Agustín Fernández Paz
Agustín Fernández Paz is a best-selling Galician author of children’s and young adult fiction. He has published more than forty books and his work has been translated into French, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish among others. He has twice been nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award and in 2012 was Spain’s nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award (the children’s Nobel). His books are regularly included in the IBBY Honour List and the White Ravens Catalogue. In 2008 he won the Spanish National Prize for Literature for his book of short stories Nothing Really Matters in Life More Than Love, becoming the tenth Galician author to do so.
Photograph © Francisco Vilabarros
BLACK AIR synopsis
The novel Black Air (216 pages) contains one of the author’s favourite techniques, that of the narrative enclosed within another narrative. The first five and last six chapters are told from the point of view of Dr Víctor Moldes, a recently qualified psychiatrist who works at the Beira Verde clinic, where he is entrusted with a patient, Laura Novo, who has yet to respond to treatment and spends her days repeatedly writing her name on sheets of paper. She is kept in a separate unit of the clinic, under permanent surveillance, for her own safety. In the middle twelve chapters, we learn the reasons for her condition, a narrative that is told in her own voice.
Perhaps the time has come, though I prefer to ignore this fact, to stop trying to forget the unforgettable and confront reality once and for all, accept the existence of this worm devouring me from the inside, constantly growing as the days go by. If it’s true that writing is a liberating therapy, as I’ve often told my patients, then describing events here, which however hard I try I cannot push to one side, will help me overcome this horror, these obsessions growing in my brain like lianas.
I may perhaps finally obtain the peace I’ve been searching for in vain over the past three years. Writing these lines will be painful, will somehow mean reliving what happened during those ill-fated months. But I must do so, remember everything, beginning with the happy days when it seemed impossible to end up like this. Who could have guessed Laura’s eyes, those eyes at the start of my misfortunes, were the door to an abyss I would sink into until reaching these depths?
I met Laura Novo on 12 September 1999. How to forget the date since that is when I started working at the Beira Verde clinic, a prestigious psychiatric centre on the banks of the Lower Miño, next to the border with Portugal? I had recently turned 32 and had the feeling that with this new job, which exceeded all my professional expectations, I was finally leaving behind the stage of my education and opening a new, exciting chapter in my life.