Love, said Cortázar, you cannot choose, it is a lightning bolt that breaks your bones and leaves you stuck in the middle of the patio. The same happens with desire, an evidence that amazes us, as does poetry; a truth that overwhelms, despite trying to mask it with the everyday: these are some definitions of desire outlined by one of the protagonists of Children apart, the first novel by Julieta Valero.
The Caballo de Troya label, with filmmaker Jonás Trueba as guest editor between 2021 and 2022, published this March the first foray into narrative fiction by the writer born in Madrid in 1971. Trueba’s proposal moves away from the idea of open a space to emerging authors, as did the previous editors, Luna Miguel and Antonio J. Rodríguez, proposing a catalog focused on “little-known writers, but who have been writing all their lives,” as explained in the presentation of the label in February . “They are books written without paying attention to fashions, trends or what is supposed to be written now. They are a bit above all that and although they are narrative they all have a very strong link with poetry.”
Indeed, Julieta Valero’s name has long resonated in the national poetic scene: she is the author of five collections of poems –Altar of the Unemployed Days (2003), The seriously injured (2005), Authorship (2010), What concerns (2015) and The first three years (2019) – and has participated in numerous anthologies. Since 2008 he has also coordinated the José Hierro Poetry Center Foundation, a public institution located in Getafe and a benchmark in the promotion of poetry from a participatory and interdisciplinary perspective.
“The connection with poetic language changed my life, poetry was an irreparable encounter, but prose has always been part of me,” Valero tells elDiario.es by phone. “For a few years I already felt the radical need to write prose; like everything I write, it has been out of necessity.” The result, after more than five years of writing, is a novel divided into nine stories, with a first part that orbits around a central axis: the relationship between Elena and Belén, two women who meet glances for the first time when picking up their children. from college.
Motherhood as a totalizing place
Through ellipsis, trips to the past and a present in which the current healthcare context is made explicit, Valero reconstructs this “classic and everyday” love story, which begins when Belén begins to intensely and secretly desire Elena. But, before piecing together the intricacies of the relationship, the author shows us separately the family background of both women: Elena fears for the schizophrenic outbreaks of her brother, whose neurodivergence and sexual orientation have never been fully accepted by her parents; Belén faces her past when she receives Rosario, a Mexican friend of the family who arrives in Spain to testify in the trial against the Guatemalan dictatorship, in the framework of which Belén’s father, an anti-Franco military assassinated after joining the The guerrilla.
“Having always written poetry gives you a lot of language skills, always detailed resources. It is a very visceral relationship with language,” says Valero when asked about the transition to narrative fiction. “Prose writing forces you to be more turned towards the outside, a connection towards the outside that forces you to get out of the inalienable subjectivity that exists in poetry; prose has made me uninhabited a lot and that is very healthy.” He also believes that prose is disciplinable, easier to reconcile with the rhythm of daily life. “On the other hand, I cannot sit down to write a poem, I can be predisposed and attentive, but not provoke.”
Conciliation is precisely one of the underlying issues in Children apart: Desire explodes in the intimacy of these two separated mothers who are around 40 years old and live turned towards an exterior full of work and family burdens. However, facing motherhood as a totalizing place, the protagonists try “to have space to enter the very still but impractical waters of my interior”, as Belén calls leisure on weekends without her son. “It is necessary to look for places of personal reconstitution beyond motherhood, even if you never stop being a mother,” says the author, pointing out the difficulty for real reconciliation in countries like Spain.
Elena and Belén are two women who are at an age in which gender stereotypes reduce them to the role of mothers and caregivers. “For people to disappear from sight when they are over 35 years old does not make any sense, there begins an area just as interesting as youth, where very important things happen,” says Valero. If the sexual desire of women who enter adulthood is usually underrepresented, it is practically invisible or a source of conflict when it leaves the heteronormative canons: although Elena and Belén assume it with total normality, in the novel we see the hidden contempt of some members of the family. “This is what happens in a country with such a huge socio-political change, sometimes in the same family there are irreconcilable ways of understanding affection and sexuality,” says the author.
The biographical as the beginning of combustion
In the process of putting together a poetic or narrative text, Valero rejects self-fiction, but claims the use of the biographical “as the beginning of combustion”, a way of seeking intersections with what is alien and transposing elements into “another life, another consciousness.” “It would be very limited if one could only write about what he has seen or lived, although there is a root of being concerned with something, that is what the biographical ties with otherness; for me it is what is important, what concerns you way is installed inside you, “he emphasizes.
The satellite stories of the novel, framed in a second section entitled Other apartThey also revolve around family relationships and those that are built on their margins. With all your grace, a story in which a woman enters a disturbing sneaker outlet while reflecting on the suicide of her son’s classmate, refers to the fantastic brushstrokes and narrative anguish of novels such as Rescue Distance, by the Argentine Samanta Schewlin, whom Valero cites among his references, along with authors such as Clarice Lispector, Alice Munro and Julio Cortázar.
Children apart It is a book that requires careful reading, appeals to an active reader who enjoys recomposing the ellipsis and dwelling on the poetic language that permeates the narrative. The really important thing about Children apart This is what happens in the inner world of the protagonists, that impenetrable place that sometimes reveals itself to the other through corporeality. “The body marks the outside and the inside, it is an inalienable border that makes visible what is about to happen,” says Valero. “I am very interested in what is not told but it is with a brutal force because other things have been told; nothing in life comes to us linear, everything that happens to us happens with cuts, absences, blind areas, and I was interested in trying to relate like this “, apostille.