The Colombian novelist Tomas Gonzalez has been writing for three decades, but has only been read this year by an English-speaking audience after his debut, In the Beginning Was the Sea, was published by the wonderful Pushkin Press. ----more----
Terse but lyrical, the novel was inspired by the murder of his brother Juan, who had swapped fast-living in Bogota for a dream of rural self-sufficiency on the Colombian coast. Juan, or J in the novel, was killed by a man he hired to manage the farm he shared with his girlfriend, Elena. The novel was Gonzalez's attempt to understand what happened and ponder its meaning against a larger universe at once beautiful, terrifying and indifferent to the human drama.
We met in the slightly downbeat bar of Gonzalez's Kings Cross hotel. It was a peculiar venue to discuss matters at once melancholy and inspirational. We were interrupted, variously, by a loud fan, a woman filling a metal dog bowl full of food, the ensuing dog skittering on its claws towards its lunch, several workmen and a chatty receptionist. Enjoy the atmosphere.
In part one we covered:
how to discuss debut novels that are 30 years old
the true story behind the novel
dreams of escape and escaping the rat race
the murder of Gonzalez's brother Juan
Gonzalez's encounter with his brother's murderer
revenge, violence and art
why he wrote the novel
the challenge of turning real-life tragedy into art
the lure of escape and escapism
ideas of success
how Gonzalez wrote the novel
Gonzalez the barman and making writing pay
drinking and literature
moving to Miami
My review of In the Beginning was the Sea in the Independent is: here.