Interview with Emili Rosales

Emili Rosales
interview by Mike

Emili Rosales was born in Sant Carles de la Ràpita in 1968. He works as a publisher and has been a regular contributor to the newspapers Avui and La Vanguardia. He has been described by critics as one of the most interesting voices of the new generation of Catalan writers. His fourth novel The Invisible City is an international bestseller and an English translation was published on the 22nd October by Alma Books. Emili took a break from the Frankfurt Book Fair last week to talk to us.

When and how did you discover that you could write?

Many teenagers feel the need of writing. I was one of them. I loved poetry, then I try to write as my favourite poets.

The Invisible City won one of the most prestigious literary prizes in the Catalan language in 2004, The Sant Jordi Prize. How did that make you feel and what effect did it have on your writing?

It was with my fourth novel, and I had taken before the decision of combining writing and editing. The prize didn´t change this situation. I think the reason of the higher attention paid to this novel is in the theme and the story. Perhaps one has a few good stories to tell. Perhaps this is my good one.

How important do you think awards are in general to a writer and the publishing industry?

They are useful if they are able to put the focus on one book; if they shorten the way to the readers; but anyway readers are the stars of this play. With or without prizes.

What was the motivation and creative force behind The Invisible City?

A combination of a big historical event and personal interest. My family arrived to my village in the Ebro delta 2 centuries ago when the building of a promising city started. But the city never existed, and I wanted to know why. The king behind this project was Charles III, the same that discovered Pompeia and then pushed the irruption of neoclassicism. So, my own familiar story, in a small town of fishers, in the center of a continental cultural focus.

What were the reasons for giving the protagonist the same first name as yourself and placing him in Barcelona, where you live?

I like to play with that, and I think readers enjoy this ambiguity. A novel is alive while the reader trust the narrator, and if it helps.

There are lots of descriptions of architecture and the tone of the book quietly draws you into the two worlds in the novel. Do you think history and architecture can shape the present and how important to you was it that this came over in the novel?

Art, architecture helps you to talk about the past, about history, but my interest is how they can show the peoples’ feelings, the peoples’ soul, the peoples’ dreams (this story is about a failed dream: the invisible city).

Did you find it hard to juxtapose the eighteenth-century court with the contemporary art world? Did you write the two parts separately and combine them later or did you switch between the two as you wrote?

It was really hard to combine both times. It took to me more time the building than the writing of the novel, but I enjoy very much as well as writing, the preview investigation: traveling to Naples, to Venice, to St Petersburg, and reading about Enlightenment, and neoclassical architects, etc. The writing of this novel has been one of the more fascinating experiences in my whole life!

Where do you write, what kind of view do you have?

I prefer a window on Sant Carles harbour, but many times I write in hotels, flights, trains...

What's been the reaction of friends to your writing?

Enthusiastic. They are better than me.

You've been described as an interesting new voice in the new generation of Catalan writers. Do you think The Invisible City is of a similar style to that body of literature or do you think it breaks new ground?

Catalan writing is as diverse as other literatures, I mean, there are authors more close to other European authors than to other Catalan writers. I am trying to build my own world, my own references, and of course many of them are Catalan (note two big writers of XX century:
Josep Pla and Baltasar Porcel) and many others are Italian, French, Anglosaxons, Spanish ... Catalan literature, anyway have become a singular, special case among European literatures, and I am proud of being part of that.

I understand you have worked as a translator.  What kind of chemistry has to happen for a translator to bring a faithful version of a book into a different language?

Translating is an art! You must be a writer in the language of arrival!

Are you happy with the translation of La Ciutat Invisible and how does it feel to see it translated into English?

As far as I can appreciate it, I like it very much. I lived one year in England in 1998-99, and I am really happy seeing my novel translated to English.

What has it been like working as the Spanish writer, Carlos Ruiz Zafón's editor?

Working with Carlos is wonderful. And a privilege. His literature has changed many things in Spain. I admire very much him because he was very confident from the first minute of all that was going to
happen. He is a genius.

Did being a literature professor help you in your writing and did you enjoy that role?

Being a literature professor is too much hard for me. I admire the work they do.

What's next? Are you working on another novel?

Yes. Perhaps Emili Rossell hasn´t died.

Thanks Emili. 

Visit Alma's book site here to read more about The Invisible City.

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