Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Q&A with Cristina García




Cristina García is the author of the new novel Vanishing Maps. It returns to the characters from her classic novel Dreaming in Cuban. Her other books include Here in Berlin. She is the playwright-in-residence at Central Works Theater in Berkeley, California.


Q: What inspired you to return to the del Pino family in this new novel, and what was it like to reunite with them?


A: I was asked to adapt Dreaming in Cuban for the stage. After almost 30 years, I reread the novel several times and, you might say, those long ago characters and I got reacquainted.


And suddenly, I grew intensely interested in what had happened to all of them since 1980. That’s when Vanishing Maps took off. I chose to revisit them at the cusp of 2000, when the world had changed radically—and so had each of them.


Q: How was the novel’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: I was interested in exploring the fallout from myriad historical upheavals on the lives of my characters. The fall of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall, for starters. The maps my characters once had relied upon—both internal and external—were vanishing. How did they survive? Reinvent themselves? Find new moorings and allegiances?


Vanishing Maps explores these issues through the prisms of diaspora and politics and the resulting redrawn maps.

Q: The writer Chris Bohjalian called the book “A beautiful novel: hilarious one moment, haunting the next.” What do you think of that description, and how did you balance the two emotions as you wrote the book?


A: I was absolutely delighted with that description. (Thank you, Chris!) For me, the power is always in the juxtapositions of beauty, hilarity, and the macabre. That balance is something I seek sentence by sentence from beginning to end. It’s both tightrope walking and juggling flaming swords. And it’s a lot of fun!


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I had no idea how the novel would end before it started, or even during the course of the writing. The stories kept surprising me, at times ambushing me, other times goading me into pushing the narrative further into absurdity, the otherworldly, the mysterious.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on an adaptation of Caro De Robertis’s luminous novel The President and the Frog. Gala Theater in Washington, D.C., will also be doing a Spanish language production of The Palacios Sisters, my adaptation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters set in 1980s Miami.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Well, I’m thinking that Vanishing Maps could very well be my last novel. I’ve been writing for a long time, first as a journalist and then as a fiction writer (over 40 years total). It might be time to explore other terrain.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Cristina García.

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