Daniel AlarcÃ³n, June 6, 2010
|Nationality||Peru, United States|
Writing a novel is not at all like riding a bike. Writing a novel is like having to redesign a bike, based on laws of physics that you don't understand, in a new universe. So having written one novel does nothing for you when you have to write the second one.
I love to walk through the streets of Jesus Maria and Pueblo Libre. The Spanish colonial buildings are in bright colors, two stories high, with these intricate wooden, windowed balconies.
I love the novel because it's like a love affair. You can just fall into it and keep going, and you never know where it's going to take you.
It's true that there are people who live the idea of being an artist, as opposed to the idea of making art.
I do feel fortunate to have some knowledge of the great Latin American writers, including some that are probably not that well known in English. I'm thinking of Jose Maria Arguedas, whom I read when I was living in Lima, and who really impacted the way I viewed my country.
I write in English because I was raised in the States and educated in this language.
How emigration is actually lived – well, this depends on many factors: education, economic station, language, where one lands, and what support network is in place at the site of arrival.
I think probably the thing I'm worst at is the most ephemeral stuff, like blogs. I find it really hard to write. And I'm often been asked to write columns for papers in Peru. And I can't. I would die. There's no way I could write a column.
When I started writing seriously in high school, English was the language I had at my disposal – my Spanish was domestic, colloquial, and not particularly literary or sophisticated.
I'm a sucker for any band named after a work of literature. Los de Abajo take their name from Mariano Azuela's famous novel 'The Underdogs,' and that says a lot about who they are and the music they make.
I think I'm an American writer writing about Latin America, and I'm a Latin American writer who happens to write in English.
Peru is a country where more than half the people would emigrate if given the chance. That's half the population that is willing to abandon everything they know for the uncertainty of a life in a foreign land, in another language.
For fiction, I'm not particularly nationalistic. I'm not like the Hugo Chavez of Latin American letters, you know? I want people to read good work.
I have to really think hard about how to structure sentences, and do more mapping when I sit down to write, so it does impose a certain discipline, intellectual and linguistic.
I began visiting Lima's prisons back in 2007, when my first novel, 'Lost City Radio,' was published in Peru.
I like radio because you can do an hour-long interview and then three days later have a finished piece.
As a boy, I wanted to be the Peruvian Diego Maradona. Sadly, Peru hasn't made the World Cup since 1982, so I guess I did well to choose something different.
Publication in 'The New Yorker' meant everything, and it's no exaggeration to say that it changed my life.
When I was younger, I was able to write with music playing in the background, but these days, I can't. I find it distracting. Even when the music is just instrumental or has lyrics in a language I don't understand, the clash between the voices in my head and the song can be very disorienting.