“I come from Piura, a town that used to be small in the north coast of Peru. A very warm and sunny place in the middle of the desert, where seasons go almost unnoticed and the days have the same length all year around. I went to a Jesuits school and then studied applied economic in a university run by the Opus Dei. When I was 23 years old I moved to Lima where I worked for several years in the banking sector. Because of a Flemish girl I met at the top of Machu Picchu, I moved to Belgium, first to do a master in Finance at the KU Leuven and then to work in a bank in Brussels where I spend most of my daytime life.”
Are you a banker who writes or a writer who works as a banker?
I am definitely, a writer who works as a banker to pay the bills. I write in the evenings, after a full day in the office; not because I get money out of it (on the contrary), but because I enjoy it and it is the only way I fell my day has been useful. I always go back to the day when, being a 16 years old boy that just finished school, I decided to study economics. It is not that I regret my decision as all the experiences I’ve collected as a banker – and I am not talking about professional experiences, but life ones – are very rich and have surely influenced the way I write now. But, if I could go back in time, I’d probably chose to study something that makes my blood run faster than economy such as literature.
You published your first novel last year. Could you share something about it?
In a way, “Proyecto de Dios” (God’s project) reflects the confusion I experienced when being a teenager I was bombarded by conflicting dogmas and ideologies. Indeed, going to a Jesuit school first and later to an Opus Dei university, confronted me to different versions of the same “true”. Being so young and inexperienced, I was unable to drawn my own conclusions and I failed to stand in front of those who claimed (and still do) that they have the monopoly of the interpretation of God’s word. The intention of the novel is to repair that.
Does Peru have a place in your literary work? Is your literature Peruvian or European?
I don’t think there is such a thing as Peruvian or European literature, but books written by Peruvians or Europeans writers. Peru does have a big presence in the things I’ve written so far. In “Rutina” (Routine), the collection of short stories I published four years ago, eight out of the ten stories take place in Peru. My first novel “Proyecto de Dios” takes place entirely in Peru. Currently I am working on a novel which develops in Brussels, but where the main characters are Peruvians; so the focus is evolving, but Peru is still highly present in what I produce.
What inspires you?
A good movie, a literature night in Bozar or Passa Porta, the Club de Lectura at Instituto Cervantes, listen to some music, doing sports, travelling, trekking. But not only positive things inspire me; sometimes some basic instincts such anger, frustration, hatred put me to work too. I read once that Naipaul said that literature comes down to writing with the guts and not with the head. I fully subscribe to that.
Do you find Brussels inspiring?
I am not sure I do. I find Brussels a very easy city to live in and I fell very comfortable living here, but I think it lacks a stronger personality to inspire me. I find Barcelona, Rome or even Leuven or Antwerp, if you want to stay in Belgium, more inspiring than Brussels.
Which are your favourite spots here?
I like a lot the Café Belga in Place Flagey; they have a nice terrace there that it is often very busy, but you can always find a place to sit down and have a beer. La Casa del Popolo in Saint Gilles is also very good for a drink and live music. I find the ambience around Place de Jeu de Balle and the Rue Haute very informal and relaxing, with plenty of cafes and places to eat without too much chichi. I enjoy walking in the woods around the area of the abbey du Rouge-Cloitre; you can have a break in the very familiar restaurant next to the abbey. Actors Studio and Vendome are very good alternatives to the big cinemas, less crowded and cheaper too.
How does your private Brussels look like?
My private Brussels is a permanent internal conflict.