Imma Monsó: As funny, ironic and intelligent as ever

Imma Monsó (LLeida, 1959) has published eight novels to great critical and public acclaim: No se sap mai (One Never Knows), which was immediately translated into Spanish and was winner of the Tigre Juan Prize for the best first novel to be published in Spain, Com unes vacances (Like a Holiday) and Tot un caràcter (A Total Character), while her novel Millor que no m'ho expliquis (Better Don't Tell Me), was runner-up for the prestigious Llibreter Prize awarded by the Bookseller's Association of Catalonia. Lately she has been honored with the National Prize of Culture in Literature (2013). She holds a degree in French Language and Literature and is an expert in applied linguistics. She works as a teacher of foreign languages. Her work has been translated into Dutch, Hungarian, Italian and Spanish and French.

La dona veloç (The Fast Woman)

“A moral reflection and exemplary lesson on how to live life.” 
“At this moment in time we can say that this is one of the best books to have received the Ramon Llull prize.”

Nes grew up in a family that was divided into to those who were Fast and those who were Slow. She was in the speedy category along with her sister, her father? who did slow down over time?and her grandmother. The rest were slow and, sooner or later, paid a price for that. Now a 48-year-old psychiatrist, Nes finds herself trapped in her accelerated perception of time. She is always trying to race the clock and is a slave to her iphone calendar. She can’t remember what it is like to be bored. She’s addicted to Pac-Man, but the “enemies” that alternately pursue her and flee from her are not Inky, Binky, Pinky and Clyde, but her slow relatives. She soon realizes that she is trapped in a video game-like maze and that she too has paid a price for her obsession with cutting corners. Nes sets out on a mental and physical journey to free herself from the tyranny of the clock that has robbed her of time to stop and think. In the end, she has to come to terms with her past. The Fast Womanis about a 21st-century curse: the lack of time. At turns hilarious or glaringly perceptive, readers will surely find many points in common with Nes’s voyage.

Who I Am and Why I Write...

How I Began to Write

I've been writing all my life and, I suppose, for the same reason that everyone else writes -to ease a little the solitude to which we are condemned, a kind of solitude, a kind of internal exile that cannot be healed by simple conversation, however intense it may be. I used to write without ever finishing anything. In general I don't like finished things. I always prefer to have an open door there. Again, I suddenly find that I'm distracted by other enthusiasms, or other obsessions, or other inventions ? I see myself as always having some or other craze, always working like mad but never doing what I'm supposed to be doing ? That's why, for many years, I missed out on reading García Márquez, who's obligatory. I remember that during that period I was reading Henry Miller, Dorothy Parker and Virginia Woolf and I guess I was thinking that there was no way that someone who was in the middle of "schooling" could be a great writer. No doubt I was wrong, but that's how my discovery of writing came later.

Not doing what you're meant to be doing and giving yourself over to your passions has its drawbacks. I've never managed to be a disciplined person. However, this has also turned out to be very productive intellectually and emotionally. I've learnt a lot from my crazes because, in the long run, I've touched on many different matters ? And I've gone deep into my crazes, taken them to the limits ? Then, at last, the act of writing was like finding a place where I felt at home in the world, because every book is like that, a long obsessive period during which everything you see, all you learn, all the trips you do and all the books you read are filtered through the issues you want to deal with in the book you're writing.

How I Began to Publish

Until I was thirty-three I never wrote any story with the firm resolve of finishing it. I wrote my first novel, No se sap mai (One Never Knows) in this frame of mind. As for the idea of the novel, I was having lunch with my partner and a few friends who used to get together to talk about philosophy on Fridays. Someone had brought a bottle of Alsatian Gewurztraminer and, while we were drinking it, I was thinking about how much of the argument of the friend who was speaking fitted exactly with what I was thinking inside and, eventually, the story of the magic wine that enables one to transmigrate and occupy a friend's mind for a while emerged. When I finished it, I took it anonymously to Edicions 62. It ended up in the hands of Oriol Castanys, who phoned me the very next day. It's quite improbable that a manuscript by an unknown author should end up in the hands of the publisher, but that's how it was. It was an incredible stroke of luck, of a kind that rarely happens. The fact is that, if I hadn't been so lucky, I would probably never have published, but would have got caught up in yet another one of my crazes.

Why I Write

I write to live, I write because it's a vice, I write to laugh, I write to reconstruct what I have lost and to have it again, I write to put everything in its place, I write to multiply life, I write to communicate better, I write to seduce, I write to love, to provoke debate, really I don't know ? In brief, I write for the same reasons that I read.

They Have Said ...

One of the most outstanding features of Un home de paraula is the high degree of self-knowledge Monsó displays as she constructs a character who is both original and consistent and with her own ideas about love and death, which the reader, while not necessarily sharing them, will find decent and frequently enviable. In order not to fall into the trap of emotional excess, Imma Monsó is careful to look at herself from a distance, to observe herself with an entomologist's objectivity, that of an empathetic entomologist. Some passages have their dose of black humour, which partly defuses the pathos. As the story unfolds, the couple, Lot and Cometa, achieve levels of complicity and communion -silent and linguistic- such as we only find with La Maga and Horacio Oliveira, Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester and Glenda Berna and Poltern Mac.

Un home de paraula has elements of Imma Monsó's three earlier novels: the sentimental initiation, the importance of holidays as epiphanic periods, humour as prophylactic distancing and, above all, the coming together of two strange, sensitive characters who, in the end, are understandable and even feel close: love as a total experience, meaning the almost utopian union of two clearly differing characters who love one another without renouncing their individuality. The narrator of Un home de paraula recalls in more ways than one the main character of Tot un character [A Total Character].

In a story titled "Millor que no m'ho expliquis" (Better Not to Tell Me), Imma Monsó uses the autobiographical anecdote of having cancer to write a story in which she shows that personal dramas can always be relativised and, by means of her sense of humour, she achieves the triumph of pleasure over unhappiness and pain.

In Un home de paraula, Monsó uses the same device to describe in novel form her vicissitudes after the death of her companion (in first person because the grief is immediate) in juxtaposition with her account of the ups and downs of her love story over the years (in third person because this draws on memory). Not missing are the features that characterise the rhythm and sounds of the Imma Monsó's literature: her descriptions of events and things take on a glacial obsessiveness and her methodical analysis of the way people behave brings to the narrative ambience a kind of claustrophobic dazedness even while everything also seems to be extremely enriched because there is not a single nook or cranny that lacks the throb of the affectionate irony in which the couple's relationship was steeped, not a single episode that is not tinged with tones of complicity, and not a single page that does not give off the fragrance of the intensities of placidity.

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