TEN QUESTIONS WITH PEDRO LETAI
Where is your hometown?
In Madrid. I was born and have always lived here, although only one of my grandparents is Spanish.
What is your favorite spot in Madrid?
I used to live at Cava Baja, downtown, and liked to walk around, sit at a bar and read while watching people passing by. Now I’ve moved closer to Retiro, which I also enjoy. I walk with my son and sometimes, I don’t know why, I run.
What are the books on your nightstand?
It depends on what I’m living and writing at a certain period. I normally read more than one book at a time. Always some poetry. While I was writing the novel I just published, I always carried with me The Stranger, by Albert Camus and Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. They helped me with the tone and voice I needed. Now I’m reading old books by Peter Handke.
Have you done something which makes you feel particularly proud?
Not really. But I did almost everything I wanted to do. I became a lawyer, I wrote a PhD and I’ve quit law firms. I teach, I publish books, I work on the radio, I’ve written some songs and performed them live with musicians, I’m a father and a husband, and I have also gone through some bad times, which is also enriching. But proud… I’m not the one to say that.
Is there someone who has inspired you?
Many writers and artists. I’m quite a myth maniac. I don’t take elevators and climb up the stairs to the 7th floor at the University because I’ve read Keith Richards hates elevators. I write in green ink as Pablo Neruda always did. I listen to a Bob Dylan’s song every single New Year’s Eve… Those details help me live.
Whom would you like to sit next to at a dinner party?
Félix Valdivieso. Great conversation, great writer, good friend so far.
And how do you relax?
I smoke and drink some red wine when the sun is gone, never before. As Hemingway.
Your favorite quote?
I always start my courses with Voltaire’s ‘I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it’.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer. But now I’d love to be just an ex writer. Live in the country side, writing novels and specially poems to a younger lover without publishing them and throwing the coffee spoon to journalists, annoyed by their questions on the sole interview I would allow for years.
Professor Pedro Letai was photographed by Kerry Parke (December 2014.)