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Xavier Mas Craviotto: “People have many prejudices against human sciences studies”

Xavier Mas Craviotto entered the University of Barcelona with a score over 13 in the university entrance exams (PAU).

Xavier Mas Craviotto entered the University of Barcelona with a score over 13 in the university entrance exams (PAU).

He is finishing his studies of Catalan Philology and has a collaboration grant in the University Centre for Sociolinguistics and Communication Research (CUSC).

He is finishing his studies of Catalan Philology and has a collaboration grant in the University Centre for Sociolinguistics and Communication Research (CUSC).

In 2018 he has won more than twelve literary awards.

In 2018 he has won more than twelve literary awards.

With the pretext of the Documenta award for the novel La mort lenta, we talk with him about the novel.

With the pretext of the Documenta award for the novel La mort lenta, we talk with him about the novel.

20/12/2018

Entrevistes

Xavier Mas Craviotto (Navàs, 1996) is a lover of the Catalan language. Aged only twenty-two, he has received many awards already. This 2018, he has been awarded more than twelve prizes, among which are Pepi Pagès de Narrativa de Granollers, with the story El roure; the first edition of the Art Jove award on poetry Salvador Iborra, with the poetry anthology Renills de cavall negre, or the prestigious Documenta, with the novel La mort lenta, which will be released during the first trimester of 2019.

He entered the University of Barcelona with a score over 13 in the university entrance exams (PAU) and is studying his fourth year of the bachelor’s degree in Catalan Philology. Also, he has a collaboration grant with the Center for Sociolinguistics and Communication Research of the UB (CUSC), is co-founder of Com ho diria, an online platform on Catalan colloquial young slang), and has been in charge of the young reading club Entrelínies at the Library of Navarcles.

With the pretext of the Documenta prize, we talk about the novel. With the generosity of a child, he spreads enthusiasm with his simple but reflective language, which charms us. He also tells us about his passion for language and about his literary vocation, which comes from long ago. We asked him to define his style, since he sometimes mixes narrative and poetry, and to confess how the creation process for these texts works.

Did you write La mort lenta thinking about the Documenta prize?
When I started writing La mort lenta I did not know whether the text would take the shape of a novel or a story. Then I saw the more I wrote, the more things I wanted to say, so I thought I should submit this work to Documenta because, in some way, I was writing an experimental book, and the works that had been previously awarded were distinguished for their risk.

Is it experimental and risky?
It is quite experimental regarding style and form. While I wrote the novel I was also writing the poetry anthology Renills de cavall negre, which will be soon published by Viena Edicions, and I think the poetry entered the novel in some way. The style is quite poetic and there are fragments that go according to the narrative and the poetry prose. Also, the story is narrated in a way in which dialogues, thoughts and actions are integrated in only one flow of narrative voice. There are not full stops. This happens in life in some way: we talk, we think and we do things, everything at the same time, and ideas, words and actions are inextricable and occur at the same time. Structurally, this work is quite complex because it mixes present and past, which is a common technique but there are chapters in between which have meta-literary components titled Annex. These are notes to a cartography for the self: notes, drafts or documents that give us information about the characters and that I specifically wrote so the reader can understand them better and becomes aware that the text is fiction, and that characters are built by the author. The chapters are not in chronological order, but they have numbered titles in a temporary order, so you can read the novel in two ways: the order you find as I distributed the chapters, or following the numerical order in the titles of every chapter, which makes the reader go back and forth.

Do you think someone will try to read it twice following the numbers in the titles?
It can be read both ways so the reader can see that the story has different views depending on the order you choose. Readers can value how characters change while other things take place. In fact, everything they do, say and think in the present, has a certain sense in their past, which explains their behaviour when having to face the world.

