the power of the wolf’s howl

the power of the wolf’s howl
the power of the wolf’s howl

How individual and collective identity are constructed. This is the fundamental exploration of the novel Lo demás es silencio (Tusquets), by playwright, theatre researcher and producer Camila Villegas, who, after “turning the story around” for ten years, makes her debut in the long-form genre.

“I was interested in asking myself this question from another perspective, from the worldview of the Tarahumaras, in whose mountains I lived for two years a long time ago,” the narrator said in an interview.

The protagonist, Lobo Montejo, is a former priest who hung up his robes to start a family and live in a community.

Contrary to what we might think, he leaves his habits behind, but finds his faith, spirituality, the true face of the other. I present him not as a man who splits himself, but as someone who finds himself,” he explains.

This curious character has a peculiar characteristic: he howls, which is why they call him a wolf. “Howling comes from the depths of our guts. Montejo is a wolf and he howls because things hurt him and make him happy on an absolutely visceral level. He is a wolf because he always needs his pack. He is nobody without his children, his companions and neighbours,” he explains.

Set in Norogachi (Chihuahua), in the heart of the Sierra Tarahumara, The Rest is Silence exposes the impact of crime and inequality in the Rarámuri region, a maelstrom of violence that has reached all of Mexico.

I am recounting part of my experience. Montejo is confronted with a different culture when he arrives, with the way of being of the Rarámuri. And he sees his ideas about himself and the world challenged. To the point that his path and his destiny change. The same thing happened to me,” he confesses.

The author of plays that address contemporary social issues begins the novel with a great fire that burns down the church of Nuestra Señora del Pilar, while the town tries in vain to put it out.

“Fire interested me as a metaphor. There is something burning inside the characters, especially in Lobo Montejo. Fire has a double character: it is destructive, but it is also necessary for life. I took the image of fire to evoke the chiaroscuros of life. It has to do with strong characters, men and women of fire,” he adds.

The winner of the International Reading Festival Award from Columbia University (New York) says that she had to include crime in the plot. “I couldn’t tell the story without addressing the violence in the mountains, the presence of drug trafficking in the region and throughout the country. It was necessary, it is part of reality and directly affects how we shape ourselves. Our lives are colored by the violent environment.”

But he clarifies that he approaches violence through characters who resist, who refuse to accept it as the norm. “I find it less terrible this way. Also, I think that we can resist as a community. I am interested in showing the ‘successful’ aspect of that resistance. The mere fact of resisting is already a success, even if it fails.”

I want to tell the reader that there are other possibilities in the imagination and in fiction. The fact that a community organizes itself, unites to achieve a goal, even if they don’t succeed in the end, is in itself hopeful. It’s worth trying. And don’t downplay the process,” he says.

He stresses that the novel is based on finding hope. “It shows that violence is not a monster that devours us all. It is a story of fraternal love, of love between friends, between couples, towards children, of love for the land. After love, the rest is silence.”

Villegas concludes that the novel genre gave him freedom in several ways. “I found a language that I had not been able to find in the theatre, experimenting with metaphors, being able to speak more directly, touching all the senses. I was able to create more characters, which is not feasible in theatre. That step was very joyful.”

In fact, he has already announced that he is writing his second novel, which will address themes such as old age and friendship; he is also preparing a prison play.

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