The Writing and Imagery of Rafael Chirbes
Museo Reina Sofía
Inside the framework of
“Inside the museum, one remembers the good weather outside”, the poet and historian Ángel González said in relation to the dividing line, pivotal to modern cultural institutions, between art and nature, writing and life. Opposite this dissociation, of a biopolitical nature and determined by the supposed belonging of bodies to spaces, there is a search to imagine the emancipatory capacities of writing as a bioliterary force: a way of opening worlds through the aesthetic experience of language and the political experience of fiction. Thus, before disciplinary mechanisms this possible “writing for life” defends the capacity of writing to convene the parameters of an alternative reality and situate us — affectively, sensitively, intellectually — in another plane, creating in this same displacement the joint transformation of our lives in the world. Therefore, in duplicating and cancelling material conditions, investigating and denouncing them, forging alliances and invoking destinies, writing projects from the symbolic still allow us, as Walt Whitman would have wished, “to imagine being all people to be someone”. From such displacement, literature is regarded as an artform, as an articulation of imagery in language, of the history of writing, of bodies in language and biography in history.
Bioliteratures 1 is conceived as a series of sessions in which writing forms converge around authors whose careers defy distances between subject and language, between the self and us, between the public and the private. For this first session, made up of two round-table discussions, the literary work of Rafael Chirbes, which speaks to us of disarticulated and violent nature intrinsically constituting our times, has been selected. Is literature that does not make commitments truly committed literature? The memory of repression, the dignity of poverty, the suppression of memory, the marks of class on the body, crossed interests and desires, literary history as an alternative national history, polyphony as a factory of subjectivity and construction as a poetic legacy for a future democracy are themes which, from Chirbes’s literary world, still interrogate us.
This reflection on the author’s writings with critics, writers and readers leads to a more open relationship between his rich corpus of literature and essays being created, circumventing homage, mythification, the idea of the writer as an institution or the typically posthumous fallout following the reception of his Diarios [Diaries] (Anagrama, 2021). In putting forward the possibility of a role-author, we imagine modes of writing that capture the possibilities and contradictions of an era and ways of existing in it, our ghosts reflected in a body of language, glimpsed in motion like shadows by a river.
David Becerra Mayor is a professor of Spanish Literature at the Autonomous University of Madrid. He has worked as a professor and post-doctoral researcher at Université de Liège and Université catholique in Louvain, and is the author of La novela de la no-ideología (Tierradenadie, 2013), La Guerra Civil como moda literaria (Clave Intelectual, 2015) and Después del acontecimiento. El retorno de lo político en la literatura española tras el 15-M (Bellaterra, 2021), and is coordinator of the monograph Convocando al fantasma. Novela crítica en la España actual (Tierradenadie ediciones, 2015). Furthermore, he has overseen the critical edition of La mina, by Armando López Salinas (AKAL, 2013), and Alejo Carpentier’s La consagración de la primavera (AKAL, 2015). He is the director of the collection of essays from the publishing house Hoja de Lata and is in charge of the Aesthetics and Literature Section at the Foundation for Marxist Studies.
Natalia Castro Picón is an assistant professor at Princeton University. She earned a degree in Hispanic Studies from the Complutense University of Madrid and a PhD from the City University of New York, and was a grantee at the Antonio Gala Foundation for young creators from 2013 to 2014. She has published the poetry collections La intermitencia de los faros (Canalla Ediciones, 2013) and La misma piedra (Tenerife, 2016), with her main fields of study modern and contemporary Iberian literature and culture, as well as transatlantic Iberian relations in a neoliberal context. In her research and classes, she combines tools and methods from Cultural Studies with a glottopolitical perspective.
Clara Derrac Soria is an art historian and researcher. She was a 2019–2021 Fulbright scholar and holds an MA in Modern and Contemporary Art: Critical and Curatorial Studies from the University of Columbia in New York and an MA in Contemporary Art History and Visual Culture from the Complutense University of Madrid, the Autonomous University of Madrid and Museo Reina Sofía. She is currently the beneficiary of a Banco de España – Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía grant for training in public activities projects inside the museum sphere.
