A literary agent at the Miami Book Fair: Hinde Pomeraniec spoke with Guillermo Schavelzon

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What legitimizes the writer? Why do people who embrace literature have so many conflicts with money? What role does the reader play in literature? The authors' representative and the writer, journalist and columnist for Infobae discussed the publication of “El enigma del oficio”

A literary agent at the Miami Book Fair: Hinde Pomeraniec talked with Guillermo Schavelzon

Hinde Pomeraniec interviewed Guillermo Schavelzon at the Miami Book Fair, via video call.

From Barcelona, where he has lived for almost two decades, Guillermo Schavelzon he spoke in a soft, unhurried voice about his long career as an editor and writer: in a video call for the Miami Book Fair, journalist and writer Hinde Pomeraniec asked him in detail —and he complied in detailing— for the professional biography that he has just published. The Enigma of the Trade: Memoirs of a Literary Agent It makes Schavelzon feel, after almost six decades in the publishing industry, like a fish out of water: “In this strange place, which is the author's,” he confessed. “Something I'm not used to.”

Pomeraniec, editor and author herself (her latest book is Putin's Russians; her newsletter I went, I saw and I wrote is a weekly publication of Infobae), tried to encourage him: “Your writing looks very natural. In the book one finds that naturalness of memory.”

—People who have an experience to tell (memoirs, biography or testimonials) have to do it when they still remember things, and not leave it for 90 years —Schavelzon accepted the compliment, covertly , 77 years old.

Born in Argentina, Willy, as he is called in the literary world, was a bookseller and publisher, and today is among the agents most important literature and essays in Spanish. The books of Ricardo Piglia and those of Pola Oloixarac, those of Florencia Bonelli and those of Leopoldo Brizuela, those of Pablo de Santis and those of Elena Poniatowska, those of Guadalupe Nettel and those of Santiago Gamboa are among those that he manages with publishers around the world.

A literary agent at the Miami Book Fair: Hinde Pomeraniec spoke with Guillermo Schavelzon

Guillermo Schavelzon, who was a bookseller and publisher, and is now a publisher, found in the "weird place" author with his professional biography.

The century of Perón and Fidel Castro

His early link with letters led him to the political world, as was quite usual In the sixties, in the seventies. In The enigma of the jobmention, for example, the moments when he met Juan Domingo Perón and Fidel Castro.

—When you talk about the meeting with Perón you went with a camera. Was there something that told you that what you were experiencing was important? Pomeraniec asked.

—I had a camera because I was an amateur photographer since I was 15 years old. At that time (1965, 1966) Perón was a tremendously important mythical figure for Argentines, whether they were for it or against it. He marked more than half a century of history. I remember that I was very embarrassed to tell Perón if he let us take a photo.

—The photo was taken by José López Rega, a very dark character from Argentine history, who was Perón's secretary at the time. In the book you also talk about having attended speeches by Fidel Castro, another dominant figure of the 20th century. What were those figures for you?

—Perón was a popular idol, a person of tremendous importance but who did not cause me any empathy. In the case of Fidel Castro, on the other hand, I felt an enormous identification with that attempt that was made to produce a social change. At that time we did not know everything we know today, nor what happened afterwards. Situations acquire different value as the years go by.

A literary agent at the Miami Book Fair: Hinde Pomeraniec spoke with Guillermo Schavelzon

At the Miami Book Fair, Guillermo Schavelzon spoke about his book &quot ;The enigma of the profession.

Memories of a literary scene <i>hot</i>

Thinking about the passage of time evoked a Schavelzon ideas from two authors with whom he has worked for a long time: Alberto Manguel, an Argentine resident in Canada, and the celebrated Piglia, who died in 2017. “As they said, very clearly, you have to keep in mind that what you remember is not what it was but what you think it was,” he quoted them.

Judging by his memories of Jorge Álvarez's bookstore and publishing house,where he began his journey in the industry, it was—he believes it was—a bittersweet and bad experience. It was difficult for him to find something completely positive to salvage from those important years for your training: “Álvarez was someone with a lot of mischief,” Pomeraniec conceded, “and a lot of intelligence and vision.”

Schavelzon founded Galerna, where he published the first books of the Argentine journalist, historian and activist Osvaldo Bayer, author among other works of a biography of the anarchist Severino Di Giovanni and volumes of < i>The rebellious Patagonia, about the strike of rural laborers who ended up massacred —a total of 1,500 people are estimated— by the soldier Héctor Benigno Varela, during the presidency of Hipólito Yrigoyen, in 1921.

