Martín Caparrós: ​​”We Argentines do not know what we are doing, where we are going or what we want”

In a short text, almost a prologue to the book “The chronic”, Martin Caparros broadly reviews his life as a journalist, from his first steps in the legendary newspaper “News”, even their texts for “Page/30”. The volume, a veritable manual on the genre in which the writer has stood out the most, is part of the Caparrós Librarya collection of his most important books, which the stamp Random House just reissued and was released on the book Fair. The return to bookstores of his almost complete work requires taking stock of a long and distinguished career: the career of one of the most admired journalists in the Spanish language. The same one that two months ago received the Ortega y Gasset award of journalism for being “one of the greatest exponents of the best Latin American chronicle” and the one who dictates, these days, the latest edition of a famous workshop of the Gabo Foundation, a book writing clinic in which some of the most interesting researchers on the continent.

Installed in Spain, he writes in the newspaper “El País” while adding volumes to a work of fiction and non-fiction, which has won all kinds of literary and journalistic awards.

In the last times, your health has generated great concern among friends and colleagues. But, when asked about the issue, he jokes about the need for him to use a wheelchair and explains that his doctors have not yet figured out what is the disease that prevents him, for now, from moving. His strength is still intact and his capacity for work as well. He travels almost as always and gives classes and lectures, although he confesses, “I miss going for a walk, I walked a lot, in all kinds of places.”

In the talk with NEWS, Caparrós reviewed the fundamental moments of his career, his vision of journalism today and his analysis, with the distance that living in Spain gives him, from Argentina.

NEWS: In the gaucho verses that you read when you received the Ortega y Gasset award, you referred to the importance of journalists writing without pressure, even if their texts do not generate more traffic on web pages.

Martin Caparros: If we give up our experience in favor of “clicks”, then artificial intelligence will easily replace us. What happens is that we have received a very big blow to our hegemony over the present. For many decades, the ones who told you what was immediate were the journalists. Now that’s what social media deals with. So, we don’t really know what’s left for us. I believe that what we are left with, basically, are two options: tell and analyze, tell and think. We are supposed to be able to count things better, because we are trained for that. And also to find out in another way and put them in context. That is what can give us the difference and a particular place that in other aspects we are losing.


NEWS: What was it like to start working with Miguel Bonasso, Juan Gelman and Rodolfo Walsh.

caparrós: Was 16 years old. He had just finished high school and wanted to be a photographer. A friend of my father’s, who was also a friend of Bonasso’s, got me an appointment with him, who was the director of a new newspaper that had just come out and was called “Noticias”. I went to see if he would take me as a photographer apprentice. And he took me. It was December of ’73. He told me that if he wanted to start now, he could keep me as a cadet. And they made me bring coffee, cut cables, etc. Just in February, one day, someone who had to close three pages of general information, with an empty wording, told me: “could you write something from a cable?”. I said yes. The cable reported that the foot of a climber lost in Aconcagua for 10 years had been found. A nonsense. And I wrote it. And the next day they asked me again. There I began to write in General Information and Police, which was Rodolfo Walsh’s section. We were six. And for me it was incredible that Rodolfo was my boss. I admired him very much. It was a newspaper with very powerful people. I was very impressed that the editor-in-chief was Juan Gelman. I read his poems with devotion. Paco Urondo was also there. But it lasted very little. In August of that same year, the head of the Federal Police, whose name was Alberto Villar, came and he closed it. He lasted eight months.

NEWS: Then he went to study in France.

caparrós: No, I was still in ’75 in Argentina. I worked a little in the magazine “Goles” and also in “El cronista comercial”. I left at the beginning of ’76, before the coup. I had been a member of the Peronist Youth. They convinced me that it was better that he was not hanging around. I went away for a few months to see what was happening and the Videla coup happened. At some point, they went to look for me at my house. So, I’m already out.

To whom it may concern

NEWS: A fundamental book in his career is “La voluntad”, that great panorama of the militancy in Argentina that he wrote together with Eduardo Anguita. How do you see that job today?

caparrós: Until then there was no such book. Later, quite a few came out on that subject. But none of them have that kind of totalizing vocation, with many stories of people. It is not dry history. They are lives, the ones that are there. I had written before on the subject, in my first novel, “Don’t watch your dead.” I was 21 or 22 years old and the only thing that had happened to me was that.

NEWS: Did you ever want to go back to that time with a more current look?

caparrós: A few years after finishing “La voluntad”, in 2000, I was irritated by the use that Kirchnerism was making of the history of the ’70s. That kind of false affiliation to a supposed glory and how they used it to somehow erase their neoliberal past and transform themselves into something else more in line with the market demand of the times. And then, to my surprise, I wrote another novel, “To Whom It May Concern,” which is now being republished.

NEWS: In relation to your profession, didn’t the chronicler in you swallow the fiction writer?

caparrós: I feel like a writer who sometimes writes fiction and sometimes nonfiction. As for the perception of others, I can not do anything. My novels are very important to me. I care about a novel called “The Story”, which has a thousand pages and I know that almost no one can read it. There isn’t the kind of cultural appetite right now that makes a young man sit down with a thousand page book. Instead, the 800 words in a column can be read on the phone while you’re on the bus. In any case, that does not condition what I do. I just finished a novel about Buenos Aires that surely no one will read. It is very complex, very ambiguous, it is not a typical story. But I care to write it.

Long distance

NEWS: You spent a lot of time out of the country. He wrote books about faraway places, trained in Europe and now lives in Spain. However, he always has his eyes on Argentina.

caparrós: It happens that I am Argentine. Although sometimes I say that I am Spanish-Argentine. I still speak like an Argentine, I write like an Argentine. What matters most to me is Argentina. What I am going to do?


NEWS: What worries you about our country today?

caparrós: I am concerned about something that happens almost everywhere, but here it happens in a more acute way: the lack of a future. In general, we live in a time that cannot imagine a future that they like, so they think of it more as a threat than as a promise. What happens everywhere, in Argentina it happens in a more extreme way. First, because Argentina functioned for a long time as the land of the future. It was built based on the “promised future”. “My son the doctor” is that. That’s why the migrants came, to see if their children were better than them. But that broke 45 years ago and was never replaced by anything. We don’t know what we are doing, where we are going, what we want, and to that is added that, during the last 20 or 30 years, governments have failed in so many things and interesting, reasonable, desirable replacements have not appeared. So, we are entangled in what I called a long time ago, the “carousel country.” It seems to move, but it is always in the same place. And that place where he is is very cruel.

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