Mogador: The Quest

By Lynn Grasberg, Official ZEE JLF@Boulder Blogger

“You follow the energy and that creates structure. You’re following the body and the heart, not the head.”


I was in the front row, tablet on lap, taking notes at a program called, “Mogador: The Quest” featuring the book’s author, Alberto Ruy-Sanchez, in conversation with Anosh Irani.

Ruy-Sanchez described the writing process he had just taught in a course at Naropa University. “You follow the energy and that creates structure. You’re following the body and the heart, not the head.” He explained that this was different than the usual writing method taught in schools, i.e., mentally create a pre-ordained structure and make your material fit into it. Have a beginning, middle and end.

He said, “There is no climax like in normal fiction. As Mila Caldera said, ‘I want my novels to be meditations.’

“I try to learn from the geometry of Mexican crafts . . . woven so there is no beginning and no end. A skirt can be worn with different parts in front, so the beginning is anywhere. For that to happen, you need to be in a Baroque culture.

“In Protestant (culture), things are or are not. In Baroque (culture), things are and are not at the same time.”

Speaking about his book, Mogador: the Quest, he said, “I wanted to begin a book where it’s not a beginning. You can begin by any chapter and go around. I was trying to apply what the weavers do. The complexity has a double thread, not a plot . . . So, it’s about the poetic charge of each part.”

“I don’t like novels with suspense. I don’t care who is the murderer. What I like is the way every person saw the thing. And that is always different and unexpected.”

Ruy-Sanchez talked about a trip he took to Morocco as a young man. “Going to Morocco was a way of recovering a part of me I didn’t know I had lost.” Because he had little money, he rode in 4th class, in the bowels of the ship, and on the way, there was a storm. “A ship in a storm is more like a car crash. The ship crashes with the waves, every half a minute, every minute, every 10 seconds. There were no seatbelts. Nothing stays inside the body, not even the pills they give you against the storm sickness. You cannot sleep. You vanish.”

When the storm ended, most passengers scrambled to get off the ship. The exception was a group gathered around a storyteller from Marrakesh who was telling a story about the previous night’s storm. “At that moment, the storyteller was talking about a mother who tied one of her children to herself. She was so fat, so the boy was going around her like a moon. That story made me remember I wanted to be a storyteller.”

Ruy-Sanchez read a passage from his novel, written in Spanish, after which Anosh Irani read the same passage in English translation. Although I, like most of the audience, could not understand the Spanish version, the cadence was beautiful and the text lived and breathed. I was in bliss, in the flow of the energy of the words and their reader.

In this vein, Ruy-Sanchez said, “When you are a writer, you live excited by everything that is happening around you. I write to make art, to be loved, to dance, to be quiet, to get naked, to get disguised, to travel, to lose my eyes, and not to travel . . . While we are alive we are unpredictable.”

“The book (Mogador: the Quest) is a rainbow of ways of telling desires. So it’s a documentary but you don’t have to tell it in a sociological way . . . All writing is a kind of poetry. Prose is poetry . . . Poetry is not a way of making beauty. It is a way of exploring humanity that no other speech can reach – no economics, no psychology . . .”

Anosh Irani concluded the program and told the audience that we could meet the author afterwards at the festival bookstore downstairs. I made my way there but Ruy-Sanchez did not show up. I was momentarily disappointed but then realized that I could find him in his books.

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