13:10 • 30 Jun. 2022
updated at 13:10 • 01 Jul. 2022
As a screenwriter, Fernando Navarro (Granada, 1980) treasures two Goya nominations (‘Verónica’, co-written with Paco Plaza, and ‘Orígenes secretos’, with David Galán Galindo). He has also left his signature on ‘Toro’, ‘Bajocero’ and ‘Venus’, the next Jaume Balagueró.
This year he has debuted in the novel with ‘Misadventure’ (Impedimenta)a kind of Andalusian western whose characters suffer in a mythical territory that rises above the Almeria landscape and the cinema that has been shot here.
LA VOZ spoke with him during his visit to the book Fair From the capital.
‘Malaventura’ is his first book. A novel that is built on a series of stories with death, misfortune and the landscape as common threads. How is she born?
It was born as an extension of the work I do in the cinema, as a search for more stories. What happens is that I didn’t know, I wasn’t aware, that I was writing a book until I began to see that everything had something in common. It is, basically, to continue my interest in the genres and subgenres of narrative: the noir genre, horror literature, the western,… It is one more way of continuing to tell stories, or characters that I may have told before in another way in the scripts.
Was there a story left in the inkwell?
I began to accumulate stories that could or could not be movies, that I don’t know if they would end up finding their place as possible movies. And suddenly they ended up becoming more oral stories where the voice was more important, not than the images, but the narrative. Then I saw that I probably had to have another way.
Death is present in all stories. There are also many children’s voices, either as narrators or as adults who remember passages from their childhood.
Children have a view of violence that can be ambiguous and amoral at the same time. And the stories started from those voices that tried to make violence amoral but at the same time tender. I was looking for that, that kind of oral literature, of legend around a mythical territory, and using the first person to identify with brutal characters, in the manner of Jim Thompson, for example. In fact, the book is also, in some way, inspired by childhood, in the sense that children’s tastes, the ‘spaghetti western’ that I watched as a child, my trips to Almería and horror movies, which is what It has shaped me, it is what creates this book. In a way, it’s a childhood book.
That tour uses the landscape as a stage to reinterpret the western through duels, settling scores, caravans,… But the last story talks about cinema as such, about filming.
Yes, for me it was what legitimized the book: you have been writing or narrating mythical stories and suddenly, at that moment, the mythical one breaks and reality already enters. I mean, all those stories are filmed and the people who film those stories have their own lives. Cinema ends up affecting life, shootings are shootings of life. This final chapter triggered the book, established a game of mirrors between those stories, which could be a western, and the lives of those who shot those westerns.
There is a lot of Almería, a lot of desert, but also references to other places: Carboneras, Los Escullos, San José. Why have you chosen them?
They are places I go whenever I can. The vision of the desert, of the deserts of Almeria, has inspired the book. That this land exists generates some characters and those characters have inspired the book. Almería is a place that I come to not only as a tourist, never in summer, on the contrary. I like to do it out of season; I have family living here and quite a few friends.
The vision of these places, the memory of what was filmed there and that memory, let’s say, a little sentimental of the poverty that is lived in all of eastern Andalusia, even in Granada, and the oblivion of part of western Andalusia, also inspires or detonates a little the stories of the book.
You are from Grenada. When did you discover that those landscapes you saw in Western movies were so close, on your land or in neighboring Almería?
It was a shock. I’m watching I don’t know what ‘spaghetti western’ on TV… Not one of Leone’s mythical ones, maybe one of Corbucci’s. Then a lady in mourning crosses the street and I see a string of dried peppers. And as a result of that vision, although perhaps it was earlier, because cinema and life mix, my father begins to take us on a trip from Granada to those deserts. Not only to those from Almería, but also to Guadix. And those trips become something recurrent, from my childhood and from my training.
I consider that the land of Almeria and the land of Granada are sisters. And those stories could well take place here. I can’t tell you when she went, but I can tell you how: with that look of that Andalusian lady crossing a whitewashed street and those dried peppers.
The stories of ‘Malaventura’ are set in indeterminate places, jumping from one era to another. He mentions Almería but it seems that he wants the reader to build his own space.
