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The Carletonian

Spanish author visits Carleton

<ecent history, Headley House has served as a place of residence for Carleton guest faculty members who are acclaimed in their field. The current Headley House Distinguished Visitor-In Residence is no exception. He was even told this by an embassy worker he barely knew when he was applying for a visa to come here. Jose Ovejero told the audience attending his lecture on modern European identity that the worker said to him, ‘You’re going to Carleton. You must be good at what you do.’

Ovejero, the current Visitor-In Residence in Spanish, is renowned for far more important reasons. He is a major contemporary Spanish novelist, dramatist, poet and journalist. His work has won several awards in Spain. Most recently, he won the Primavera prize, one of the most coveted Spanish literary awards, for his 2005 novel, “Las vidas ajenas.” Ovejero’s work has encompassed a wide array of topics that focus on modern society. He has given lectures and taught creative writing workshops at universities throughout the world.

During the past two weeks at Carleton, Ovejero has led a special creative writing workshop for students fluent in Spanish. In order to apply for the special one-credit, two-week class, students had to submit a 4-5 page work of fiction in Spanish. Eleven students were accepted. The seminar works in two forms involving the short fiction the students submitted. During class, Ovejero discusses with the students the structure of compelling writing, primarily through its use of characters. One task focused on acting out the actions of the students’ created characters in order to gain a sense of their reality. Outside of class, Ovejero reads the students’ work and meets with them to help edit it. The seminar ends on Monday.

Besides the workshop, Ovejero gave a lecture, “European Identity: reality, fiction, or…both?” in the Gould Library Athenaeum last Friday. In his speech, he dismissed the existence of and need for a united European identity to compete with the rest of the world. “European identity is a smoke screen and to make things worse…it is a toxic one.” Ovejero told the audience.

Ovejero traced the history of the concept of united European identity and denied that there had ever been such a feeling because the continent had always been home to several distinct cultures, not just the one that spurred the Renaissance and the rise of Western Civilization. Ovejero connected the idea of European identity to its first use shortly after the 1973 oil crisis, an event that clearly demonstrated Europe’s declining power in the world. He believed that at its worst, similar movements involving European identity had caused Nazism and the rise of Franco because the movement’s adherents believe that there is a standard form of culture that all Europeans must exist within. Ovejero felt that if a European identity existed it would be seen through the continent’s modern literature. While calls for a united Europe could be seen in pre-20th century literature, he demonstrated that it did not exist in recent literature. Ovejero admitted that Europeans felt less connection to their home countries than previously but that is due to a new identity that incorporates cultures across the world instead of just Europe. Ovejero also criticized the European Union in the lecture because it had failed to offer “projects” that Europeans would make sacrifices for. He stated that the EU contained no plan for the future except for a reliance on the free market that has cost thousands of jobs.

In congruence with Ovejero’s visit to Carleton, Tim Carroll ’09 is staging a performance of Ovejero’s play, Los politicos, as a part of his Spanish independent study on parody and theater. The performance will be of selected scenes of the play and will take place at The Cave on Friday, May 22 at 8pm. The scenes will be performed by student actors in its native language. It will actually be the first performance ever of his play that was published in 2007. The play is a political satire involving only a few actors and minimal stage design. Its plot focuses on two opposing politicians who have come to the same place to give a rally for their respective campaigns and are waiting for the public to arrive. Carroll first read the play in Professor Palmar Alvarez-Blanco’s class “New Spanish Voices” last spring. Carroll discussed with Alvarez-Blanco about staging the play when he found out that Ovejero was coming to Carleton this term.

This is not Ovejero’s first interaction with Carleton. Three years ago, Alvarez-Blanco first contacted Ovejero about coming to Carleton to discuss his work with her “New Spanish Voices” class after they had read his novel Un mal ano para Miki. Since then, Ovejero has come to Carleton twice to give a lecture to the “New Spanish Voices” class before his visit this year. He also had lunch with students from Carleton’s off campus Spanish seminar when they were in Madrid last fall.

Ovejero, who is fluent five languages, splits his time between Brussels and Madrid.

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