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Forgotten Ways of Speaking: An Interview with Marti Gironell

By Cristina Slattery

Marti Gironell received his degree in journalism from the University of Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona and in English Philology from the University of Barcelona. He currently works at TV3, the main television channel in Catalonia. He started working in radio at a very young age and worked for local stations and later started writing for local press such as the Diari de Girona, El Periódico de Catalunya, and Marie Claire. He currently contributes to El Periódico de Catalunya and El Punt/ Avui. He is the author of historical novels that take place in his local region. These novels are currently available in Spanish and Catalan, and the most recent novel, The Archeologist, is being considered for US publication. The Archeologist centers on the life of Father Bonaventura Ubach (1879-1960) who traveled extensively in the Middle East and brought back many archeological items to Catalonia. Called El arqueólogo in Spanish, it was published in 2011. Other works by Gironell include La cocina de El puente de los judíos, (2009), La venganza del bandolero, (2008), El puente de los judíos, (2007), which immediately became a bestsller when it was published, and La ciudad de las sonrisas: Historias de supervivencia en Bombay (2006). His Web site is:

Cristina Slattery: A typical day for a ten-year-old Marti would include . . .  

Marti Gironell: I don’t remember, but I suppose playing basket with my friends, playing in the forest near my neighborhood, and waiting for the summer, Easter, or Christmas holidays to come!  

CS: At sixteen, Marti was most interested in . . .

MG: Completely different. I was working in radio. I began my relationship with mass media when I was fourteen at my hometown radio station and from that moment till now I have not quit my vocation. I'm still working, telling people stories but not only through radio and television but through novels, and different stories. 

CS: Can you explain a bit about how your family has helped shape who you are? 

MG: My parents have always supported me in what I want to do. They are my heroes, because they had dreams for my future and they worked hard to give me what they did not have when they were growing up. They taught to me to work hard, be happy; to be humble, and grateful.    

CS: What types of stories most interest you? Why?

MG: I am interested in all kinds of stories. But my novels are always based on historical facts or characters that were exceptional but for some reason don't appear in the history books. I like to vindicate them.

CS: How do you start writing your novels? Do you outline or do you start with an image? Can you explain your particular process a bit?

MG: When the idea comes to my mind I begin to search for information and I begin to write.

CS: Who are your favorite writers?

MG: I pick up from several places, different styles, national and international. Josep Pla, Alan Bennet, Noah Gordon, Alaa Al Aswani, Jaume Cabré

CS: Which words or phrases do you most overuse—in Spanish, Catalan, English . . . in any language?

MG: I try to use as many words as I can. I recover ways of speaking from the past that have been forgotten and I try to restore them to current use. To be accurate in language is my goal.

CS: What is your current state of mind?

MG: In constant thought! Non-stop work, looking for ways to get to know my novel, and trying to imagine new ways to reach readers, to get through to them. 

CS: What do you like to do in your free time and with whom do you like to spend it?

MG: If I could, I'd like to do nothing but rest. But I am not able to.  I read the books my friends write, go to the cinema with my wife, I run . . .

CS: Why write in Catalan? 

MG: Catalan is my mother tongue and I speak, I think, I love, I dream, and live in Catalan. I developed my communication skills in the language, and I feel comfortable telling stories to people in Catalan. Thanks to their translations these stories can reach other readers outside Catalunya. My novels have been translated from Catalan into several languages and that's great.

CS: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

MG: Be stubborn, be obstinate in your aim. Work to achieve it but also be patient. That's what I have learnt and try to do.

CS: How do you know when a novel is "finished"?

MG: When you realize that everything is closed, when all the plots are solved and you are sure that you have explained every single thing.

CS: Has your process changed as you have written more novels?

MG: Not much. The process is the same in every novel, but writing novels is a very laborious process, and you hone your skill at it as you keep on writing. 

CS: Why should American audiences read your books and, also, why should they get to know Catalan literature?

MG: And why not? They will discover another way of looking at things, at history, of writing and I think that diversity always makes us richer than we were before discovering new subjects, landscapes, characters, ways of life. If American readers are curious they need only dive into our literature. I welcome them! 

Published Jul 20, 2012   Copyright 2012 Cristina Slattery

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