In your novel there’s a country we’ve never heard of.
You’re referring to Banador, I presume.
Yes, exactly. Does it exist?
The last time I checked it didn’t—at least not in real space and time or, for that matter, on a map. However, in my novel it’s the place where most of the action occurs.
What’s so special about Banador?
Precisely what I just mentioned: that it doesn’t exist in real space and time or within the realm of cartography. It exists only inside the boundaries of my novel, fruit of my imagination.
Meaning that I can do anything with the country and don’t have to be restrained by endogenous historical events. In other words, the country’s mythical or timeless nature frees my imagination completely. Anything can happen in Banador, and I don’t have to worry about past or even present realities. Banador is always in the making, like a novel, always flowing, like a river.
Any similarities with any other country?
None whatsoever. Banador could be any Latin-American country, and every Latin-American person shares many of the characteristics of a Banadorian citizen.
Is Pandemic of Lies: the Exile a political novel?
I would prefer the term “political thriller”. Political ideas are expressed in the book, especially about the growing menace against democracy and basic freedoms in Latin America, but the work is not about politics. It’s about people who get into politics and through the exercise of power show their tremendous human frailties, such as unbridled greed and gross dishonesty.
Why a gay president?
I mean, it’s unusual for a president of a country, especially in Latin America, to be gay.
You’d be surprised! At any rate it’s not as remote a possibility as you’d think. Furthermore, the gay issue is more aggressively out there in the open with each passing day. Gays are demanding not only anti-discrimination laws but also marriage rights, adoptions rights, and the right to serve in the military. So I didn’t make the president gay out of a clear blue sky. The way I look at it, Alejandro Salvador was gay before he ran into my imagination.
But you had an ax to grind with Alejandro Salvador?
Me? You mean Manuel Cruz, which is a totally different situation. Before I go on, let me make it very clear: Pandemic of Lies: the Exile is not an autobiographical novel. In other words, I am not Manuel Cruz. If I’m anything, I’m all my characters, not any one of them in particular. I’m even Solitary George, a turtle. I’m all of them at once really but not any one of them specifically or separately.
How did you come up with the character of Solitary George?
Again it just happened. It, or rather he, just slipped into my mind, and I couldn’t get him out.
You made Solitary George talk.
Again I couldn’t help doing that. If I hadn’t given him the faculty of speech, he’d have wrung my neck. (Laughter.) For a while I thought I was doing something nutty, but later I ran into a novel entitled Kafka on the Shore by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, who makes cats talk in the book. That made me feel a lot more normal.
Are you saying that the characters seem to take control of things in the novel?
That’s right. You know how they start but you simply can’t predict how they’ll turn out. They seem to take on a life of their own very independent from their creator.