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Interview With Ángeles Mastretta

The author reaffirms her place as reigning queen of Mexican literature with a new short story collection, Maridos.

Q. Are you working on that?

A. I’m thinking about it, I’m thinking about it. And at the same time I have two other stories—and that one tugs at me, that story about that woman—but I would have to make it up from beginning to end. The other is…an attempt to write the story of my father [journalist Carlos Mastretta]. He was half Mexican and half Italian, and I never understood his Italian half. That story would be an attempt to get to know who he really was and yet knowing that most probably I will never find out, and so the story would end up being about who I think he was.…Curiously, I just turned 58 this year, the same age my father was when he died. 

Q. What advantages, in your professional and personal lives, would you say come with being 58?

A. It would have been really good before to have the emotional strength I have now, but it could not be. The same way that it would be impossible for me now to have breasts that don’t sag or a flat stomach—wouldn’t that be marvelous! And yet it’s an impossibility.

You do gain serenity. In my case, yes, I’ve gained serenity. I don’t think everyone who ages gains it, you know. I do think you need to work at it. And I want to live a long, long time because I do so enjoy this world. I love it. I love it. 

Q. You were awarded the 1985 Mazatlán Prize for Literature for Best Book of the Year for your first novel, Árrancame la vida (Tear This Heart Out). Now it is being made into a film.

A. The film is a tremendous joy and an immense surprise. I did not expect it. It is being filmed here in Mexico and in Spain.

Q. Did you contribute to the script?

A. My contract clearly states that the writer sells all rights and will not be sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong. And the director is free to choose the actors he wants and the scenes he wants; he can do them any way he wants. But it turns out that the director, Mexican director Roberto Schneider, has been very generous. He wrote the script, but he wrote it with me. 

Q. How exciting!  

A. Very exciting! If he gives a press conference, I also go and take questions, just like him, and of course, since the book has been around awhile…Árrancame la vida was not a book that immediately won the respect of intellectuals or journalists. No, this book made its own way, all on its own. So now it turns out that journalists come and ask the director if he will respect the content of the book. And I think, how funny! No one had ever—I didn’t think the book was so well respected. I thought there were people who felt a certain affection for it, but as for respecting its content…And he says yes, he is—and he is. 

Q. What words of advice do you offer young writers?   

A. Write at least three lines every day. If you write 10 or 12 or 24, even better. But write a little something every day. I ask myself, “Why didn’t I start doing that at 14? It would make great reading now!” 


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