Scott Esposito and Edmundo Paz Soldán in BOMB
SE: One of the valuable things about Norte is its outsider’s perspective on the United States—I think this is one of the unique things foreign literature can give us. How did you develop your knowledge of the border regions and your opinions on the US in general?
EPS: I’ve lived in the US since 1988, in Alabama, California, Texas, and upstate New York. It took me a while to dare to set my novels in the US because I saw it as an overwhelming enterprise; this is such a huge country, and I didn’t know where to start, how to tackle it. I started to think of the US as more of a narrative space after being here for a decade and realizing that a new identity was emerging. I’m very interested in political issues and especially in how these issues affect Latin America and Latinos in the US; however, I try to differentiate between what I think and what my characters think, since I don’t want to write novels with a clear, didactic message. I went to El Paso and Ciudad Juárez only when I had a very advanced draft of the novel, more than anything to capture some details that I could later use in descriptions, to lend more verisimilitude to some scenes. An essential fact for me was that when I arrived in Alabama in 1988—I came on a soccer scholarship, to play for the University of Alabama in Hunstville, and got a BA in Political Science—I was living in the dorms and CNN was always on. At the time, CNN was obsessed with a serial killer who was being hunted by the FBI and whose nickname was the Railroad Killer. So you can see that the beginning of my American life and experience is weirdly connected to this novel (even though it took me more than two decades to realize that there could be a novel there at all).
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