Andrea Mayo versus Flavia Company
There's an enviable complicity between the two of them. So much so that you can't tell who's who.
For a long time, Flavia Company lived more or less identified with the real person who signed her books. It is clear that an author is not a flesh and blood person but the entity or body created to take public responsibility for the work they produce. As a general rule, the name of the person and the author match, but it is also possible to use pseudonyms to hide the person. Or heteronyms, which do not hide the person but differentiate them.
The entity Flavia Company signed the books written by the person Flavia Company for forty years. The author Flavia Company, in order to be faithful to the entity Flavia Company, had always pursued two objectives, as she claimed time and again in interviews: Firstly, to write about essential topics with total simplicity, as if the books were written by themselves, making the individuality of the person signing them invisible. ‘Eliminating personal style is the most difficult of styles’, she once said. And, secondly, to merge herself with literature, to cross over to the other side of the mirror, and to become fiction. Both aims are undoubtedly a path of detachment in every sense. And both modify the work step by step, yes, but also the life that has to make it possible. To move towards these aims, Flavia Company said that she was writing a single book, a long book, with many titles, all linked and related to each other, creating diverse forms of intertextuality, not only of topics but also of fragments, borrowed chapters, or stories.
Her work begins with an epistolary novel, Querida Nélida, and ends with another epistolary novel, Magôkoro. At this point, after forty years of writing and more than forty books - novels, short stories, poetry, children's books - she knew she had finished her work. She became aware of this during her round-the-world trip, which she began just before the pandemic broke outs. That’s why the book that came out once she returned from her trip, Ja No Necessito Ser Real, was signed by one of her characters, Haru. Company had already written Haru’s life, her story. And now Haru was taking on the task of turning Flavia, who no longer needs to be real, into a character. Haru as an author could be considered the hinge. After her, Flavia disappeared. She would no longer be signing any more books, and would leave the authorship to another character of hers, Andrea Mayo, who had been born in a story signed by Flavia many years before, La Carta Perdida De Andrea Mayo. Andrea Mayo then became an author and signed her first novel, The Carnivorous Plant in which she says that from now on she will tell the whole truth and that everything she tells will be true.
Andrea Mayo and Flavia Company had a conversation that reflects the particular relationship between a character who becomes the author and an author previously turned into a character by Haru. We transcribed this conversation.
Andrea Mayo: Have you considered that this is madness?
[Flavia laughs, she is amused by the misunderstanding].
Flavia Company: I've already been told I look like Don Quixote. Too much literature... right? But do you realise how fascinating it is that we can have this conversation?
Let's say that I'm not as fascinated by it as you are. I am your creation, but you are not mine.
This could be debated.
Your publishers don't love me as much as they love you.
It's not true. Give them time.
So now I'm the real one, and you're not?
Somehow that's how it is. You sign articles and you're the author of press headlines. And of books. You create discourse. You have an ideology. You have a name. And a story.
A story created by you.
To a certain extent, only. Now you belong to those who read you. You will be much more and much less than I thought. In any case, you are my relief, my reward.
Relief? Reward? You have to explain that to me …
Your existence frees me. I have finished my work. Can you imagine such satisfaction? My work of literature is complete. I have seen it finished in life. There can be nothing posthumous, ha, ha, ha. Poor nephews, they won't be able to get anything out of the drawers, ha, ha, ha, ha. Finished, do you see? So much for the recognised and authorised work. End of the story. This, in terms of relief, the fact of having the work done. And the reward... your existence makes my fiction come true. Is that not enough?
Stated like that, the mirror effect is unquestionable. As my grandfather used to say, we are the story we make of our lives. He used to say: "Life is what we tell about what life is, it is what people explain, the way they organise it with words and imagination; life by itself is nothing. Reality is the fiction that everyone chooses, Andrea, and that's why we have to choose very well the lies that we explain to ourselves and to others, and it's important that they coincide as much as possible, you know what I mean? This is what you made my grandfather say in your book of stories Por mis muertos, do you remember?
Well, yes, you know that the study of the limits between what is and what it is not has kept me busy from the beginning. In your books, Andrea, fiction is on the cover and reality is inside.
Isn't that a play of words?
Isn't literature a play of words that is vertiginously similar to life?
Don't you think you confuse your readers?
Above all, my readers and I are alike, that's why life has brought us together. They search, as do I. And they find, sometimes. Confusing? Not at all. They have more than forty books signed by me. Now, if they want to, they can read what my characters write. For example, you, Andrea, are different from me. You, Andrea, are younger, more uninhibited, more daring? I don't know. We'll see what you do after The Carnivorous Plant.
Did you like it?
I must confess that you surprised me. The literary structure, the fragmentation, the tone. Yes, I liked it.
I welcome it. Your opinion is important.
[Andrea laughs, Flavia follows her.]
And the market? It will punish you. It's not commercial to abandon an already created ‘brand’.
I don't think so. I think labels are like borders. I don't need to delimit anything. And the market is anecdotal. I don't write for the market.
Neither do you.
How delightful! What are we trying to do with all this?
Nothing, Andrea. It's the way it has to be. We haven't made a plan, it's not a strategy, it was what had to happen and it has happened. We have transmuted ourselves into fiction and, from fiction, we will create reality. The squaring of our little circle of life. Tell me, Andrea, who is more real, Don Quixote or Cervantes?
You tell me.
What is more real is what doesn't need to die, Andrea. What doesn't need to survive.
Anyway, at this point, who cares about reality, right? There's very little left in the world. Maybe feelings? I wish I had some. I long to be human.
I should be alive.
Oh, that! It's an ephemeral condition. What did you feel when you were writing The Carnivorous Plant?
Suffocation. And horror.
Empathy, this is it.
I need you to be alive to keep writing.
I don't think so. Someone could rescue you, after me. Rescue you from my death. Like a relay, a relay race, you know what I mean? There would just have to be someone who believes. Someone who believes in you, I mean.
There's a part of what you say that's cryptic to me.
And to me too. And that's because there's a part of creation that is faith. Intuition. You can't explain everything. You go blind. Learning to know what doesn't exist takes time.
So I'm not part of Flavia's work?
Andrea, have you ever heard of the chicken-and-egg situation?
[They laugh. There's an enviable complicity between the two of them. So much so that you can't tell who's who].
*This article was originally published in Catalan by Catorze.cat*