The latest from the prestigious journalist and writer Precious Nativel It is almost a story for adults, right now that we are lacking in simple but enough stories to help us grasp the world and explore its low passions. The elephant sanctuary (Planet) It earned him the Azorín Prize 2021 and it became his hut, his cave, his palace, his own room during confinement: it served him to travel to the Africa of his loves, to reconvert it into a symbol, to honor its fascinating and terrible nature, to vindicate the joy of the poor and to carry out an autopsy on the greed of the rich – it is an autopsy because often It ends up exploding, leading to tragedy or death, or, even worse, dehumanization, which is another way of dying.

What a host to the vanity of the West. Go deep humanism. What an elegant way to separate the wheat from the chaff, to punish insolence, to recognize the beauty of the impossible, of the wild, of what is not ours and can never be fully ours, deep down – like a tremendous and wise elephant, like a dance in full happiness, like a sunset. What a way to return the word snatched from nature. What a style and what dignity when he portrays the cruel members of high society – their conversations, their hollowness, their sense of impunity.

In this work, Preciado draws a group of hyperbolic, vile and multimillionaire characters who go to Africa to make their delights -and their traps-, and then the country, as if in a biblical revenge, begins to respond to them. Corrupt them, immeasurable fortunes, obscene parties, ivory trafficking -and influence-, clandestine manufacture of drugs, monarchs hunting beautiful elephants -this sounds like you, doesn’t it? -. There is everything here: also worrisome current issues that end up reflecting on the vices, desires and feelings of which Shakespeare already wrote. The presentist, the eternal. Do not miss it. Do not miss it.

What does Africa mean to Nativel Preciado, what does it symbolize?

It was my childhood dream. As a child I always read adventure books and when I was older, travel books, books about great explorers … and when I finally got to know the continent, or, rather, some countries, I was not the least disappointed, but on the contrary: it seemed a lot to me more than I had ever dreamed of and read. I really like nature, animals. I like how insignificant we feel when we set foot in Africa. I like the happiness of the people, of the Sub-Saharan Africans, who live with nothing and are singing and dancing all day.

What have you learned from human greed?

I already had some news about that (laughs). It is true that I have made some very fictional characters, perhaps the most fictional that I have written so far, because they are crazy, excessive, ambitious, insatiable characters … I do not know if perhaps they have come out too sketchy, but it was fun to tell what the characters are like. conversations, the way of seeing life, the fights between them, how far their insatiability reaches …

Have you seen it up close?

Well, professionally we have the privilege of sticking our noses everywhere. I have met these types of people in some circumstances and I liked to describe them and place them in a country where there is so much contrast between absolute luxury and absolute poverty. They and their excess and a place where they will look, hunt and fleece.

What differentiates a rich man from a rich woman?

When someone is prey to a vice there are few differences, it is difficult, even for feminists like us, to establish them. A general director of prisons told me that in prisons men tend to be much more violent than women, but when women are violent, the degree of violence is highest and reaches unthinkable extremes. When someone is caught up in evil, there are few differences between men and women.

Is there something for which the rich do not feel impunity? When do you feel vulnerable?

When they see their fortune, their money, in danger. There they receive the alarm and say: poof, we have to save ourselves, that without this we are nothing. If they see their empire in danger, they become weak. They feel defeated and they feel very little, because they know that their world is based on wealth. One of the protagonists, specifically, remembers how badly she went before she was rich, about the misery in which she lived, and she did not want to go back to that for the world. They are people who have not learned many lessons from life, of course: money and power are very polluting and there are some who overcome these challenges wonderfully. I always think of Mujica, who lived at home with very few things. They are very few. Most fall into the error, it is almost inevitable.

There is something that happens a lot too: people go to Africa to take photos with starving blacks and then cover their noses when they pass by the homeless person in their neighborhood. What about this hypocrisy? Why so much attraction towards exotic hunger, towards cool poverty?

It’s interesting and I wrote about that a long time ago, about the exoticism trap. When you go away, everything seems exotic, new, beautiful, different, but if you have it on your doorstep, you kick it because you can’t stand it. These people only like Africa because they do not suffer from it, because it is something sporadic, because they are going to leave quickly after the photo with the poor starving child and they are not going to have to take care of him. It is only aesthetic and they find it fun, but yes, at home they do not like it. The distant is more attractive and tolerable than the near or what we have to endure.

What do elephants symbolize here, how can they cope with the goings-on of humans?

