By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
It’s not that I’m laughing at death, because no one can laugh at it. But why take it so seriously? Death becomes a person, a woman, and that woman falls in love with a cellist. Apparently some readers, but mostly critics, have reached an easy conclusion that Love defeats Death. First of all, no one, nothing can beat Death. And the proof is that the last phrase of the novel is exactly the same as the first: “The following day, no one died.” Which means that Death can be very happy as the woman, they’ve made love and all that, but the next day, everything is repeated. Death has to be accepted, period.
You said that there is an element of comedy in this novel. It is, one could say, a bit more lighthearted than some of your books, maybe the most lighthearted sinceThe History of the Siege of Lisbon, which also has this element of, let’s say, romantic comedy to it.
It’s completely different because in The History of the Siege of Lisbon, two people are experiencing, in terms of their emotions, what many others have lived through before. They fall in love and they want to be happy, like everyone else. In this case it’s completely different because he doesn’t know who she is. She has never told him, “I am Death.” It is an ambiguous relationship, let’s say, but it’s understood that it is something we should doubt or that makes him doubt. Independently of the fact that everything will be repeated the following day, at some point Death could tell or concede to the cellist that she is Death. If she did tell him, it is possible he wouldn’t believe her. Because in front of him is a woman, a pretty, beautiful woman. Death for him is something completely different to that.
Somebody might wonder why an atheist is always writing about religious subjects like the life of Jesus, the personification of death, and things that we might call acts of God, like a plague of blindness or the Iberian Peninsula breaking apart from the rest of Europe.
This is the question they always ask me. Why do you write about this? Because it’s there, it’s present in society. Even though I’m an atheist, I’m a product, from the point of view of morality, of this religion, from Greco-Christian principles. I am writing about something that has, in part, made me the person I am today. It’s part of the world, I breathe religion in the air.
Yet these divine characters who pass through your novels are presented with a kind of humanity, or, you could say, a grace. It’s the earthly agencies constructed around them, be it the church or the funeral industry, that distort them.
If you believe Jesus Christ is a divine character, we must agree to ask at what point is He conscious that He is a divine character. And that’s why I wrote The Gospel According to Jesus Christ.
Jesus is a person like any one of us and happily meets simple human beings. He finds himself in a situation he didn’t expect. Curiously enough, in the Bible, in the Gospels, the first — I won’t say person because he’s not a person — but the first person, for lack of a better word, to call Jesus the son of God is the devil. The first person.
When Jesus shows up to expel the demons inside the man who has a legion of demons inside him — his name is Legion — he says, “No, don’t torment yourself, son of God.” The question is, how did the devil know Jesus was the son of God? And why is it a miracle when the demons are expelled and then enter into the pigs and then the herd of pigs rushes headlong down the steep bank into the Sea of Galilee and drowns? What kind of miracle is that? They are legends, ancient tales, as when we read, for example, The Arabian Nights.
The origin becomes clear. Religion is a plague. And then with time, it changes into other, smaller religions or sects that confirms my thesis that man is sick, man is mentally insane.
And this is something that I think is in many of your books, a kind of, I don’t know if surprise is the right word, that in the 20th century, in the 21st century, man is still living in the shadow of these Middle Age superstitions.
I’m not guilty of that. I denounce it, I show it, I put it in my books, but changing one’s consciousness is, in the first place, difficult, then, secondly, one’s place in society. ... The most difficult thing of all is to create a critical consciousness. Fundamentalism pushes everything apart. Including the United States.
Maybe more there than anywhere else. It’s quite possible that the next vice president of the United States will be a woman who believes in creationism.
That doesn’t surprise me. Many years ago in Barcelona I was at a meeting of Nobel Prize winners, in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature. There were two of us from literature present, [Wole] Soyinka and I. At a certain point, a Nobel laureate for physics got up to speak and say a few words and left all of us shocked. He said that creationism should be taught at the same time as evolution. These two are contradictory. But this is what the Nobel laureate for physics was saying. We were all quiet. No one said a word and things continued as though nothing had happened.