Twenty cows flying in a plane

A gustín Fernández Mallo (A Coruña, 1967) knows that there was a time when his father, due to a senile illness, looked him in the eyes and did not recognize him.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
11 May 2024 Saturday 05:34
4 Reads
Twenty cows flying in a plane

A gustín Fernández Mallo (A Coruña, 1967) knows that there was a time when his father, due to a senile illness, looked him in the eyes and did not recognize him. But his mind wanted to erase that precise moment, "to protect me. It's a very hard thing that your father doesn't know who you are." The physicist and writer barely had time to see what was happening to his parent, since in just over a year, when he was 87, he died. But this progressive loss of consciousness marked him and led him to wonder who was there. A question he tries to answer in Madre de corazón atómico, in which he had been immersed for twelve years.

"My mother was the only person who never forgot. And this is something she keeps deep in her heart", explains Fernández Mallo in a bookshop in Barcelona. Although, he clarifies, "she is not the main protagonist. When I start writing, I realize that it is impossible to talk about mother and father at the same time. They are two individual people and I am not the one to write about their life together, although it is inevitable that it appears in the story, as well as the relationship that existed between us", which he defines as "deep, and distant. It sounds paradoxical, but he was a man who received a kind of education that no longer exists, and his behavior was the product of an era. But it never failed me."

There were many times that the Galician physicist and writer looked at his father and knew that he would end up writing about him. But it was in room 405 of the clinic where he was admitted that the idea began to materialize, although "it was not easy to find the tone, but it was clear that I wanted to tell the peculiar stories of a person who I consider very creative and a pioneer in various fields".

The title, on the other hand, emerged “much more naturally. It's a nod to Pink Floyd's Atomheart mother album. I don't remember listening to it carefully, but I do remember staring at the cow on the cover for hours. I showed it to my father and, as a veterinarian, he gave me an anatomical, physiological, historical and genetic description of the animal. Something I didn't expect and a memory that still accompanies me today. He was unique in many aspects of life. And this is what I strive to show, trying not to be too sentimental". The book, in fact, is an amalgamation of family stories that span a century of history, because they go from the Civil War to the turn of the century.

One of the anecdotes that has the most weight on the writer's pages is the image of his father traveling around the United States - a few weeks before the future author of the Nocilla Project trilogy was born with the aim of bringing twenty cows with plane to Galicia. "A pioneering journey to which he did not attach any importance and which he did not explain to me in detail until shortly before he died". A journey that, "casually", the writer revisits, being aware that he was repeating many of his father's steps.

In his pages, Fernández Mallo makes it clear that "mourning is assumed, but it does not end. When someone dies, they don't really die at all, they resurrect in your head." Of course, he specifies that these memoirs "were not written in order to fix memories so that they are not forgotten. I know for sure that I will not forget anything that I explain. A father cannot be forgotten".