Dining out with Rosa Montero, Spain’s Favorite Writer and Chronicler
By Dr. Fátima Serra, Department of Foreign Languages
My good friend Dr. Evelyn Jiménez-Rivero, Professor at the Departamento de Español of the Universidad de Puerto Rico, was in charge of taxiing around Spain’s well-known author Rosa Montero during a recent Congreso de Literatura de España y las Américas, (18-20 Nov. 2010) at her institution in Arecibo. Needles to say, I felt honored when she requested my help in accompanying her and the author for dinner at a local restaurant. I was thrilled and at the same time intimidated: what can I discuss with a world-famous novelist and journalist who has interviewed the main players in world politics and has received numerous prizes such as Spain’s Journalism Prize and the Spring Novel Prize among others? Sooner or later we would be scrambling for things to say, I thought.
However, soon after the first introductions, it was as if I had reunited with an old friend. Perhaps it was Puerto Rico’s warm weather or Rosa Montero’s savoir faire or the bottle of Albariño that was the catalyst for the night. The evening was a continuous stream of animated exchanges where life, death, pets, wonderful Puerto Rico and yes, even sex, were on the table. By the second bottle we were laughing so hard that we got interrupted by some Cuban writer who was determined to hit on Montero and stick around. With firm politeness she discouraged him and we continued our conversation without further interruptions.
I knew Rosa Montero was a great writer, but now I know she is an even greater person. When discussing world politics and conflict resolution I expressed my frustration about the patience of the present US administration towards the other side of the aisle. Considering how the Right was and is unapologetic about their view points and how uncompromising they have been historically, I have been disappointed at the—apparently pointless—efforts of the government to include opposite views. Well, Rosa Montero, in spite of all the bad things she has endured in her personal life and all the horrors she has seen in the world as a journalist (her own life companion passed away a year ago after a painful battle with cancer), she still believes that to be at peace with yourself we must establish a consensus with the negatives in life such as death and opposing political views She is also very generous, she attended the talks about her work, including mine, and she still had the time to praise them, add her own perspective, and buy a round of coffee for everybody.
I was totally blown away, not only by the dining experience with my favorite writer and journalist, but also by the message she transmits in person and in her books. In her recent titles, her heroes are sensitive, compassionate men. The rescuers of princesses are strong men, but their strength comes from their endurance and empathy in the face of adversity. She states it very clearly in her last novel, Instrucciones para salvar el mundo (2008) where we meet Daniel, a doctor with a comfortable life who follows the social rules of the status quo of the powerful, who is contrasted with Matías, an ordinary taxi-driver, who is mourning the recent loss of his wife. Matías has had a rough life, but he manages to be happy because of his compassionate and solidary nature towards anything from pets to prostitutes, and even the doctor whom he thinks is responsible for his wife’s death. On the other hand, Daniel, the doctor, is frustrated with his life by the end of the novel because he has not been able to establish strong relationships with women and others in the margins of society.
It seems quite clear: In order to save the world and to save ourselves we all must be inclusive of “the other” whoever he or she may be. Particularly men. According to Rosa Montero, the heroes of the 21st century will not kill dragons, rescue princess es, and save the world if they do not include others in their quest, especially women. In order to obtain love, success, and a better world they have to walk hand in hand with minorities, third-world countries, homosexuals, politicians from the opposite side and, above all, women. Who couldn’t agree with that? So men of the Earth, take note of Rosa Montero’s suggestion, have a good read, grab the action-packed Instrucciones para salvar el mundo, and you will ensure that your lady will not choose a different castle to live in and your reign in peace will thus be assured.