- InterventionsAn Interview with Fernando A. Flores
Fernando A. Flores is through and through an author of those worldly borderland spaces where new admixtures of language, things, culture, and people are born. Born in Reynosa, Mexico and raised a stone's throw away in Alton, Texas, Fernando seemed destined to become such a creator of the borderlands. Indeed, while attending then dropping out (three times) of the University of Texas Pan Am (now The University of the Rio Grande Valley) and working as a sound tech, he gorged himself on world fiction. You can feel Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, Joseph Conrad, Roberto Bolaño, Miguel de Cervantes, Arthur Rimbaud, Franz Kafka, and Alejandra Pizarnik pulsate in and through his poetry, short stories, and longer form novels. You can hear, too, the throbbing off-beats of punk (The Clash) and avant-garde film (Alejandro Jodorowsky and David Lynch). He's one of the twenty-first century's great raconteurs of the borderlands—and in a way that beats hard to a different drum and that's barely graspable. To read his 2018 published Death to the Bullshit Artists of South Texas (picked up by Host Publications after an initial 200 print run) is to mainline a punk sensibility given shape in narrative form; to read Tears of the Trufflepig (2019), that he wrote in a three-month blaze, is to submerge oneself in a sensory overload chamber. Fernando is the kind of writer who isn't happy just telling the story of, say, a panoply of epiphanic experiencing punk-rock musician characters in The Valley, South Texas or the illicit and destructive goings-on along the US/Mexico border. He wants us to experience all of this and more at the most cognitively, emotively, and perceptually visceral. With Tears of the Trufflepig, we don't just read about Esteban Bellacosa's journey into the belly of the beast, we follow him down a rabbit hole into the panem et circenses of the wealthy who feast on lab-cloned animals, spend billions on shrunken head trophies of decapitated indigenous Mexicans, and venerate the platypus-like trufflepig, once worshiped by the genocidally wiped out Aranaña Indian tribe. In this hallucinatory blaze, readers begin to think hard about the coloniality of power, imperialism and its genocides, forgotten histories, as well as today's food shortages and caging of children at the border. You can learn more about Fernando at: http://thewriterflores.com/
Elsewhere you mention that you didn't set out to write Tears of a Trufflepig as a political fiction. However, once our fiction is out in the world, we can't, say, control how it's received. Inadvertently, do you feel like it's had some kind of intervention, political or otherwise?
Fernando A. Flores: Totally. When I was approaching this project, aesthetics and movements and mentalities were more influential to me than authors. I thought back to early twentieth-century Russian Constructivism; all these writers who couldn't get published either because the writing was considered absurdist or because it was outlawed in the Soviet Union.
I can never approach a writing project directly. As a writer I always approach a project in a performative manner. With this project, I asked myself: how can I write about the border in an indirect way? How could I address the problems along the border, where the story's themes create an imaginative collaboration with our realities in a way that we haven't seen yet?
You were studying at the University of Texas Pan Am (today, The University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley) but decided it wasn't for you. There's the expectation that we go to college or that if we want to be a creative writer that we attend an MFA program. You have a different story.
I didn't even know about MFA programs back then. I didn't know how people became writers. Even though I was writing I never really thought of becoming a writer, and had a lot of trouble with that word, even. I probably still do.