An interview with Jenn Díaz by Josep Massot

Jenn Díaz (Barcelona, 1988) makes her debut in Catalan literature with the novel Mare i filla [Mother and daughter] (Ara Llibres), after four titles written in Spanish: Belfondo (2011), El duelo y la fiesta [The grief and the feast] (2012), Mujer sin hijo [Childless woman](2013) and Es un decir [It’s a saying] (2014). Jenn Díaz already reflected in Mujer sin hijo on the dystopia of a world where motherhood was mandatory. She too lives from her own experience of acting as a mother without having had a child yet. The new novel is “about family ties, one’s own bedrooms, houses with gardens and houses in the shadows. About men’s worlds inhabited by women and the set phrases that explain them and perpetuate them. About mothers, daughters, sisters and the words and silences that bring them nearer or separate them.”

Question (Josep Massot): How did you decide to write in Catalan? Has the topic anything to do with it?

Answer (Jenn Díaz): After Es un decir [the fellow writer and journalist] Eva Piquer proposed to me to take part in the family of Catorze.cat [a culture website in Catalan]. I decided to start a series –Els fills dels altres [The others’ children]- that had me bound, during one year, to write a weekly story in Catalan. She proposed it to me in case I liked to change and begin in Catalan, and I accepted it. This had the effect that my head, up to then dedicated literature-wise to Spanish, bifurcated. I come from a Spanish-speaking family, I have written in Spanish. Now I live in Catalan, at home and with my in-laws, and if we add the stories of Catorze.cat… all of this made me think about writing in Catalan. And there count also the fast women editors such as Izaskun whom I got to know then and who encouraged me a lot.

Q: Could you portray the women that are part of the novel? Shall we start with Dolors?

A: She’s the one who shows us that love comes around when it wants to, and when it does, it devastates. Even in the case of stable women who are far from passion.

Q: Natàlia.

A: The protagonist who wants to detach herself from traditional models, from the mediocrity of marriage, from the vulgar things of love, and who ends up being it’s own victim.

Q: Àngela.

A: Due to the lack of references, Àngela is driven to go against the stream and to not obey any family norm; she ends up fleeing from the centre, from the blood, from that which had been taught to her.

Q: Violeta.

A: The woman with the male role, who doesn’t need men nor love and who idealizes the father.

Q: And lastly Èrica.

A: The resigned woman who chooses social and family stability over truth.

Q: What kind of relationship do they have?

A: Dolors, Natàlia, Àngela and Glòria live with the man of the family, and when Àngel (brother, husband, father) dies, all of them have to find their role in the family. Between the sisters in law there is an explicit tension of unknown origin. Between the mother and her daughters a deception, a slow loss of tenderness and understanding. Between the sisters there is a total disconnection that brings them further apart with each day. Between the aunt and her nieces an absolute devotion and great respect. Between Natàlia and Èrica an agreement. Between Natàlia and Violeta a rivalry to see who is preferred by the man they love.

SOURCE: Josep Massot, La Vanguardia, September 12, 2015, p. 52 [printed edition]

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