Fernando Vallejo shows the FILBo audience yet again that he has no filter as he aims his acerbic words at several of the country’s politicians.
There’s a bloated queue of people eager to listen to the quick wit of Fernando Vallejo on this fine FILBo Saturday afternoon. The caustic author gives the impression of being a sweet old grandpa up until he is ready to answer the interviewer’s first question, when – if you didn’t know it before – you realise this sweet old grandpa has teeth.
We are gathered to hear about his most recent book, Memorias de un hijueputa, (Memoirs of a son of a bitch). The main character in the story – the most powerful man of the country who reaches power thanks to a coup – decided to leave his memoirs to his niece, an editor of porn books. She organises them and gives them the title, the Memorias of a son of a bitch.
Through his book, Vallejo states that democracy is a pernicious electoral system where a corrupt few go after the prize of power, but at least it is a system that still allows citizens to choose between the worse and the worst. It argues that the concept of homelands only brings war and that religions have prevented the rise of morality, which in turn is the reason for the existence of slaughterhouses, which is the reason why we are still eating animals.
This potted, translated synopsis of the book gives you a taste of the strong views and unfiltered responses to questions that come through in the talk. He says the book is apparently addressed to Colombia, because it is full of Colombian names; however, they can be easily changed to – he offers an example – the politicians bribed in the Odebrecht scandal, or to Uribe, “no,” – he corrects himself jokingly – “Iván Duque” – and it works as well.
Some of the other authors who have written novels that feature tyrants are mentioned, such as García Márquez’s Nobody Writes to the Colonel, and Alejo Carpentier’s The Resource of the Method. The difference is that Vallejo’s memoirs are written in the first person. Vallejo has said before that his novels are a Quixote of sorts; a person who is not considered crazy would not be allowed to say all the things these types of characters say in a novel. It is precisely because they are portrayed as crazy that they have the permission to say the things they say.
Vallejo is asked about the moment when insult escalates to literature, and answers that his insults reach beyond literature and into the theological. His book – he says – takes blasphemy to a whole new level. He reckons he was born being good at blasphemy, and offers: “Coming over to the event today, I thought of a good one; among the houses and buildings God knocks down with his earthquakes, he sometimes knocks down churches. But how is God going to kill all those who believe in him, his followers, his fan base? Well, God is like Trump, who kicks whomever is under his wing in the ass, something Duque did not understand fully well.” I warned you dear readers, Fernando, ah, Fernando, does not have a filter, even less so when it comes to blasphemy.
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When asked about his favourite insults, he says he dares not share any that might compete with his own. He, nonetheless, offers one he labels as miserable: “There is this lesbian lady who is leading the polls for mayor of Bogotá, and who has called Uribe a ‘sewage rat’. Why is it she insults animals this way? Rats are poor creatures forgotten by God, creatures that suffer hunger, and pain, and who are thirsty, just like us, but who would not aspire to be the mayor of the city…”
In Memorias de un hijueputa, an extended line of characters are sentenced to death. The interviewer wonders whether, among all the characters being “removed” in the story, Vallejo would spare the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. Vallejo is quick to say Assisi is a church’s myth; that it is said he would give his clothes to the poor, but that it was not Assisi who originally bought those clothes, that it was his daddy who bought them for him. He mentions Assisi would call animals and celestial bodies his brothers, and sisters, and completes his answer by reflecting why is it we would consider planets our siblings, and that Saint Francis was a pot-smoking hippie – in a perfectly paused punchline. That’s again Vallejo for you, no filter whatsoever.
This very short hour with this controversial Colombian author is almost over, but his interlocutor wraps up the interview by asking him whether he would consider writing his own memoirs. He replies that memoirs “are an indecent genre. Why would I want to say anything about my life as if my life was important for anybody to take an interest in it.” And, so, in that spirit, I leave the auditorium and let everyone else stand in line to have Fernando sign their copy of “his” latest memoirs.