Essayists are more inventive than novelists – Interview with Luigi Amara

Poetics of recovery. This is what the works of Luigi Amara appear to be. Amara is a Mexican essayist and poet, author of books translated in Germany and France, such as El Peaton Inmovil (2013), Historia Descabellada de la Peluca (2014), La Escuela del Aburrimiento (2012) and his latest work Una Caja dentro de una Caja dentro de una Caja published by Impronta Casa Editora, a sophisticated, independent publishing house located in Guadalajara (Mexico), which still prints linotype books with the last functioning linotype machines in the country (and its linotype experts).
These are all chronicles of a special correspondent who delves into everyday life, the world of familiar objects and simple acts (such as having a stroll, picking up someone else’s lighter by accident, yawning and so on) which open doors and passageways to unexpected worlds.
We met him during the latest International Book Fair in Guadalajara (

From wigs to lighters, you seem to be obsessed with everyday objects.
Mostly with the idea – which is not so strange by the way- that the dull and repetitive world we are used to may contain an extraordinary world. To think that everyday, routine life is devoid of interest is a distortion. We don’t need to look for escape, rather we should go back to this life, take it back, inhabit it. Against advertising, which is able to make us think that we are deeply dissatisfied and that we should always look for something “more”.

So what’s a possible solution?
To change our way of looking so as to restore the meaning of objects. Sometimes, all we need to do is walk down a familiar street but at a different time than usual and at a difference pace; a new universe opens up.

Walking as a cure for boredom?
I love walking because it forces you to deal with anxiety, which I believe is linked to boredom and to which I dedicated one of my books. If you walk in a crowded place you cannot walk at your own pace but you have to adapt it to the pace of others. And if you don’t accept that every moment, every occasion has its own pace, you end up becoming anxious. But if we manage not to fall into this trap, then very interesting things may happen.

Can you give us an example? 
When we walk, we experience a moment of contemplation and intimacy. We are totally perceptive. All senses are involved (if we have to cross the street, if we hear a car noise behind us and so on), while our mind wanders in a sort of inner space. We are always in a hurry, in cars or public transport. Instead, the great thing about walking is that we can lose ourselves. There is no destination; the path is already the destination.

Is it like travelling?
It is like in travelling, yes, but not in the sense of tourism, which instead contains a need to fulfill a commitment, to complete a schedule. On the contrary, I am interested in retrieving the flaneur’s behaviour.

For instance, going to museums (as you write in your latest book Una Caja dentro de una Caja dentro de una Caja) for the sake of “going”, not so much for their works of art.
Art has been flirting since forever with an idea of salvation, with the search for a breakthrough, for an exception to what is ordinary, with the dichotomy between what is important and what is not, what is valuable and what is not, because someone said so. Museums start with this feature which is then taken over by the cultural industry. It is a mechanism which is repeated over and over at all levels. Christianity itself asserts that “this material world” is less important than the afterlife. How can you break the spell? No longer with provocation, one hundred years after Duchamp’s Fountain. This is why I am interested in talking about everyday objects in their ordinary nature.

You write both essays and poems, two genres which go beyond mere commercial considerations…
Latin America has a long tradition of essay writing stemming from the 18th century and the French influence. As far as I’m concerned, in the 18th century our essayists were more inventive than novelists. They played, experimented, invented new forms. The novel, on the other hand, tends towards uniformity. Moreover, the fact that novels and poems are outside the market offers unthinkable spaces of freedom.

Translation by Valentina Ornaghi (edited by Ester Tossi)

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Francesca Capelli
Francesca Capelli, journalist, writer and translator for kids’ books, was born in Bologna and has lived in Madrid, Milan and Florence, before moving to Buenos Aires. She has a degree in Political Science with Sociology Major, and currently is writing her endless dissertation in Communication and Culture at the University of Buenos Aires. Among her books: "Dove lo butto?"-"Where should I throw it?", "Amo l'acqua"-"I love water", "Mi prendo cura di te" - "I'll take care of you" (Giunti), "Veruska non vuole fare la modella" - "Veruska doesn’t want to be a model" (San Paolo), "Il grande cane nella città fantasma"-"The big dog in the ghost town "(Prìncipi&Princìpi), "L'estate che uno diventa grande" -"The summer one becomes big" (Sinnos, winner of the "Città di Bella" prize, and runner-up to Penne award in 2011), "Il cacciatore di aria"-"The air hunter" (Raffaello).