Immigration, overthinking, and creative writing: An interview with Margarita García Robayo
By Ana Cecilia Matute
Immigrating is often an experience made up of feelings of solitude, during which, those migrating constantly introspect. The Delivery is a novel that portrays the very thoughts during this movement, about time, what has been left behind, who we are in the present, and what is to come.
In Margarita’s novel, a box arrives suddenly, and like many others signs and symbols while living abroad, it brings reminders of the place left behind. However, this specific delivery brought by our protagonist's mother, disrupts everything. This delivery, as a symbol of memory and closeness from that now distant place, beautifully reflects the Latin American experience depicted in the novel. The narration is a particularly detailed observation of daily musings that emerge from the experience of living a foreign life. It explores the constant need to overthink the future and the factors that influence those very thoughts.
Margarita García Robayo shares with us her creative process and how her life has been intertwined with her writing.
We are given such raw and intimate access to the narrator's thought processes as she constantly introspects on her own actions. It is also interesting how the narrator reflects on her own memories, like making a spiderweb of her multiple relationships with her mother, country, and herself. What encouraged or inspired you to write in this style? Why did you decide to construct the novel around the narrator’s selfhood?
“My aim was to chart the thoughts of someone who has a tendency of introspection and constant elucubration, that is, overthinking things, going over and over an obsession that then escapes to other places and is hard to recapture. In the novel there is a scene where the narrator describes her own head as a nest of worms that grow uncontrollably, that coil up and take up more and more space inside her head; she fears that one day they’ll emerge through her scalp like a Medusa. That’s how I imagine the narrator’s head.”
Migrating is a solitary process with constant deconstruction and subsequent reinvention of our personal rituals and beliefs. How do you think your career and life have enabled you to understand this process?
“Immigration is one of the themes I keep coming back to. I suppose it is because, being a migrant myself, having left my country so many years ago, I am pretty familiar with what it means. I tend to write about things that bother me, that make me uneasy, that disturb me or even violate me. Being an immigrant is one of those conditions that generate feelings that are not transferable, that you cannot share with anyone. Being an immigrant is a lonely and, in a sense, a painful state. No experience of immigration is like any other. No matter how long one has been away from one’s country, no matter how pleasant life in one’s adopted country may be, exile is a wound that does not heal.”
Some Colombian novels are characterised by the way the weather, and mainly the heat, are described through the language. How do you view the importance of this characteristic in your novel? And why do you think is it namely addressed by different writers?
“Colombia is a very big country and one that is home to pretty much every type of climate. Myself, I’m from the Caribbean coast, from a city where there is a terrible, humid heat all year round. It’s impossible to live in Cartagena without being constantly affected by the heat. Likewise, there’s no way we can write scenes set there without the climate coming into play. Sometimes I think I became a writer so I’d have somewhere to offload how fed up I was about spending so much of my life suffering from the heat.”
Was the concept of the novel inspired by a delivery experience of your own?
“I grew up in a small city, and middle-class kids tend to leave for university in the capital. It’s very common that their mothers will send these kids from the regions ‘care packages’ filled with local products from back home. They’re things they don’t ask for and don’t really need, but it’s a way of telling the one who’s left that they are fondly missed. I think it’s probably going out of fashion these days, but I always found it a gesture laden with symbolism, as well as of equivocations. A delivery (like from a relative) can generate such ambivalent emotions, between the tenderness of a napkin embroidered with your name or a grated coconut sweet – and the desire to chuck it all in the bin.”
The Delivery by Margarita García Robayo depicts a life that is far from what we used to call home. With her unique style, the author captures the intricacies of thoughts that emerge when observing and wandering. To purchase the book, visit Charco Press’s website here.