“The Valle del Genal has always been my own Macondo”
Juana Ríos is a poet and author from Algeciras. She is currently promoting her very first novel, ‘La voz de lo que fuimos’ (‘The voice of what we were’), published by Huso Editorial, in Algeciras, Madrid, Cadiz and Sevilla
Juana Ríos is a poet, boldly exploring the joys of narratives for the very first time … After two successful poems published by Huelgo & Fierro Editors (‘Aduanas de agua’ and ‘Peces voladores’), she is now navigating her first incursion into the fiction genre under Huso Editorial’s wing.
The book is a powerful, and equally tremendous lyrical novel: ‘La voz de lo que fuimos’, which moves in and out of the past and present day. Her characters exist in the same geographical and emotional landscapes as the author: the Campo de Gibraltar and the Valle del Genal.
With a prologue written by Juan Laborda, who has defined this novel as a “spring novel”, that is typical of an author “profuse in forms and metaphors, but also austere and tense when required”. Juana Ríos’ novel is centred around three characters: Beatriz (“a woman who, in the midst of a life-crisis, embarks on an inner journey in search of the unknown past of her origins”), Amadeo (“a man deeply wounded by a family tragedy”) and Ricardo (“a former hashish smuggler from the Strait of Gibraltar, who attempts to hide his dark side behind his self-confidence”).
Following a successful presentation in Algeciras, Juana will be taking her book to major cities in Spain such as Madrid, Cadiz and Seville. Ríos explains that her novel – which took her a year to write “intuitively, from the first page to the last, as you will read” – is about “the power of feelings and inability to master obsession, and where these can lead us.”
‘La voz de lo que fuimos’ – is, in a sense, a portrait of rural Spain in the 20th century – but it about much more than that: the power of religious morality, survival during the post-war period, the submission of women to the suffocating family life in a small village, the smugglers who came from Ronda by train and trade with Gibraltar… and also the wild beauty of the Genal Valley, in which this imaginary village exists, where part of the story takes place.
“Although the events of the past could have occurred in any village in rural Spain, at a time when women had no choice but to be tough to survive, I was inspired by my parents’ village in the Genal valley, which has always been like my very own Macondo,” (The city created by the Nobel Laureate-winning García Márquez in some of her novels) the author explains and admits that her debut was also influenced by magical realism.
As for what inspired this journey into the past, Juana Ríos has reached the literary goal of creating fiction based on real events, those that end up forming part of a village’s collective memories and are passed on from parents to children, grandparents to grandchildren, so long as their ears and eyes are wide open and their minds are curious and ready to listen… and learn.
“My mother was a great storyteller, and I was lucky enough to have been inspired by some of the stories she told me and used these memories to create my characters and make them credible,” she explains.
As for the autobiographical component that is usually attributed to any first novel, the writer from Algeciras is convincing:
“Beatriz is not Juana, but she has bits of me, of course… We both consider ourselves modern women, free to live our lives as we see fit, and we both feel the need to belong to something; to find our place in the world… That’s something that I have covered, and that is what Beatriz looks for in the novel,” she clarifies, defining herself as a passionate person who is also contemplative and observant. Qualities that are essential to creating magic in the form of literature.
Note: ‘La voz de los que fuimos’ is now available on Amazon and can be ordered from online vendors such as El Corte Inglés and Casa del Libro, as well as throughout bookstores in Spain (including Bahía de Letras in Palmones).