After the success of his first novel, Memòria d'uns ulls pintats, Lluís Llach returns with a new book. Also published by Empúries, Les dones de la Principal tells the story of three landowning women in a fictitious rural world inspired by Priorat, where Llach spends much of his time.
–Les dones de la Principal is my second literary experience. I like fiction a lot and even when I think about writing a memoir I think I would have to fictionalise it. I have to kill someone off every now and then [he laughs].
How was the experience of writing the novel?
–When I tell people that I have no idea about writing they think I am exaggerating, but I am still learning. I have never written anything other than songs. When you start you begin to panic because you have entered an unknown world. It is a feeling that balances out the enjoyment of learning; you are continually facing challenges you have to resolve but that you did not expect to encounter.
Where is the story of Les dones de la Principal from?
–There are some images that stay with you all your life. One day my mother told me a story I really liked. She told me that in a quite spectacular house near Porrera lived a very fat women who had to be carried around in a chair. Fifty years later this image came back to me and I decided to use it.
A strange source of inspiration.
–It is the story of a powerful woman in the 1900s, during the phylloxera blight. I decided that this would be my starting point and that I would continue the family history for another 100 years. All sorts of parallel stories came to me, which transformed the book into a multi-genre novel that goes from a period piece to noir fiction with an erotic story in between. I must confess I had a great time and I also learnt that the exercise of creativity transforms everything and you end up becoming a bit of a slave to your characters and the story itself.
The Pous of the story is Porrera?
–Pous is not Porrera, nor is Rius Reus, or Feliu Falset, but if it were not for Porrera, Reus and Falset I would never have written this novel. Porrera is nothing like Pous, but they share an atmosphere, an air, and the surrounding landscape.
Did the county look the same a hundred years ago?
–If you look at the houses in the square, they are large and from the end of the 19th century. As you go upwards, the houses are smaller, and older. At the end of the 19th century, the phylloxera blight came across the Pyrenees, but it would take 30 years to reach here. In other words, for 30 years there was no wine in France, Italy or anywhere. Then they see that the blight does not affect the American vines they are replanting and people here become very rich off the back of it. None of the large families remained in Porrera; they left for Reus or Barcelona.
In this book you return to the subject of homosexuality.
–True, though what interested me most in this novel was the issue of bisexuality. The main character is discovered having sexual relations with a man. Yet he never stops going with women and his wife loves him. Bisexuality is a topic I want to deal with in the future. Psychiatrists and doctors say that if we were sexually liberated, bisexuality would be the norm. Our society is full of bisexuals and if we were to start talking about it more, we would see that it is true.
You live between Senegal and here. How's your foundation doing?
–My foundation is a humble organisation, of some eight people. Once you have been to that country it is very difficult to extricate yourself. They say that about Africa and it is true. There is a type of atavistic attraction towards the land and the people. In Senegal, we support cultural differences. We have a plan and we are making a contribution to education, computer use, horticulture and fishing. We have had some problems but overall I am very happy, and even more so knowing that since we have been there we have provided work to 22 families, which means that some 600 people have received money.
You also put a lot of effort into the sovereignty process.
–I was an advisor to the Assemblea Nacional Catalana, who are welcome to use me as much as they want. At different moments I take part in events all over the country.
How do you see all of this?
–Apart from the fact that it is an unbelievable privilege to be living through a process of such civic quality, I think it is worth highlighting the way the process has been managed, bringing together individual and collective freedoms. That is why, whatever happens, the progress made by this process has indelibly influenced the social character of Catalonia. It is a new way of understanding a certain civic struggle that is totally original and that, moreover, is raising new issues in Europe and opening new doors. It is possible that they will stop us, because they are doors that many states do not want opened. However, if everything goes well, we will have to establish a new country and so this is a historic opportunity that we have to take advantage of.
Could go back to singing in Spain as a normal thing?
–Let us make no mistake. In Spain there are a lot of people who ares open, progressive and, despite all the manipulation they are subject to, continue to believe in the right to decide. Podem shows us that, because without that spirit Podem would never have emerged.