Interview with Spanish noir writer Juan Carlos Girauta

girauta_ Born in Barcelona in 1961, Juan Carlos Girauta, graduated with a degree in Law from the University of Barcelona and obtained an MBA at the ESADE Business School. Given his tendencies towards writing, he began studies towards a Doctorate in Philosophy but later abandoned it to  pursue economic and political journalism.  Currently, he writes for the Spanish newspaper ABC and serves as a political analyst on radio and television programs

Disorder (El desorden in Spanish) is Girauta’s second noir novella and the first one translated into English. Both versions, the Spanish original and the English translation, have been published by the Singapore-based Monsoon Books exclusively in e-book form. He took time away from his busy schedule to speak with Noir Nation editor, Eddie Vega.

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Interview with Juan Carlos Girauta

Noir Nation: At what point did you know you were a writer? What was the process of discovery like?

Girauta: I have always had a strong tendency towards writing. I entered the University of Barcelona to study law, but soon I realized that I would have preferred studying philosophy and literature. Nonetheless, I finished law in order to work as a lawyer, but never abandoned the possibility that I might become a writer.

girauta fingerNoir Nation: In one of your author photos, your hand seems to form what we in New York call the Bronx Cheer. Was that unintentional or were you trying to send some kind of message?

Girauta: Hahaha! I had no idea about the Bronx Cheer. It was rather a pose to break the monotony involving those photo sessions whenever you are not a model and you are not paid for those.

Noir Nation: Tell us about your most recent book, Disorder.

Girauta: It is about a serial killer who, clinging to the remembrance of somebody who doesn’t even exist, seeks a sense of guilt, of a remorse he is unable to feel. Meanwhile, in the first person, the main character remembers his crimes, philosophizes, identifies his elusive identity with the city of Barcelona and taunts the weird prestige that he has attained. He has roused fascination in some circles and contemplates with a kind of astonishment the theory that a journalist has developed about him. The turning point of the narrative is in Vienna, in the home of Sigmund Freud, which was turned into a museum. That’s all I can say.

Juan_Carlos_i_Montse_003Noir Nation: The book appeared in both English and Spanish. Did you collaborate with the translator, Ian Goldring? Were there things you wrote that were beyond translation?

Girauta: I don’t think there is something that can’t be translated when we are dealing with languages that are alive and have a strong literary tradition like Spanish and English. Ian’s translation is very faithful to the original and keeps the spirit of the text perfectly. I didn’t collaborate with him because I leave all those matters in the hands of my literary agent, a fellow Spaniard who lives in Singapore. My agent is an impressive fellow. He has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and translates from modern Greek. His Twitter handle is @Seleucus.

Noir Nation: The book uses many references to pop culture – to the actress Sharon Stone for example – but also to literary giants such as Borges. In what way did you intend the references to advance your narrative?

Girauta: My literary conscience, to use that expression, is a mixture of elements that, crystallizing in Postmodernism, allows me to incorporate references from the pop culture in which I was raised during my adolescence in the 70s, precisely when the Francoist dictatorship was agonizing in Spain. Not by chance, my beloved groups still are Genesis and, of course, The Beatles. I have tried to make my literary, musical, overall artistic, references part of the novel’s natural fabric. I hope to have attained it.

disorderNoir Nation: The cover has a minimalist approach to design. How did the cover come to be made?

Girauta: The cover was created by a graphic designer who works with my literary agent. The designer thought that a crimson blood stain would be a good idea on a red black ground. After all, the center of the story is murder and its irreversibility. Its indelible stain.

Noir Nation: What was your writing process like?

Girauta: I am not sure that I should unveil this, but let’s do it. The history in Vienna was written first. Then it occupied its place (a central place, I think) in the novel. Actually it’s logical. I think that the events at Freud’s house, when the protagonist Juan Barcelona steals the small statue, should have a special place and intensity so that the whole of the story could work.

Noir Nation: Do you socialize with other crime writers? If so, does it help your creativity? Or hinder it?

Girauta: To speak the truth, I have some friends and acquaintances in the publishing industry, but not many, and even fewer who are noir writers. I was, for instance, a very good friend of Horacio Vázquez-Rial, one of the best Argentinean writers in the last three decades, but he died of cancer last year.

Noir Nation: What’s the market like for crime fiction in Spain and Latin America?

Girauta: Noir literature is much more stronger in the Anglo Saxon markets than in the Spanish-speaking ones. One reason is that many noir novels we read in Spanish are  translations from other languages, mainly English, though there have been some stunning surprises from countries like Sweden, with the works of Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson. There is comparatively less noir production originally written in Spanish.

Noir Nation: Is Spain embracing eBooks? Or is it clinging to print?

Girauta: The problem in Spain is that the reading index is not high. Half of Spaniards do not read, whereas in France, only 25% of the population does not read. To make matters worse, the recession has driven Spain’s unemployment rate to 26%, so the growth of the eBook market has been rather slow.

Noir Nation: Do you use online social media to create awareness of your work? If so, which platforms do you think work best? Are you likely to find readers more on some than on others?

Girauta: I have a Twitter account (@girauta) with more than 7500 followers and my literary agent administers the Facebook pages of both El desorden and Disorder. Twitter is more alive than Facebook because I decided not to open a personal account on Facebook. My work as a political analyst on radio stations and Spanish TV channels and as a columnist on the Spanish newspaper ABC takes all my time.

Noir Nation: Tell us about your literary influences.

Girauta: My basic influences belong to the Spanish Golden Age (the 16th and 17th centuries), to the Russian literature of the 19th century, to the movements of Aestheticism (Oscar Wilde) and Spanish Modernism (Ramón María del Valle-Inclán), and to the great Argentinean literature of the last century (Jorge Luis Borges, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Ernesto Sábato, Julio Cortázar).

Noir Nation: Is there a question you’d like me to ask that I did not ask?

Girauta: It’s been an awesome interview, and perhaps I would like to add a personal reflection: rather than a genre, the noir novel is a formidable code to trasmit to broad audiences all kind of narrtives, including the more ambitious intellectually.

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