Colombian Fernando Vallejo won the FIL prize today in Guadalajara, Mexico. Although honestly I´m not sure if he still is Colombian: Vallejo renounced his citizenship in 2008 and then – I think – took it back. (He´s been a citizen of Mexico since 2007, living there since 1971.)
If you´ve never heard of Fernando Vallejo it´s because he´s hardly been translated into English, which is probably because he´s almost untranslatable. I don´t mean that on a semantic level. I mean that he requires lots of contextualization. A great amount of his work focuses on regional peculiarities that would require long explanations, besides the fact that he writes in a uber-rhetorical register, usually way, way over the top, all of which equal an insurmountable task.
That said, there are plenty of reasons his work stands alone. For one, Vallejo only writes in first person, but not really. As he wrote in his first and – in my opinion – best book, Los días azules:
¨I can´t concieve of any other way of narrating except first person.¨
Although Vallejo always is that first person, he´s clearly not. Someone – I can´t remember who right now – says that Vallejo plays every other character in his own books, even his own God.
The first line Vallejo ever wrote recount him banging his head against the floor, as a toddler. Quite an entrance.
Vallejo as a public personality is somewhere in between all bombast and blast. He insults presidents and politicians, in his misleadingly voice, and easy-going manner. If that weren’t provocative enough he´s also openly gay, worships animals, and poo-poohs all of human nature.
Below you’ll find the first part of a fantastic documentary about him by Colombian film-maker Luis Ospina. It´s been translated as The Supreme Uneasiness. Wow, even the title sounds uneasy. It has subtitles in English.