I had the pleasure of interviewing dynamic duo Enda and Maria ( Enda Kenneally and Maria Correa ) about their successful ventures and their history book ‘Fake News.’ Today I am eager to find out all about their latest project, a novel which they have published called, ‘Verano del 69’, which is currently being presented at Madrid´s International Book Fair.
Enda & Maria, it is great to have the chance to interview you again. We last talked when we were in the midst of the pandemic. How has life been since?
Life has been good, thank you very much. We have published our second novel and we are busy with many projects. Thankfully, the situation around the pandemic has improved a lot and, even though it is still difficult, and we must still be careful, we have been able to enjoy more of a normal life!
What have been the most significant changes in your lives and your home city of Madrid over the last year?
Work has stabilized and now we are both working at pre-pandemic levels. It’s a relief to be busy again, as the uncertainty during the original confinement was disconcerting. Though, we are doing this in the ‘new normal’. For example, when we organized an event for St. Patrick’s Day in March of this year, it was an online event. That being said, our next event, one which celebrates James Joyce, will actually be held at a venue with guests, so we are balancing online and offline stuff.
Enda can you explain to our readers what first brought you to Madrid from your home country of Ireland and Maria what were your first impressions of the Irish and the Irish culture?
Enda – I first came here because I grew up reading novels and poetry by Spanish-language writers, from Lorca to Neruda and García Márquez. Then, as a teenager, I saw a Michael Palin documentary about Ernest Hemingway, which covered Valencia. I was hooked. Apart from that, Spain has always fascinated me, and now that I am here, I don’t think I will ever leave. It is easy to fall in love with Madrid. What’s more, there a lot of deep cultural and historical links between Ireland and Spain, so I am keen to explore that.
Maria – My first contact with Irish culture was watching Fr. Ted and reading Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, both of which I took out of the library as a twenty-year-old to prepare for the IELTS exam. So, I think the first thing I learnt about the Irish was that they have a great sense of humour! But since embarking on the El Arpa adventure with Enda, I have had the chance to explore those historical and cultural links he mentions much further, and there are plenty of fascinating connections between the two countries everyone should know about.
Where did your passion for writing come from?
Enda – In my case, it always felt natural to write. There are many reasons to feel uncertain in life, but I always enjoyed and felt confident with writing, and it’s something that I can never get tired of. My parents always put a big emphasis on us reading, so I think wanting to write naturally sprang from that, as well.
María – Almost invariably, all my childhood pictures have me either reading or writing, and there is still plenty of embarrassing evidence of my early writing endeavours. For me, it was always a kind of escapism, I could just sit there for hours making up stories which sounded suspiciously similar to the plots of the classic books my family had at home…
Can you give us an overview as to what your latest book and novel ‘Verano of 69’ (summer of 69) is about?
In 1969, the great poet Seamus Heaney came to Madrid to give a talk at the Bellas Artes. This is astonishing. He was little-known in Spain then, and now, even though he won the Nobel Prize, he is still known so famous here in Spain. He lived in the same barrio as us and he experienced the Prado for the first time and describes it in a way that is so relatable. We have taken his poem ‘Madrid 1969’ and each of our ten chapters is inspired by a group of lines from the poem. Our different characters – men, women, the old, the young, city dwellers, country folk – live out their hopes and fears in interconnecting stories that bring Madrid in this year alive. The city itself is a character because it is the backdrop to all of this, and it is changing in such a profound way.
What inspired you to write it?
Heaney links Ireland to Spain in his poem, and as we mentioned earlier, we are both keen on exploring the links between Ireland and Spain. It’s a story that stays clear of easy stereotypes and we wanted to celebrate Heaney’s influences too, such as Goya. Furthermore, more tourists were flocking to Spain, new buildings rose into the skyline, the Beatles were on the radio, and there is a sense that the city, and the country as a whole, is trying to figure out a new identity. The end of the 1960s is a fascinating part of Spanish history, but perhaps not as well-explored as the social changes in the 1980s.
What type of reader is it aimed at?
This novel is aimed at everybody! If you have an interest in culture or history, then we think that there will be a lot to enjoy. But even if you unaware of the themes of the book and the history underpinning it all, we believe that you will enjoy the journey and like the characters.
Above all what do you truly wish to communicate to your readers with ‘Verano of 69?’
Tolstoy believed that the great sweeps of history were made up by the small actions of normal people. We want to give an accurate and artistic insight into how ordinary people were living and trying to deal with the changes that were happening all through society.
You are currently signing your novel at the famous annual Madrid book fair, celebrating no less than it´s 80th anniversary this year! How has the response from the public been so far?
Fortunately, the response has been phenomenal, and we can’t thank people enough. The book launch went very well, and since then, the reviews have praised the book’s ability to accurately describe a time period that neither of us lived through. People have also liked the humour in the book, and we have been told some of the lines in it are very literary! We appreciate all the positivity and we hope more people enjoy the book.
When, where and until when can our readers meet you at the book fair?
We will be there on Saturday, 18th September, from 18:30-20:00. We’ll be at Stand 206, with Entrelíneas Editores.
Tell us more about your company El Arpa, what does it offer and what inspired you to start these ventures.
We are a Spanish-Irish duo who creates cultural content. We have a podcast called People Will Talk, where we talk about history and culture in and outside Madrid. We have also interviewed a lot of cool people in it, including Batman Begin’s Sarah Stewart and three members of Hans Zimmer’s Orchestra. We also have a blog, irishsliceofmadrid.com, which focuses on those links between Ireland and Spain we have been mentioning. The inspiration for El Arpa was exactly that, revealing those links we are passionate about to other people. But we do much more, events, street tours… and, of course, we write and translate.
Do you feel that things are starting to pick up in the Madrid tourist world now?
Definitely. More tourists on the streets are noticeable now, and hopefully that continues long into the future.
Have you currently got any more ideas for future novels or projects which you would like to share with us?
We are working on a new book, but for the moment, we can’t reveal too much! But check our podcast and blog for more information, and on October 20th, in Crazy Mary Librería, which celebrates the Works of James Joyce through storytelling, music and dance.
Thank you Maria and Enda!
Abi Lindsay Clark