She’s a perfectionist yet down to earth, in love with love and with life. Crowned with some of the world’s most renowned literary prizes—and with her first novel being adapted for the silver screen—Ángeles Mastretta reaffirms her place as reigning queen of Mexican literature with a new short story collection, Maridos. From her home in Mexico City, the author opens up to AARP Segunda Juventud Online and reveals her obsessions.
Q. The women in Maridos are strong and independent, yet you present them in terms of their relationships with the men in their lives. Why?
A. Well, that is one of my very particular obsessions. I believe that there is an important part of every human being that is defined in terms of their significant other: how we choose our partner, and how we behave when we are with them. And that is the part that interests me. How that part of the personality is forged doesn’t just interest me, it fascinates me. I am curious about it, intrigued…It also sometimes hurts, or makes me happy. The book is the result of all those emotions.
Q. Destiny also plays an important part in many of these stories.
A. Without a doubt. I believe in fate the same way others believe in God. I do believe in fate. My characters…are very aware that destiny has placed them at this particular junction. Yes, I do believe that. That’s why they are so often also disposed to accept catastrophe when it strikes.
Q. For whom do you write these stories?
A. Look, there are many people who say, “I write for myself.” I think that if you write and publish, then you write for your readers, not just for yourself. Many writers say that they write to be loved. I place myself among those writers. I do write to be loved; I speak so that I am loved; I work for love; I live with others so that they may love me, and so that I can love them. For me, this is very important, and many, or all, of my relationships are based on that.
Q. In this context the relationship with the reader becomes…
A. Yes, for me the relationship with the reader acquires a tremendous importance. But one cannot imagine their readers. It’s not true that you write a book and tell yourself, “Oh, I know I will write a bestseller! Surely I have millions of readers who will flock to buy it.” Not true. Rather, one writes a book and always at the back of your mind you think, “Maybe no one will buy it.”
Q. Does the book acquire a different feel, do you see it differently once it is printed?
A. No, I feel that it sees me differently because it no longer has a connection to me. It’s terrible because it is too late to change anything. And I open it and say, “Uuuy, this comma doesn’t go here. Uuuy, I missed an adjective there.” And I can’t do anything about it anymore!
Q. You use a very interesting technique in opening the book with the first half of a story, yet we don’t get to read the second half until the end of the book, almost like bookends.
A. The idea is that there is this woman who is telling the stories, almost like a reflection of her own relationship with the man who is, or was, her third lover. That is what makes this fun—that we don’t know if he is or was or will be her third lover. But she defines her relationship to him in the process of telling him the stories of these other very many relationships.
She herself doesn’t know how it will end, or if it is even beginning, or anything. Or, what’s more crucial, if their story merits a novel or a series of short stories. I’ve been thinking that I should make up the story of those two.