It is the strongest and most sensitive animal: it is powerful, it can uproot tree trunks but it is also capable of catching a pin. Has many feelings. In the book I say at one point that elephants cry too, but they can succumb to the maddening ambition of the Western world. I’ve seen a lot of documentaries in this process and there are some that are creepy.

There are those who kill elephants to support their families and then go crazy because they think they are cursing them … the elephant is the spirit of Africa, as Kapuscinski says. Embody their spirit. It is so spectacular, so wonderful … that those who kill them have a very bad feeling, a very bad conscience, and end up dead or repentant. There are many elephant sanctuaries where it is sought to save species and rehabilitate them. They are highly protected places and tourists are prohibited from visiting them. I have hopes, maybe I will not see it, but that all this balances

Has the emeritus suffered the curse of the elephants?

I’m not going to talk about “when Peru got screwed up”, as Vargas Llosa said, but it is true that there are very key moments in which karma manifests itself. In that photo of the elephant, all of the above is reflected and you can almost see that from that moment on it will go wrong. You will pay for the things you have done wrong. It’s like “from here on, you can’t go on.” The beginning of decline.

What pleasure do these people find in killing an elephant?

I don’t know, because it seems horrible to me. I cannot put myself in the shoes of a hunter, not even a hunter as respectable as Miguel Delibes was. He explained the meaning of hunting to me, and hunting makes sense, probably, but I prefer others to do it. I would not be able to kill an animal even if it was good for the balance of nature, I would only do it if my children were hungry and I had to feed them. I hate rich people who hunt big game for fun.

In Spain, high-class parties have been held with hunts and prostitutes. What about that sordid and murky folklore of ours, always at the expense of others?

Yes, it is true, it is because they are bored. Vice is always in crescendo. Addictions, drugs, alcohol … with that you are never satisfied, you always want to try a little more, you always want to go a little further. Until the decline comes, as in the Roman Empire. For the rich to have orgies and hunt animals should be the end of the species. I tell you with my heart. They get bored, they need emotions that are different from those of others, or those of Sub-Saharan Africans, who are people who live and sing and dance with joy but have nothing. The rich obscene lose the meaning of life.

Once I was in Denmark, in a very pleasant place like this, very paradisiacal, and I had the misfortune to coincide with university parties who got into trucks to get drunk and went around the houses asking for wine. At that time, Denmark was the country with the most teenage suicides in the world, and that they had a free career and almost free housing. They took some horrible alcoholic commas and committed suicide … you have to think about being always alert. Rights must be defended every day, you have to wash yourself every day and you have to think about who you are, if you don’t lose your balance. The imbalance is a very fine, very subtle line that we always have. I specifically have to be always taking the reins to be aware of what I have and the way I want to live and it seems decent to live.

¿Republican or monarchical, Nativel?

It seems to me an outdated debate, with absolute sincerity. The Republic is a feeling of people who idealize what was a time and who consider that those times, idyllic for them, can return. What interests me is that those who govern us, from the head of state to the last secretary of state, are capable of solving the problems they have raised and for which we have assigned them.

That’s what we vote for. And the one we do not vote for has to be a good ambassador, who achieves a good image and little else. I have been a republican thinking about how idyllic the student residence was and how emblematic the characters of the republic were, and also because of my own family tradition, but at this point I think it is a debate with little sense.

In the book you also talk about multi-million dollar inheritances. Can we abolish castes as long as these inheritances continue to exist?

Large fortunes have to be heavily penalized, they have to pay a lot of taxes, in my view. But not small family inheritances, because as parents we kill ourselves to work to leave our children in a slightly better situation. I am very much in favor of raising taxes on large fortunes, much more than what the G7 or the OCD, Biden or whoever proposes. It is a waste of such caliber that it does not make sense that it exists.

Amancio Ortega (as the summum of a rich Spanish man, a reference for many of the triumph – and existence! – of the social elevator, of humility and generosity; and a reference, for many others, of morally cheating, exploitation and donations questionable).

Within the super rich there is a scale of values. There are scoundrels and there are those who live with absolute austerity. It is true that we must study the history of Amancio Ortega, how he has achieved that fortune, if he has exploited child slaves at some point in his life … what are his ethical parameters, etc. I have met his first wife and daughter Sandra and they are specifically people that I like, they are human characters. Another thing is how he has made his fortune and how many corpses he has left on the way. The truth is that in this country we understand that behind a great fortune there is some type of crime, and if not, disorder.

Pablo Iglesias (you can imagine why).

It is an example of how we can succumb to things, of the influence that power has on the human being. He has succumbed and retired in time, fortunately, I think so as not to continue succumbing to certain temptations.


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