In our time I can only conceive of realism in an expanded form, absorbing innumerable imaginary elements. Today it is impossible to be a realist without acknowledging the interference of technological fictions in daily life. For the contemporary writer the whole problem lies in knowing which version of reality he identifies with.
As I wrote in Providence, my last novel:
Life is a strange fiction. And as such it could be enough for us, certainly, if from the start other dangerous fictions had not been parasitically leeching off it with their insidious charm.
This reflection sums up my whole narrative ideology.
Juan Francisco Ferré
Juan Francisco Ferré is a writer, literary critic and lecturer / researcher at Brown University, U.S.A. He has a PhD in Hispanic Studies.
A re-thinker of fiction, he writes with full conciousness of our contemporary media environment and with full liberty to use that in fiction, without constraints of ‘literary’ expectations or conventional morality.
His fiction is in a post-modern tradition that draws on North American writers such as Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace as much as on Spain’s Juan Goytisolo, and he can be seen to be part of a younger generation of literary hell-raisers and re-mixers in Spain that includes Agustín Fernández Mallo, Eloy Fernández Porta, Javier Calvo and Robert Juan-Cantavella.
He is the author of the short story collection Metamorfosis® (2006) and of the novels La vuelta al mundo (Around the World, 2002), I Love You Sade (2003), La fiesta del asno (The Feast of the Ass, 2005), and Providence (2009), which was shortlisted for the 2009 Herralde Prize, awarded by the Spanish publisher Anagrama. He has also contributed fiction to a number of anthologies, and has edited the anthologies El Quijote: Instrucciones de uso (2005) and MUTANTES: Narrativa española de última generación (2007, in collaboration with Julio Ortega).
He is currently preparing two collections of essays entitled Mimesis y simulacro: Estudios literarios (Del Marqués de Sade a David Foster Wallace) and Alegorías de la postmodernidad.
He writes for numerous international journals and newspapers.
Featured Reading Group Title
La Fiesta del Asno (The Feast of the Ass)
The Feast of the Ass is a book to prove the poet Mallarmé right: ‘Je ne connais pas d’autre bombe qu’un livre’ (the only bomb I know is a book). The book defies summary because of the outrageous profligacy of its invention. The main character, Gorka K., is a man and a woman, a terrorist and a patriot, a reality TV star, a dirty man, a libertine, a martyr, and much more. Is he all things to all people? The crazed logics of political animals, films, the computer game and reality TV are all present in this car-crash, mash-up of a novel which pastiches numerous sources and mocks ideologies and clichés. It was hailed by critics for its originality and its innovative narrative. In its reflection of our media-saturated material world it also ignores all boundaries of taste and morality – not for the faint-hearted, it is in the traditions of de Sade and Goya as much as that of Pynchon.
Here is part of Juan Goytisolo’s foreword to the book, originally published in English as part of the wide-ranging and far-sighted Quarterly Conversation’s, Translate this Book!
Let’s imagine a happy Arcadia: a country that’s always green, covered with forests and meadows, with rustic manor houses, simple woodcutters and wise elders who harbour an ancient language and customs. This idyllic country suffers under the cruel oppression of foreigners who neither speak the native language nor understand the people’s customs, oppressors who depend on shameful collaborators who have betrayed the sacred cause. Fortunately, the Organization keeps watch over each and every one of its children. The just war, which has lasted centuries, will end with a bright new era; independence will triumph ‘through the force and violence of convictions’. After his initiation experience with the virile woodcutter and wise old man of the mountain, Gorka K., now a hardened youth, takes part in the conflict that’s ripping apart his country, first, as a minister in the political arm of the Organization; then, as a soldier. Soon he becomes known for his skill with weapons and bold patriotic actions. His career promises to be brilliant and it is, but not in the way that was expected. Juan Francisco Ferré’s novel doesn’t fit the outlines of a screenplay or the expectations of the genre; there are surprises in store every step of the way. Paragraph after paragraph, chapter after chapter, Ferré throws the reader off-balance: every time we think that we are on familiar ground, we encounter something entirely strange. The logic of the world and the logic of the story are on a course for collision from the first page to the last. Time zigzags at whim. Young Gorka, mythologized by the Organization, transforms into other unforeseen Gorkas: the fetishist of berets and military uniforms, the masturbator, the sodomite, the brutal executioner of the enemies of the cause. As the novel takes us on its roller coaster ride, we observe another of the author’s intentions: to always ‘listen to the voices of the world’, in the words of Karl Kraus. Whoever looks for any kind of positive message in La fiesta del asno will be greatly disappointed. Ferré’s absurd game is the opposite of political correctness; its subversive energy comes precisely from this total lack of correctness. Nobody involved in the Basque problem, neither side’s nationalists, nor politicians, judges, police, or religious leaders, will find support for their convictions. Fortunately, lovers of literature are left with the most refined and least common of the senses: that of humour.
- La Fiesta del Asno featured in the And Other Stories Spanish-language Reading Group for Summer 2010.
- Visit his Juan Francisco Ferré’s blog