Tell us a bit about the plot.
This is the story of two siblings; Aram and Lena. They have studied Philosophy and History of Art. They received an education, read a lot and have a certain idea of the world. When they are twenty, their parents die in a car accident and they have to face reality. They will move in an apartment in Barcelona and they will build a kind of shelter that will protect them from life. Little by little, they become really dependent and they will create a curious relationship. The plot is a pretext to talk about many things I am interested in, such as instincts: everything we keep inside and will not let go, but, just like a geyser, can come out whenever it finds a crack. It is a complex book that reflects on topics such as death, guilt, absence, dependence…

Are you interested in poetry and narrative indistinctly or do you think of a particular genre when you have an idea?
I always thought there is not a clear barrier between poetry and narrative, but a blurred continuum. Sometimes I like to move around one of the extremes and sometimes I stay in between, like in this novel. It depends on what you want at that time. There are some ideas you link with poetry and others that work better with narrative or poetry prose. Regarding stories I go for narrative, although it depends on the kind of narration I want to do. But I move according to my needs, depending on what I want to say and how, and depending on what the text requires. I think dichotomies like prose-verse or narrative-poetry are less and less operative, because there are many different things being written, which escape from classifications.

Do you prefer submitting your texts to contests rather than trying luck with publishing houses?
You end up at the same place because these prizes are usually the publication of your work. And therefore, you win because you have the experience, the award, and the work gets published. Also, I like to think there is a qualified and professional jury formed by different people who thought what you wrote is good enough to be published.

Do you need to feel the readers will like your texts?
I guess every writer wants to have this feeling, although I write a lot for me, it looks a bit selfish in this sense. The spark that makes me write comes from within, from some personal need. At first it is like an impulse, not very rational, and as the text takes some shape I think about what to do with it.

There is a stereotype that says arts and literature studies, studies on language, are easy and that you should go for science if you get good grades.
I think arts and literature, and language studies have always been connoted and that people have many prejudices. We need to break this stereotype that states these studies are simple or useless, and understand that studies are not about being easy or difficult but about vocation. I started studying Philology because I have always loved literature and everything that has to do with our language. I was lucky because my parents and my brother, who is a PhD student of History, have never had prejudices and always said we should study what we want. Truth is, when I finished my university entrance exams, many people said “Are you really going for Catalan Philology when you can study whatever you want?” and I answered back: “That is what I am going to do: what I want”.

What do you want to do once you finish your bachelor degree?
I will probably study a master degree or postgraduate degree, but I have not decided it yet. I am not sure of what I want to work on, but I am not closing any door. I like editing services, correcting, and translation. I would also like to work in teaching, specifically teaching adults or foreigners.

Do you teach foreigners?
Yes. I think we underestimate ourselves. Catalan is alive in other parts of the world, more than what we think. When I tell my friends about the many places where you can work as a teacher of Catalan language, they can’t believe it. It seems they like us more abroad than here. For instance, last month I was giving Catalan lessons to an Australian couple who came fifteen days here and wanted to learn basic things in Catalan to understand this culture better. They were really cultured, they already spoke many Romance languages: Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese… and that made it easier for them to learn Catalan. We could already have a conversation about any topic on the second week. Catalan is alive outside Catalonia and there are many people who want to learn it and know about it, and sometimes we do not make it easy for them. It was an unforgettable experience. Among other things, I would like to teach foreigners because it is very satisfying.

Don’t you want to be a writer?
Do you mean professionally? Living solely on that?

Yes. Do you think it is not possible?
I think this is difficult in the current literature scenario because it is very precarious. There are only a few authors that live from that. I am thinking about Cabré, Monzó or Pàmies. I know good writers that have to work in other areas because they cannot make a living from that. You can be lucky and win an award that allows you to relax a bit, but make a living out of writing is hard and you have to work in other areas like correction, editing, teaching or working for publishing houses, for instance. However, this is something I know and it is not a problem because I want to do other things apart from writing. I like what I studied, and I want to explore other horizons, such as teaching, editing… and writing. Always. I do not think I could be 24 hours writing: I would need to be outside, interact with people. I am very intuitive when writing, and when I start, it is because there is something inside me. I barely start writing for the sake if it without any feeling, without any need. Working as a professional writer means there is an obligation to write because you have to earn the money. This is why I want to work in other areas, which will also give me something more and will have an impact on whatever I write.

 

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