but at the same time participating in all that effervescence. It seems to me that that was a very fascinating and very crazy and very free world; more than the current one, in which everything is much more opaque.

Today, of course, no one thinks that music can change the world.

I think that in the 80s and until the mid-90s music was still very present in people’s lives and had a lot of impact. I don’t see that now. It is an expression that should be claimed much more, because it gives us many moments of happiness and also helps us when we are sad. Of the artistic expressions, music is the one that touches us the most and in the most immediate way. It is the one that best connects me with your joys, your illusions, your sorrows and your fears. Music has helped me a lot.

Would you say that you have a special predilection for musicians who have a tragic component in their lives or in their works?

Well, I listen to very diverse music. It’s true that I like Leonard Cohen, Nick Drake, Elliott Smith… and Chet Baker, which I’m passionate about. I’m a little dark in my tastes, yes. But I have an attachment to life and I would like to live many years, huh?

Do troubled singer-songwriters attract troubled people?

Ugh… I don’t really know how to answer that. Let’s see, I have a lot of emotional problems. But we all have problems. It’s good to assume that we have problems, and we don’t. People are opening up less and less and sharing less and less. I’m talking about sharing important and profound things, not vacation photos. Pain reveals us, pain explains us. In an increasingly broken, sicker world, we would have to talk more about our problems.

You have chosen to do it through fiction.

Among other ways, yes.

“There are people who say that in ‘I come from that fear’ there is no fiction, and that’s real bullshit”

Has writing about a figure like Nick Drake been a way to get away from the confusion between fiction and autobiography sparked by his previous novel, ‘I Come from that World’?

There are people who say that in ‘I come from that fear’ there is no fiction, and that’s real bullshit. Maybe that book has more fiction than ‘Black Dog’. Are there things there that are based on my life? Yes, of course. And there are also a lot of invented things. But once the book comes out, the reader has the freedom to interpret it however he wants. I’m not going to get involved. When you read a book, listen to a song or watch a movie, it comes to you in one way or another depending on those you have lived. Look, a lot of the things I read about my books I don’t share, because I wrote them with another intention. But it’s someone’s interpretation and it’s fine with me.

If ‘I come from that fear’ was a monster novel, can ‘Black Dog’ be spoken of as a ghost story?

Yes, it has that atmosphere of a Gothic story, of a romantic drama, and Nick Drake is like someone who is never there, an absence that conditions the lives of the other characters and sucks their energy. In that sense, it’s also a vampire story.

Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ is a reference in the narrative structure of the book, isn’t it?

Absolutely. There are three books that I have focused on especially when writing this one. One is ‘Dracula’, which is present in the structure and also in the characters. Another is ‘The Great Gatsby’, which I think is a perfect book, it is one of the few that I have reread three or four times and with intention. It is also a story of impossible loves and they share that melancholy tone. And another important book has been ‘Kensington Gardens’ by Rodrigo Fresán, which is a kind of biography of James M. Barrie [the author of ‘Peter Pan’] but also talks about the London of the 60s and a character who is like Ray Davies of the Kinks. That novel really helped me build the framework of mine.

Was he writing with Nick Drake in the background?

Not at all. At the time of writing, I tried to get away from him. In fact, this time I wrote without music. Nick Drake’s music has a magnetic power that grabs you and that would have been detrimental.

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