“A city is like a broken mirror in which one looks at oneself without seeing oneself”

Julio José Ordovás (Zaragoza, 1976) is a multidisciplinary author: he just as feels comfortable in diaries, in open and miscellaneous volumes as in travel books, in poetry and in novels, such as ‘The Antibody’ -a novel which was translated into English and French- and ‘Paraíso alto’, published by Anagrama. And he is also able to develop his talent on the pages of newspapers. This Thursday, at 7:30 p.m., at the Pablo Serrano museum, he presents, with Fernando Sanmartín and Aloma Rodríguez, a mature text such as ‘El peatón sentimental’ (Xordica), another heartfelt and lucid tribute to Zaragoza, to imagination and to literature itself .

What previous ideas did you have in your head to compose ‘El pedestrian sentimental’?

This is a book that has been going around in my head for more than twenty years. At first it was a sketchbook and little by little I outlined it and ordered the pieces of the puzzle.

In a way, throughout his work, he had toured the city many times. How has his look changed? Has the city changed or have you changed?

The city changes and we change with it, but there are features of the city and our own that are immutable and that, for better or worse, are what define us.

He says that Zaragoza is a palimpsest. From what materials, from what voices, from what scars?

Zaragoza is rotten with history. Wherever you walk, wherever you look, you are assailed by a multitude of ghosts.

Was there an itinerary plan or was it simply allowed to go towards the neighborhoods, the parks, the outskirts, towards the interior or the central arteries such as the Coso?

Nothing is further from my intention than to make a city guide. I’m not a local scholar or anything like that. I wanted to tell the story of the city that I visit regularly, how Joan Colom portrayed the Barcelona through which he traveled daily with his Leica.

How does the architecture of Zaragoza mark a writer, the fact that it is a bi-millenary city?

I fully recognize myself in the sobriety and severity of Zaragoza architecture, even in the poverty of its materials.

And the fact that it has three rivers: Ebro, Huerva and Gállego?

I think that ‘El pedestrian sentimental’ deals, essentially, with the passage of time. And the river is not only an existential metaphor but also allows us to keep in mind the passing of the seasons, the cycle of Nature.

How would you define the intangible heritage of Zaragoza, what and who make it up?

Zaragoza is not a gloomy city or closed in on itself. On the contrary, it is an open and bright city. Its light is dusty, like that of desert cities, and that is what makes it so attractive to me.

When we walk through a city, we have many authors and models in mind, from Trapiello to Joyce, from Vázquez Montalbán to Kafka, but also the almost exemplary stroller, Robert Walser. How much of them is in you?

There are many writers to whom I am indebted, but if I had to single out one, I would not hesitate: WG Sebald, the author of ‘Austerlitz’, ‘The Rings of Saturn’…

It speaks of silence, of the scars of time, of the lights on the river. What kind of personality do they give to the city?

Zaragoza is rough and a bit rough. He has sandpaper skin. But it is an ideal city to walk around with your hands in your pockets.

What does Zaragoza owe to the north wind?

The pure blue of the sky and a certain frown that characterizes us Zaragoza.

The text, to a large extent, appeared in the newspaper, in HERALDO, does that entail a requirement for clarity, emotion, confidence, inner experience? AND

or I am not a newspaper writer but a newspaper writer. The newspaper helps me not to lose sight of the reader and so that the reader does not lose sight of me either.

What bothers you about Zaragoza?

Few things, really. I accept her as she is and she accepts me as I am. We have had our disagreements, but now we are a well-matched couple.

What does Zaragoza have of Paris, of Berlin, of New York, of Venice, what does it mean when you say that “all the cities of the world are in its city”?

All cities are the same city as all men are the same man. A city is like a broken mirror in which one often looks at oneself without seeing oneself and searches for oneself without finding oneself.

Stylistically, without giving up metaphor and intuition, he makes extensive use of enumeration. Is writing, from the outset, learning to see in order to tell?

Pla used to say that describing is infinitely more difficult than giving an opinion, in view of which everyone gives an opinion. Every time I try to say less and describe more.

In what sense would Zaragoza be a literary city?

Zaragoza, like any other city, is a literary genre in itself. In recent years, writing about Zaragoza naturally has become normalized, and writers call it by its name and do not cover it up under dark and terrible literary names like Meterra or project their personal frustrations onto it, although each one is a child of their time and the Zaragoza of today is not that of the Franco regime.

How do the poet and the prose writer coexist in Julio José Ordovás?

I flee from affectation and ego and I try to avoid lyrical excesses, although I don’t always succeed.

You are also a fiction writer, a novelist. What about novel starring Zaragoza, that uncertain lady, in ‘The sentimental pedestrian’?

What I have tried with my book has been to incardinate a personal story in a collective story. That’s it.

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