He has more than 20 published books. In the rage generated by history in these times, in which documentaries, podcasts and romantic novels set in other times proliferate, the titles of Daniel Balmaceda are especially valued. This is demonstrated by the fact that, one after the other, they become immediate bestsellers. Fortunately for his readers, he is a fast author: he writes between five and six books at a time, collecting data on the most diverse topics to feed each one.

    With 15 years of experience in journalism, it is evident that he has managed to transfer the pressure for the deadline to literature, and thus satisfy an increasingly growing and avid public. The latest release of him is “History of the Argentine Belle Époque” (South American), a journey through those golden years of prosperity that are always looked at with nostalgia and admiration. And that is why there was no more suitable location for the talk than the Duhau Park Hyatt Palace, emblem of the brilliance and elegance of that time.

    News: How was this new book born?

    Daniel Balmaceda: In general, the books that always have the most appeal are those that evoke romantic times and battles. But this period does not have so many war events in the world, so it was a bit relegated. Over time it was called Belle Époque, a kind of recreation that humanity took, although of course the problems between nations and borders continued. These are decades of great prosperity, and if at first it might seem unattractive because it lacked that romantic seasoning, when one begins to explore this era one finds a lot of facts and events that found modernity. Everything that we end up being today began to take shape at that time.

    News: Is there anything that particularly caught your attention?

    Balmaceda: There are a number of curiosities. For example, the arrival of electromobiles, as electric cars were called. They had an assured future, and yet due to accidents on the street they began to lose their place. Another characteristic of this period is the importance of the balconies. The one with a balcony would meet outside the house in that box facing the street, and when you were on an avenue, like Santa Fe, you would see everyone on their own balconies having tea or a snack. It was used as another environment. But many did not have one, which is why the idea of ​​“renting balconies” arose, in order to better see illustrious visits, parades or funerals. In the centenary of 1810 there is a huge number of advertisements offering balconies for rent.

    News: How is your selection process to choose in which period to specialize?

    Balmaceda: I always know the next five books I’m going to write. They are developing well in advance, and that allows me to gather material while I’m working on other topics. If I am reading a newspaper from 1890 in a newspaper library, it is likely that while reading I will find material for different books.

    News: Do you write several at the same time?

    Balmaceda: Yes. Because if after a talk I can think of a chapter for one of the topics I’m dealing with, I don’t want to lose it. So I write it down, I put it in the freezer and then I’ll see if it changes depending on the format. Some texts that are part of this book are written more than 10 years ago.

    News: But doesn’t your way of writing change over the years?

    Balmaceda: Yes, of course, all the time. It changes with the minutes more than with the years. That’s why I don’t read a book already published, I would change everything. You have to work on the texts until the last possible minute. It’s like clay, you modify it, you find the most appropriate noun and verb. You give it more harmony, when reading aloud you listen to the rhythm and music of the text. It happens to me sometimes that I finish writing a long paragraph and I stay with it all day. Modifying it, reading it, turning it around.

    News: When do you release?

    Balmaceda: With the delivery. I thank journalism for that, because the world of literature does not respect that deadline date so much. It’s just that nobody can believe that they finished writing the perfect book, you always have to add things to it.

    News: Did you find it difficult to find that more everyday tone or did you feel a bit of a heretic among historians?

    Balmaceda: I felt like a heretic. But I quickly understood that my path could not be that of the academic group, because I was not going to be able to build a profession within literature writing for very few. In my first book I didn’t know who I had to write for. I knew a lot of academic writers whom I respected and admired, and at the same time there was a whole audience available to spread the story. And the texts were going to be very different, because it is one thing to talk about Juan José Olleros for specialists and another is to explain to the general public who he was.

    News: Why do you think there is such a furor over the story?

    Balmaceda: Argentine history is a very attractive topic in times of crisis. When we Argentines feel that the ground is shaking, we want to cling to our roots, and that’s when we begin to look for what life was like for our grandparents and what the most prosperous Argentina was like. I saw this very clearly in the crisis of 2001. At that time there was a rise in history not only in books, but also on television and radio, figures that were known to everyone from the school reappeared, but the ones we didn’t pay as much attention to. For me it is a contradiction, because I would prefer not to experience moments of crisis and that in any case the dissemination work we do is valued.

    News: How do you delimit the years you investigate?

    Balmaceda: I have a line that I do not cross: the end of the 30s. It is a time in which I cannot have a temporary distance that allows me to manage freely. It is not an issue that I can handle objectively, because Peronism continues to carry enormous weight today.

    News: From how old can we say that something is history?

    Balmaceda: Those of us who do not have the ability to abstract ourselves need 60 years away. Félix Luna said that everything is history, referring to the fact that all the issues are, since what happened yesterday is already history. But I couldn’t look at yesterday’s events with the objectiveness of a historian. For me that is journalism.

    News: Why did you study Journalism and not History?

    Balmaceda: He wrote topics on History and Philology when he was president of the Cristóbal Colón Foundation. He had a bit of media participation due to activities that the foundation carried out at the time of the fifth centenary of the discovery of America. At that time you could write a letter to Columbus and he would reply. We were several Cristóbales. He answered the person on a paper burned by time, half yellow, with handwriting and some turns of the fifteenth century. That made a lot of people write to Colón, not just boys. He became a sage who answered on all subjects, because he was a person with 500 years of life. This gave us media visibility and they began to ask me for a column and to make me notes, and I realized that I liked journalism and that perhaps I was going to have greater economic stability than with History.

    News: But in the end it turned out the other way around.

    Balmaceda: Yes, although I had to combine periods of working in the newsroom and writing at home after hours, until the day came when I was able to quit journalism. I practiced it for 15 years…

    News: You have children, Pancho and Sofía, what happens to them with the story?

    Balmaceda: They lived the story since they were kids, because it was common for us to go somewhere by car and I would say things like “here was the first taxi crash, in 1905”. They are used to these things happening, so in general they are attracted to it, but they also tell me “you already told me about this”. Although they don’t get bored, because I know that 20 years ago their capacity for wonder was one and today I raise the bar to surprise them.

    Acknowledgment: Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt Buenos Aires.

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