It usually happens, in our national universe, that the public tends to be amazed by the epics that come from abroad, without looking at the stories and characters that walked near our borders. The one of Garcilaso de la Vega It is one of those epic existences, so intense, turbulent and passionate that the journalist and philologist Augustine Alonso He thought, at first, that it could be brought to the big screen, in the style of the most famous gladiator in cinema.
But the demand for a coherent, rigorous story called for a little more depth. Without losing sight of the human focus, Alonso began an arduous process of documenting the poet of the Golden Age that lasted for five years, a fictional recreation that is captured in The Imperfect Age (2021, Silex).
A literary work that reveals the incredible life of a character who lived through two wars, exiles and uncertain loves. An antihero still too young, in the shadow of his brother, who redeemed himself from the world through art, a symbol of a Spain that was not, a fight worthy of the best stories of the seventh art. All of this framed in the Castilian geography, with a communal attack, a world torn in two and a turbulent 16th century, full of power struggles and intrigues.
We chat with the author of The imperfect age that this Friday, June 10, he will be signing copies of his novel at the Madrid Book Fair 2022in the booth 234 from his publishing house, Silex, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m..
How did you come to the figure of Garcilaso de la Vega, what made you think that his story could be turned into fiction?
Garcilaso is a figure that is familiar to all of us, but that deep down no one knows. My interest in Garcilaso was part of a process, more than a definitive infatuation. I studied Hispanic Philology and, at first, it was for rather pragmatic reasons. Also I really like audiovisuals, fiction and cinema, as I discovered it I realized that its story had a movie. In fact, I always say that everything came about after watching the movie Gladiator, with its initial battle in Germania, its love story, all loaded with that epic. It was the year 2000 and I began to delve deeper into his figure, after A book by Carmen Vaquero fell into my hands.a great Garcilaso scholar whom I have followed for a long time, who has advised me a lot with this novel, and from then on it was a progressive fall in love.
I was also greatly influenced by reading Erasmus of Rotterdam by Stefan Zweig, which helped me delve deeper into that divided era, which is in line with the title of the novel, which also plays with the idea of the imperfect verses that Garcilaso constructed. It is one of the decades that has most marked the history of Europe, with super important artistic and cultural moments, but ultimately it is the story of a character that seems incredible, exciting, super modern in his time, but who has a sensitivity with which is very easy to connect from postmodernity.
There is a most interesting part of the book is that you delve into its story from the most personal and human point of view. What does that focus of view contribute?
In any novel I read, what interests me are the characters. In any narrative, whether it is a book, a series or a movie. The characters, and I am not discovering anything with this, are the basis of the drama. But they must be addressed in depth. And when I began to delve deeper into Garcilaso, I realized that I was more interested in that day to day life. I always say, when I talk about this novel, that one of my references, throughout the time that I had the novel in my head and, above all, in these last five in which I have worked on writing it, has been the series Mad Men. Not only with respect to the tone, but at least in the fact that it is a period story that tells you the story of a guy, centered on the person, to escape from a standard history manual.
I also think that both the setting, the Castilla of that time, and the time itself, are characters that are strong enough for me to dwell on them, that was also important. But I was interested in focusing on how Garcilaso developed at that time.
To refer to this novel you speak of fictional recreation. You were working, as you say, for five years on this novel because behind it there is an enormous amount of documentation work that, in order to translate it into fiction, must be based on the most exhaustive detail. What is the most complex thing about fictionalizing history?
I recognize that I feel a very important responsibility with rigor. I have tried to use what is known, and what I have come to know, I have tried to be very rigorous, but it is a fiction and there are many invented things and, in the end, it is my Garcilaso. But I admit, I think I would be bad at turning this into a script, in the sense of making this something fast-paced in which everything is action. I have tried to be very rigorous so that my Garcilaso is coherent with what a historical Garcilaso could be, although, possibly, it has nothing to do with it, but the thing is, sometimes, the historical figures depicted in textbooks also have nothing to do with what is recreatedwill always be reflected under a subjective perspective.
This is also the story of those two brothers in which you propose that game of duality between politics and art, turning the two brothers into two vertices. Politics is represented by Pedro Lasso and art and aesthetic beauty in Garcilaso. Because why were you interested in facing those two dimensions?
It was one of the things that interested me when I was diving and, suddenly, putting the pieces together, I realized that this story was actually about the fight of two brothers, their envy, jealousy and love. But at the same time I wanted to make them transcend as a symbol of the two Castiles, of the two Spains., which are that of will and sensitivity and that has a lot to do with politics. Pedro is the political leader, a super charismatic guy. He is also the first-born, the one who inherits the possessions of his father, who had been someone important in the court of the Catholic Monarchs, and in fact appears in the will of Isabel la Católica. Then there is Garcilaso, a second-in-command, who takes up a political career that he actually dislikes, generating grudges with Charles V that will later cause him to be exiled… I wanted to pay attention to that, because, What is more human than relationships between brothers, fights, jealousy? I understand it well that I come from a family of eight siblings.
The idea was to play with the idea of that polarization, which was also happening in Spain at the time, although I don’t think there were two Spains, but many. It is also a look at the lost opportunity for Spain at that moment of the Golden Age, in which what triumphed ended up being the Spain of will, of “doing it for the hell of it” and not so much of sensitivity. A fact that separated us from modernity for centuries.
In the history of Spain we have always lived with that idea of lost opportunities.
Yes, but I believe that this was a moment especially, I believe that an era is a consequence of the educational reform of Isabel la Católica. Between 1650 and 1900 it is all about not modernizing us and we are not, Charles V is very adored for his figure as emperor, but I am quite critical, he is a figure of incredible stature, but very criticizable in terms of the fact that he prevented the entry of modernity into Spain. .
“I think that Castilla is full of peripheries”
Why did you decide to turn Castilla into another character in this story, with its own entity?
It is one of the things that I liked the most in the creation process. In the end, for me it has been a personal and physical journey, during these five years I have visited many places where Garcilaso was also, but it has also caught me in a few years in which I was trying to return to the roots and realize that, with The entire debate on the diversity of communities has returned to that reflection that Castilla has its own entity that just at this time – in which the book takes place – was crushed.
It is curious because many times it is thought that Castile is the one that has laminated the peripheral identities and I think that is not so, I think it was the other way around, first the Castilian identity itself was eliminated, which I think is explained very well by Miguel Martínez in the book Communeros: The Lightning and the Seed, which he published last year and once the central power crushed that, with the figure of Charles V and the rest of the autonomous powers.
Something that continues to this day, Castilla is undoubtedly one of the communities with less autonomous voice and a certain complex than it was.
I suppose, because of that identification, sometimes, with what the central power is. Sometimes we confuse large urban centers, like Madrid, with what is Castilla, but I think that Castilla itself is full of peripheries. Despite the fact that it may bother some, I think it is good to recover a certain sense of community and communitarianism and I think that in that sense what is happening with recovering the identity of Castilla is very positive.
I understand that there will be a second part…
Yes indeed second and third part. The second would be set in the arrival of Garcilaso de la Vega to Bologna, Italy. More focused on his most artistic time, as a poet, in a country that changed his life. More focused on that estrangement from Castile and its love-hate relationship with this land. And the third, if I manage to do it, would be in Naples, which would be the high point of its Italianization.