A writing taxi driver in Barcelona

Sifting through the online news on literary events, this blogger came upon an interesting reportage by Sergio Pinto Briones on the Chilean writer Rodrigo Díaz Cortez (Santiago de Chile, 1977) who makes a living from driving a taxi at night in Barcelona. Some translated excerpts are reproduced here:

From six in the afternoon to six in the morning he drives his taxi through Barcelona. … He writes every day, at least 30 minutes; and the taxi is a good source of inspiration. … He went so far as to put microphones into the back seats and whenever he listened to an interesting conversation, he recorded it. This way he accumulated around 400 conversations. … Díaz Cortez has published four books so far. The last one was El pequeño comandante [The little commander, 2011], published by Mondadori. But it was Tridente de Plata [Silver trident] that made him known by winning the Vargas Llosa novel award in 2007, and it made the literary agency Guillermo Schavelson sign him up. Despite all this, Díaz Cortez is a practically unknown author in Spain as well as in Chile. A friend of his recommended to be very friendly to his editor, invite her out, etc. but he hasn’t done so. … When it comes to selling books, Díaz Cortez spares no effort in doing it himself. When El peor de los guerreros [The worst of the warriors] was published in 2011, he used any insignificant conversation with his passengers to promote and sell his book. It were the 12,000 EUR of the Vargas Llosa award that enabled Díaz Cortez to obtain a taxi license. A very good investment in his opinion. Though he is concscious of the risks involved and has been assaulted repeatedly. … He wouldn’t like to work the day-shift as traffic is fluent during the night and Barcelona summer heat can be stifling. … Recently he moved to the Eixample district with a view on the Sagrada Família. … The 1980s are a constant in his books. These were the years of his childhood and Chile was ruled by a dictatorship, a difficult to forget event. The writer comes from a communist family background, and in his home they lived with the phantoms of the dead. His uncle Lenin Díaz was detained and disappeared, a figure Díaz Cortez admires for his perseverance; as his maternal grandfather who was one of the first to inhabit La Legua, one of the poorest neighborhoods of the Chilean capital; and it was him who kindled his passion for reading.

Díaz Cortez is satisfied that Aufbau Verlag recently published the German version of his El peor de los guerreros. He is now searching for a publisher for two further works: the story collection Metales rojos [Red metals] and the novel Poeta bajo el mar [Poet under the sea]; the novel was runner up to the Qué Leer award [Spanish literary magazine] and the Ciudad de Barbastro award [city] in 2008. He has knocked at the doors of various publishers and they all tell him that story collections do not sell and that the novel is fragmented, complex and does not have a clear structure. … His maxim when he writes is: having a good time, enjoy, let oneself be carried away and not take it too seriously. Later there will be time for coherence, the discourse. … He says one ends up writing what one likes to read.  For Díaz Cortex there has to be some poetics.  He likes Alejandro Zambra. He is not too optimistic about making a living from writing but sees himself as surviving like all the others. Sending texts to literary competitions. Vehemently he maintains “that nobody lives from writing. There are four out of 400 writers who can do this. It’s been quite a while ago that the entertainment authors crushed those authors that have a creative need”.

Source: Revista de Letras

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