Reading Luis Negrón’s award-winning debut short story collection, Mundo Cruel, one is struck by the author’s daring, his at-times startling insights, and his blistering sense of humor. It is a remarkable collection, and the first translated work to win a Lambda Literary Award for gay general fiction. In his interview with Asymptote blog, Negrón talks about melodrama and monsters in fiction, homophobia in present-day Puerto Rico, and his experience with acclaimed translator Suzanne Jill Levine.
Eva Richter: Your epigraph is a quote from Manuel Puig’s “A Melodramatic Destiny.” “So then, a melodrama is a drama made by someone who doesn’t know the difference, Miss?” / “Not exactly, but in a certain way it is a second-rate product.” How does the notion of melodrama as a second-rate or even naive drama play into your short stories?
Luis Negrón: There are two ways to answer this question. One, the most obvious one, is by explaining melodrama itself: it is a drama where destiny cannot be escaped. I played with and tried to transform this notion of melodrama in my texts, but not only with the structure of them, but with their aura, the environment of the melodrama, its false and perhaps fake way of suffering. It is also important to put the stories in context. In Latin America, melodrama is king. Our music is melodramatic; our politics are melodramatic, our sports, our way or conceiving love, romantic love, all kinds of love, are pure melodrama. It is our way of dealing with most situations. This is more the case in the working class population, where access to different forms of dealing with feelings are not at hand or are simply unknown. For this reason, melodrama is abundant in the book: it shows how my characters construct whole gammas of feelings, and how they make decisions or just follow the paths dictated by their destiny.