Rodrigo Rey Rosa is the author of Chaos, A Fable, now available in English. His many other books include The Beggar's Knife and Dust on Her Tongue. He lives in Guatemala City.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Chaos, A Fable?
A: A vague idea dawned on me—the idea of writing about a group of young people trying to alter the course of present-day events by any means possible—during a conversation I had with a Muslim acquaintance of mine when I was visiting Morocco in 2015. He kept telling me how crazy the world had become.
In any case, I think that an idea for a novel is only a point of departure, an impulse. I did not know, when I started writing, where this impulse would take me. For me one of the pleasures of writing a long piece, as opposed to a short story, where the "idea" becomes apparent almost immediately, is discovering where a particular impulse, or temptation, may lead --something you cannot know until you have reached the end.
Q: The Kirkus Review of the book says, "Allusive and metaphorical, with a nicely unpredictable close that offers a flicker of hope for humankind." What do you think of that assessment?
A: I don't know if what I write is allusive or metaphorical, or how it may be this or that in the mind of a reader. The closing was unpredictable for me as well, until I got there, so that seems a reasonable assessment.
And yes, there might be a flicker of hope for mankind in thinking that a solution to our big problems be offered by a technological change. I'm not an optimist, however. I think that if there were a solution to humankind's big problems it'd be more by way of an ethical change, and this does not seem to be forthcoming.
Q: The book is "a fable," but it also includes various events from recent history. What did you see as the right blend between the fictional and the historical?
A: I don't work so rationally as to be able to give a satisfactory answer to this question. I'd say that this blend you refer is more a matter of instinct for dosing out of the desirable or tolerable amount of this or that ingredient.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: I would very much like to know what any well-meaning reader makes of this book!
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm in the middle of writing a piece that has to do with an old land feud between the Catholic Church and an ancient Mayan brotherhood in a small village in the Guatemalan western highlands which is going on even today.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb