Leticia Martin, Lumen award: "We must desacralize women"

The Argentine writer Leticia Martin (Buenos Aires, 1975) has won the Lumen award with Vladimir, a new twist on Vladimir Nabokov's classic, Lolita.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
16 September 2023 Saturday 10:31
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Leticia Martin, Lumen award: "We must desacralize women"

The Argentine writer Leticia Martin (Buenos Aires, 1975) has won the Lumen award with Vladimir, a new twist on Vladimir Nabokov's classic, Lolita. A Lolita in reverse, where it is not a man who pursues a young girl but a university professor, Guinea, who is involved with a student much younger than her... to begin with. A novel set in a Buenos Aires that would be almost dystopian if it did not begin to resemble the current one. A long blackout for days causes chaos and anarchy and leads Guinea, expelled from the North American university where she taught, to take refuge in the home of a man who takes her in. And her teenage son. A novel about the power and limits of desire that the author acknowledges that she would not possibly have written if she herself had not been in a relationship with a younger man and had asked herself the question of desire and the limits of age.

“I have a much younger partner and when I started writing Vladimir was already in that relationship. Of course, he was an adult, we were both adults. But there were a lot of prejudices to overcome there and that I found interesting. Like the naked body of a woman in front of someone younger. What happens with the gaze of others? What about my own view of myself in relation to a younger man? “I play with this and take it to another place,” says the author of novels like Estrogens.

And he assures that “the relationship of a woman with a younger man has not stopped being taboo and neither have a lot of other things that we believe. A big man with a girl too. There are many things in which we are super tied to appearances in this society, that are beginning to be talked about, that appear in the media and we believe that because something is on the networks or in the media it is already overcome in some sense. And it seems to me that quite the opposite. The Internet is overpopulated with pornographic images and people do not touch each other, they do not dare to go out, adolescents do not have their first experience until they are 20 years old. We are a society that has become very discursive, there is a lot of story for everything. Rest assured, you can be the mother you want to be. And then when you go to the facts, the same things happen as in all stages of humanity.”

Returning to Vladimir, he points out that at the origin of the novel there is admiration for Nabokov. “I returned to Lolita many times, at the beginning of Lolita. And at some point I asked myself: What if the abuser was a woman, what would we say as a society? There was also a case in Argentina of two mothers who abused a son. One was the biological mother, the other was her partner. And the little boy died after so much abuse. It ended in tragedy. A homicide. And I thought it was good to go through that kind of female character that can be harmful and see what happens, to read Lolita again. It seems to me that the literature of the 20th century is so rich, that we can still learn so much... sometimes I feel that we are in a time more of remake than of real creation, also a product of the internet that comes to combine things, one has twenty flaps there open and listen to music while looking at art, reading the newspaper, and that produces a new effect, I like to take charge of the time in which I write.”

And he created Guinea, “a woman half lacking in self-limitation, someone voracious, who goes after satisfying her desires, her need.” “Nicholas is left behind at the university without even looking at the last message, get it together, I'm already gone, I'm starting over. Now there is no light, I have to find a place. It always goes forward. She could have been a female Borges character, she grabs the weapons.” In Vladimir, like Nabokov in Lolita, the author also puts her protagonist in a house, "they house him, it is a danger that is inside. And it seems to me that it is an achievement of Nabokov, because the abuse in general happens between walls. The The first abuser is always suspected, when there is an investigation, it is for the relatives, the uncle, the grandfather, the father. Look how we talk, assuming that he is a man, there is a lot of things to dismantle, it can also be a women".

In that sense, he admits that "it is more difficult for us to imagine women as abusers and there are probably more men who are abusers than women because they have more strength, and it is not the intention of the novel to enable abusive women, but it is to open the issue and return to it." think. We must desacralize women, we are still in a time where we have discovered that a lot of women were silenced for a long time, they were disregarded, no place was made for them and we went to the other extreme, let's open all the microphones for them. Idealizing is as bad as ignoring. I think there will come a time where it doesn't matter who writes something or who carries out an action, but rather whether that action is punished or celebrated. "I would like my daughter to be an adult in a society where the gender of people does not matter so much to evaluate."

Regarding the dystopian situation, the collapse in which the relationship between the woman and a minor is set, remember that “the blackout really happened in Buenos Aires, it lasted just eight hours, but what happens if it lasts eight days? The novel takes place in five or six. Maybe later everything will return to normal, we don't know. But when they talk to me about dystopia, I think, why dystopia? It is this world.”

Speaking of dystopias and Argentina, Martin talks about the far-right earthquake of Javier Milei, who aspires to be the country's next president. “A note I read today that said in Argentina everything political has a whiff of tragedy. What Milei is doing is a completely abnormal phenomenon, it shows what he said that the discursive was imposed in a way that made people rot away from the discourses. Then this guy comes to say anything and they give him a vote. He comes to say that our main enemy is the State, but I want to be the State, I want to be part of the State, occupy the seats. He does not even propose to do it differently or better, he directly wants to destroy the State. Someone who wants to destroy the place he is trying to conquer is completely schizophrenic."

"He seems to me," he continues, "to be a dangerous madman. He claims that we can trade our organs, because there is a free market, because he wants it, but you are not free so that there is public education or public health. He lies blatantly because he intends to come to power." and destroy the Central Bank, burn the Central Bank, because it uses violent and pedophile metaphors, such as that we are all chained children, tied up in front of the State that is like a pedophile standing behind us. These are metaphors that could be in the head of a writer , but not from a politician.”

And, he admits, “we have to take charge, progressivism or politics, that the discourse became hollow in a lot of ways and that we were talking about rights that a lot of people did not reach. The economic situation is pressing, I think there is no real awareness of how dangerous it is that people are falling below the poverty line all the time, that the middle class is becoming extinct, values ​​that we defended throughout the 20th century such as “Argentina has a very abundant middle class, there are not as many rich and poor as the rest of Latin America, and today that is being lost a little.”

"We live in a world that is at war and it is not said, all those people die there and it seems to go unnoticed, the media does not raise it, many of us do not care either, so I think it is good to be able to say 'hello, We are in a world at war, there are people dying every day. But I have every hope that Milei will not pass, that many people are convincing others, that people at the end of this story may be sensible but the polls today show that the guy wins in the first round," concludes.