Sara Mesa was born in Madrid but has lived in Seville since childhood. She is the author of six novels and three books of stories, most notably Cuatro por cuatro (2012, Herralde Prize finalist), Cicatriz (2015, RNE Critical Eye Award), Cara de pan (2018) and Un amor (selected as Book of the Year in 2020 in El País, El Cultural and La Vanguardia), as well as the volume of stories Mala letra (2016) and the essay Silencio administrativo. La pobreza en el laberinto burocrático (2019), all published by Anagrama. Her work has been translated into a dozen languages.
Rosario Peiró is head of the Museo Reina Sofía’s Collections Area.
Juan Manuel Ruiz Casado holds a degree in Philology. His professional career encompasses journalism, gastronomy and viniculture, and he was previously editor-in-chief of the magazine Sobremesa and director of the tasting panel on the same publication. He is currently head of Enoteca Barolo’s tasting programme and activities.
Miguel Sánchez-Ostiz has worked as a poet, storyteller, essayist and columnist since 1977. He holds a degree in Law, working in advocacy from 1974 to the late 1980s. In 2001, he won the Prince of Viana Award for Culture. He is the author of an extensive bibliography, his novels most notably including La gran ilusión (Seix Barral, 1989, Euskadi Prize for Literature and the Herralde Prize for Fiction), Los papeles del ilusionista (Anagrama, 1990), No existe tal lugar (Anagrama, 1997, National Book Critics Award, 1998), La flecha del miedo (Anagrama, 2000), El Escarmiento (Pamiela, 2013), Perorata del insensato (Pamiela, 2015), Diablada boliviana (Pamiela, 2018), Moriremos nosotros también (Pamiela, 2021) and the literary memoirs Viaje alrededor de mi cuarto (Pamiela, 2021). In 2001, he published his entire corpus of poetry work to date in La marca del cuadrante (Pamiela, 2001). Notable among his studies and work on Pío Baroja are Derrotero de Pío Baroja (2000), Opiniones y paradojas (2000) and Pío Baroja, a escena (2006), Tiempos de tormenta (2007), and the editing and study of the unpublished novel Miserias de la guerra (2006). He also runs the blog Vivir de buena gana.
Rodrigo Terrasa is a journalist. He holds a degree in Information Sciences and started out as an intern at SuperDeporte, before moving on to El Mundo in Valencia as a staff writer in the Sports section. In 2007, he started to work on the digital edition of the newspaper and, in 2015, moved to the editorial department of El Mundo in Madrid to write about politics. At the present time, he writes for Papel, El Mundo’s daily magazine. He is also author of the book La ciudad de la euforia (Libros del K.O, 2021), chronicling some of the most infamous cases of corruption in the Community of Valencia over two decades.
Isabelle Touton is head professor of Spanish Language and Literature at the Université Bordeaux Montaigne, in Bordeaux. From Cultural Studies, she works on literature and Spanish visual literature (comics, graphic humour and documentary) and, with a sociological gaze, on the literary field, feminism and current Spanish social movements. Among other volumes, she is the author of Intrusas. 20 conversaciones con mujeres escritoras (Institución Fernando el Católico, 2018) and the editor, with Jorge Cagiao, of the collective book España después del 15M (Los Libros de la Catarata, 2019). She also recently co-directed the collective book Trazos de memoria, trozos de historia. Cómic y franquismo (Marmotilla, 2021).
Saturday, 14 May 2022
4:30pm Table 1. Reading and Writing to Rafael Chirbes
Sara Mesa. Writing Is to Open Our Gaze to the Half-light. Ideas and Style in Rafael Chirbes
David Becerra. Literature, Memory and Crisis. Reading from Rafael Chirbes
Isabelle Touton. Conflicts Created by the Work of Rafael Chirbes
Miguel Sánchez-Ostiz. Rafael Chirbes, from the Disappointment to the Pillory of His Time
Moderated by: Clara Derrac Soria
6:45pm Table 2. The Memory We Don’t Speak of
Rodrigo Terrasa. Chirbes or the Structure of Power: Theory of a Collective Suicide
Natalia Castro Picón. The Artisan and the Museum. The Art of Hospitality in Rafael Chirbes
Juan Manuel Ruiz Casado. Damage as the Engine of Narration
Moderated by: Rosario Peiró