«The book shows the arid loneliness of Fuerteventura and the spirituality of its fields»
By Eloy Vera
Valentín Claveras is from Aragon, but he’s been living in The Canary Islands for 42 years and many more years if we add up readings. One day he came across Francisco Ramírez Viu, a teacher of literary creation workshops who turned him into a writer, already being a vivid reader. In his curriculum we find El hombre de la bicicleta, a story book titled Desde aquí y Bajo la luz de las horas, a core work that emerged from Ramírez Viu’s workshops. Moreover, he’s co-writer of the book of poems: Lo personal y poético. Nieve y arena is his first novel.
How does Nieve y arena arise?
It arises after an event in Costa Calma, where I work in the citizen’s service office. One day, a German sir, who is already dead, came and told me: «Valentín, Josef died yesterday, the man of the bike». I had already written a story about him: The man of the bike. The German sir told me: «you must know where he’s buried to bring him flowers». But Josef was in a burial chamber for months. The novel arises from the moment this sir visits me to let me know that someone has died. From then onwards I feel the need to find out about Josef, whom I got to know a little and who had died like an indigent in the public toilets of a shopping mall in Costa Calma. It took me five years to write Nieve y arena.
What does a reader find in this book?
First of all, they’ll find how the thread of the story is an excuse to tell a chronological story starting in January, when he met him, until he was buried, six months later. The thread is that spam of time. Also, the approach to Fuerteventura, and approach that already began in Fuerteventura, bajo la luz de las horas and, on the other hand, it shows the arid loneliness of Fuerteventura, the silence of the snowed landscape in Austria and the spirituality of the fields in both places in Winter. The novel tells the personal evolution of the man who is in the citizen service office, named Pablo, at the end of his career and after having been at the top and also at the bottom. He evolves from being a person totally attached to material things to being attached to spiritual matters. It’s also a sentimental story and a way to break up this materialism to meet himself.
What draws your attention in the character of Josef, the tramp, to dedicate a story to him and then turn him into the main character of your first novel?
His generosity, his approach to spiritual matters, his opening up little by little. It isn’t mere coincidence that he walks naked along the street, pushing his bike whose wheels are flat. He carries everything he needs to live in two boxes.
The novel deals with topics such as love, generosity… why do you turn to those subjects, so often represented in universal literature?
Sympathy, love and generosity are very often disguised as many other things. Actually, you love yourself and are generous to others because you know they’ll be the same to you. To me, what really identifies human beings is not sentimentalism but deep sympathy.
What pieces of work and writers have inspired you to write this novel?
Russian writers like Mijaíl Shólojov, for his writing style. His book, El Don apacible, has simple descriptions of nature and daily life. Also, Classical Spanish writers: Miquel Delibes, Rulfo, García Márquez, and an unknown Argentinian poet named Roberto Juarroz.
What makes this novel different from the rest of the books you’ve written previously?
Audacity and work, its quality.
How has it been your journey throughout the world of editorials?
Patient. For two years I was sending the novel to different editorials. I also took part in a contest by Tandaja editorial, but I didn’t win anything. However, they told me they’d liked the novel so much and it was so well written that they could try to publish it. A crowdfunding was made and in three weeks I had the 1000 euros I needed.
What surprises you of society during the six months from the moment the corpse appears until it’s buried?
Actually, almost nothing, but it was an awakening to make us realise how far from reality all those who live blowing our own trumpet exclusively are.