Some time ago I got in a painter and decorator. He arrived at my home, measured up, wrote some secret formulas on a wall, splattered another one with a variety of brush strokes in different colours, said “see you tomorrow” and didn’t show up again for over a week. In no time at all he destroyed a sofa, left wires dangling from the ceiling, blew the fuses, blocked the sink and, after a nightmarish month never to be forgotten, with the doors and windows still unpainted, he merrily waved goodbye. ‘I can’t handle gloss,’ he said. ‘I’m allergic, see?’ I collapsed on what was left of the sofa, managed to contain myself, took a deep breath and simply asked him, ‘So why are you a painter and decorator?’
You can understand why, since then, I’ve been very wary about answering certain questions. But as today, there’s no anonymous voice asking me questions, and I’m the one interrogating myself, I’ve decided (after a moment’s despondency) to delegate this thankless task to my characters, who inhabit fictitious houses and breathe rarefied atmospheres. I’m sure they’ll have something to say. One of these days I’ll summon up the courage to ask them.
Translated from the Spanish by Kathryn Phillips-Miles and Simon Deefholts