“I was 20 years old. Seen from today, I see myself as unconscious, but then I knew what he was doing ”, he evaluated the events that ended up sending him into exile. “When I published Osvaldo's first books, and they had a brutal transcendence, I thought: 'This, someday, they will not forgive me.' And so it was: they did not forgive me, nor him. That caused us to have to leave the country. He went to Germany and I went to Mexico.”

A literary agent at the Miami Book Fair: Hinde Pomeraniec dialogued with Guillermo Schavelzon< /p>Hinde Pomeraniec, author of “Putin's Russians” and the Infobae newsletter “I went, I saw and I wrote”, interviewed Guillermo Schavelzon at the Miami Book Fair.

His relationship with Bayer, highlighted the Infobae culture columnist, was one of the many relationships that followed him from one publisher to another and then to his agency. “The case of Mario Benedetti”, introduced Pomeraniec. “Benedetti followed me wherever I went,” Schavelzon acknowledged. “When I lived in Mexico he was completely unknown and I offered him to publish it. He told me that he didn't want me to go bankrupt: he had no expectations. But his books became a brutal success. Excessive almost. It had a huge audience, not just the educated audience.” The Uruguayan narrator and poet, he concluded, “stopped going to Mexico because he couldn't walk down the street, like rock stars do”.

Literature and money: a strange couple

If there is a concept that is associated with the literary agency, and not male or female writers, it is money. Pomeraniec asked him directly about “the author's relationship with money”.

—It's a special relationship: people who have no idea what they have, or who claim what It is not possible. It is also a difficult relationship. I would like to know your perspective on the subject.

“There is a cultural issue that deeply marks writers,” Schavelzon replied, equally direct, “and that is that they have enormous conflicts with money. (In general, of course. There are exceptions.) And I mean a serious conflict: not that they don't have money or they're embarrassed, but that they talk very little about it.

A literary agent at the Miami Book Fair: Hinde Pomeraniec spoke with Guillermo Schavelzon

Guillermo Schavelzon spoke during the Miami Book Fair with the writer and columnist for Infobae Hinde Pomeraniec.

In his opinion, it is a characteristic of creative trades in Latin America . “The first thing a serious American writer says in an interview is how much he got in advance,” she compared. “Because in the Anglo-Saxon conception, of Protestant origin, money is something that one earned, it is his merit.” The Latin American style “muddies a lot the professional work of the writer.” That, contrary to stereotypes, “it is a difficult, isolated, closed job,” he said. “You work intensely: a writer does not take vacations or weekends, he makes sacrifices as a couple and of another nature, sometimes for two or three years, without knowing if or when he is going to get paid for the work done.”< /p>

An agent, he explained, tries to make those who embrace a literary profession “understand that writing is work and all work must be paid”.

Writers and readers: a love with intermediaries

Pomeraniec asked for a derivation of that comment:

—How is a writer legitimized? How do you come to say “here is a writer”?

“For me, what legitimizes a writer is having readers,” Schavelzon cut to the chase. A writer does not know all of his readers, because it is impossible, but who pays for his work? It is believed that the publisher pays for it, but no: the one who pays is the reader. When a reader buys a book, a part of what he pays goes to the author. That remuneration says much more than its monetary aspect.

A literary agent at the Miami Book Fair: Hinde Pomeraniec dialogued with Guillermo Schavelzon

The protagonists of the dialogue on "The Enigma of the Trade", the Infobae columnist Hinde Pomeraniec and the agent Guillermo Schavelzon, presented by Mariela Gal from the Miami Book Fair.

But to get to say “Here is a writer”, to be a publisher and agent, what does it take? In essence, be a reader. Perhaps a special type of reader, but a reader nonetheless. Pomeraniec borrowed from The Enigma of the Craft to ask Schavelzon when he felt he had become a reader.

“Since I was a boy,” the editor replied. , agent, now an author, who “always” felt like a reader. She paused. And she closed with a consideration. “I always liked reading. Being a good reader is another thing.”

His professional memoirs, however, seem to have paid attention to Jorge Luis Borges: Schavelzon wrote them by hand, in notebooks in which he left a blank page along with one complete by his fine print, on the advice of the Argentine teacher: one for the text, the other for additions, comments and corrections.