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The Dangers of Spanish Literature

August 23, 2012

Another classic Paris Review moment, from the 1996 interview with Camilo José Cela.

INTERVIEWER

And you have returned to the Alcarria, but this time as a very elegant vagabond.

CELA

Yes, in a Rolls-Royce. But I no longer have the Rolls, now I have a Bentley. I have come to realize that a Rolls is only for Arab sheiks or Texas oilmen. The British royal family and I drive Bentleys.

INTERVIEWER

And the attractive young mulatto chauffeur, is she still with you?

CELA

No, she is not with me any longer. Now my wife drives. The authorities took my license away.

INTERVIEWER

Really? For what reason?

CELA

Well, I simply do not agree with the traffic regulations. But since they are laws . . . The idea of having to put on a safety belt and stop at intersections and such nonsense. They say you must stop and look when at an intersection. No. I once said to a judge, I know very well that the law cannot be subjected to reason but I will demonstrate to you on a blackboard that the Chinese theory is true: the shorter amount of time one spends at an intersection—you must accelerate!— the less chance there is of having a collision. They told me that I was wrong and, well, since they denied the evidence, I burned my license and that’s that. This happened after I ran into a Biscuter, a small two-seater that used to be manufactured in Spain. There were five people in the car. All five were killed, naturally.

INTERVIEWER

All five of them?

CELA

Well, I feel very badly about it. I had a Jaguar then. I am limited to lamenting the affair, but they were five very stupid people. They were completely drunk in a small car that was turning off a small road onto the main highway. No, no. It was horrible. And after killing them, well, of course one feels sorry about it. Well, at least a bit sorry. Perhaps less than what you might think! Hey, be careful with how you write this up, they’re going to think I’m a savage.

INTERVIEWER

Don’t worry, Mr. Cela, I’ll be careful with what I put in the interview.

CELA

No, just say that there were only four people in the car . . . Oh my, this is really horrible, isn’t it? How appalling.

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