It is a stagnant territory, as if stopped in time, which does not advance; it’s not a real territory but somehow uses real names. There are some keys: the stories are chronological: you see when the vehicle enters and stops talking about horses so much. It is a journey through a territory and a remote but close time. I wanted to build that mythical closeness of horror movies, where cities are recognizable but they are also fantasy places, where monsters live.
What characters from ‘Malaventura’ excite you the most?
The father of the final story has something very vulnerable, very close, of a real loser, very far from the cinema. But I also really like the characters from the two most psychedelic horror stories: Jacoba and ‘Grabiel’ on the one hand and then the Civil Guard from ‘Bisonte’, who, being a villain, has something of a vulnerable character visited by ghosts. These characters that are closer to the genres that I want, fit into a type of fiction where I feel more comfortable as a writer today.
As a screenwriter and as a cinephile, or as a lover of westerns, which films shot here move you the most inside, do you like the most?
All Leone; in fact, all Italian cinema. But for example ‘Conan’ is a movie, almost an epic poem, which fascinates me. Here I shot ‘Toro’ and David Trueba ‘Living is easy with closed eyes’, which I feel very close to, because it belongs to a circle of my friends. Then David Lean with ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ or ‘The Reporter’ by Antonioni, which is almost an acid western, with the king of the acid western, Jack Nicholson… Although I personally love westerns, whether they are European or not: John Guillermin ‘El Cóndor’ was filmed here, a rather strange movie that I really like. Like ‘Straight to Hell’ by the great Alex Cox, with Joe Strummer, two other lovers of Almería.
Almería is a great natural set that, despite its seven-decade history, it seems that it still needs to continue claiming; as if in Spain the value it has is not recognized.
I have a project, close in time and of which I cannot reveal anything, that is going to be shot in its entirety here. It’s a much loved project, very personal, with many links to ‘Malaventura’, a lot of agreement, which is already in the localization phase.
It is a horror television series, which has a lot to do with the world of ‘Malaventura’. When we can announce it, I hope that what you say will be vindicated again: the great natural set that it is, more hours of sunshine than anywhere else. But, above all, Almería is cinema: wherever you put the camera, it is cinema. It is cinema and literature. In a way, desert spaces are like my natural habitat for me.
In fact, ‘Toro’, one of his scripts, takes place in part in Almería. Was it like this from the beginning?
Yes, it was a trip that went from Malaga to Almería, thought that way from the script one hundred percent. Every time I try, within my possibilities, with the modesty or the space left to a screenwriter, to be able to shoot more and more in Granada and Almería; influence the spaces more than the story itself, because for me the space is sometimes more important than the story itself. In ‘Malaventura’ I do it a lot and lately my natural tendency is to take the stories to Andalusia, to the Andalusia that I know best.
And ‘Malaventura’ had to end in Almería, it had to start in Almería, it’s a story from there. It is the most inspiring thing, telling the story of my land. I already told you, for me there is no difference between Granada and Almería: they are two sister lands.
‘Malaventura’, by the way, has a lot of terror.
Yes, I think it’s a horror western; in fact, it is a western with ghosts. There are ‘Lovecraftian’ moments, witches, curses… Genre literature is the one I read the most, and ‘Malaventura’ has a lot of that. Also of ‘noir’, of demolition literature. Impedimenta edits with great beauty but sometimes I fantasize about a ‘paperback’ edition, cheap, yellow paper that smells bad: that fetish thing that the worse the paper, the more interested you were. I love knockdown literature; the more bordering genres the better.
Lucio Fulci inspires me a lot, everything Mediterranean and Spanish; In other words, the Mediterranean appropriation of genres that are not ours, such as westerns or horror, is what I like the most, even as a spectator.
The Impedimenta edition is a ‘delicatessen’.
Impedimenta is the publisher of some bibliophiles, they take care of things. For me, the book really exists because Impedimenta exists; the existence of this seal gave the impetus to the book. And I want to be fair to the authors: the seal of ‘A lo far’ by Hernán Díaz, by Jon Bilbao; books that I also feel are older cousins to this book. Not only is there the wonderful design and talent of Enrique Redel and his team: in Impedimenta there are sister or family books of ‘Malaventura’.