Selling books is beautiful, being translated, cool, seeing your novel adapted to the cinema, fascinating, even winning the Nobel Prize for Literature has its grace. But all of those are minor achievements if you compare them to write a novel and bounce off Holy Week in Seville. That does give satisfaction.

In the nineties, Juan Bonilla lived his talent with the advantage that there were people crazy enough to pay for it. Those were the times of the literary bubble, of a penchant for youth, so being young and having a novel unwritten gave enough money to write it. Bonilla had stood out in the story with his volume ‘The one that turns off the light’ (Pre-Texts), and, as he knew how to make stories and was handsome and did not reach 30, someone decided to give him a huge amount of money to prove that he did not know how to make novels. Bonilla carried out the order without complications. What we do not know how to do is easy to do wrong.

“The novel turned out bad”, Bonilla acknowledges in the final note of his novel ‘Nobody against nobody’ (Seix Barral). This note begins with the phrase: “I wrote the novel for money”. Come on, I am not here saying anything that the author himself does not say, with whom in addition – and without this setting a precedent – I even get along well.

Juan Bonilla. (EFE)

‘Nobody knows anyone’, being a failed novel, appeared in 1996 in the Espasa publishing house to gather a good part of the obsessions and moral strains of the time. That Mateo Gil, the co-writer of ‘Thesis’, of Amenábar, made a movie with her in 1999, also starring the ubiquitous Eduardo NoriegaIt only added to this epochal quality of history. In it we had role-playing games (in 1994, some kids had killed a street sweeper at six in the morning in Madrid, supposedly as part of their role-playing adventure); we had the almost epidemic stubbornness by stories where the real was invaded, extended, multiplied or unfolded (‘Open your eyes’, ‘Strange days’, ‘Existez’ …); we had a new generation of creators with increasingly Anglo-Saxon narratives and attractive to the public. We had sevillanía sawing our sensitivity since 1992 thanks to Cantores de Híspalis or ‘La Macarena’ (1993). And we had, mind you, ‘Death among the flowers’ (1990), by the Cohen brothers, where the phrase that Bonilla chose as the title of his book appeared: “Nobody knows nobody.”

‘Nobody against nobody’. (Seix Barral)

Mateo Gil bought the rights to the book and made the movie of the same name. A few months later, at Holy Week in 2000, a handful of young people organized to burst the early hours with acts, consequences and scenes traced from the film and the novel. “Uncontrolled races of the public in all parts of the city where there were brotherhoods, brotherhoods destroyed (…) avalanches (…) They spoke of shots, of motorcycles crossing the processions, of people with knives who threatened the public …”, we read in the exhaustive review of that night that Javier Comas does on ‘ABC Sevilla’, and which he titled very forcefully: “The night that changed Holy Week in Seville forever.” Read it.

25 years later

Twenty-five years later, Bonilla got bored, struggled, looked in the mirror, became postmodern, and went to León. There he found an old copy of ‘Nobody Knows Anyone’ and, far from being nostalgic, he turned to literature. Relive the past (‘Residuos’, from Tom McCarthy), rewrite great works (Agustin Fernandez Mallo he revamped ‘The Maker’, by Borges; Trapiello rewrote nothing less than the ‘Quixote‘), Recycle (Kenneth Goldsmith has made books just copying the newspaper of the day), in short, laughing at you, reader, is what Bonilla wanted. Well, I’m going to write my book from a quarter of a century ago again; What’s more, I’m going to write it from memory.

Bonilla manages to make a new novel with the old novel and an amendment to himself of the funniest

Bonilla sat down — let’s imagine — and began to tell the same story as 25 years ago, but —and this is crucial— without knowing if someone was going to publish it. After all, it was a macarrada what he was doing. Thus, writing without prior money —as happened with ‘Nobody knows anyone’—, that is, with what Vila-Matas called “the risk of failure” that should animate any novel of real importance, Bonilla managed to make a new novel with the old novel and a most amusing amendment to himself. Surely the Bonilla of the nineties complained about the bad reviews, did not understand them, and the Bonilla of 2021 has ended up ratifying them through the radical correction of the book.

I myself, who read the work at the time, I am also a recycled reader, extended, rewritten by the novel that I have to read again and that, through some corners, phrases and tricks brings me to read another reading, mine from then, by the novice reader from 1996.

Unamuno

‘Nobody against nobody’ is a metanovela. This means that the narrator shows constant signs of knowing that his job is to seduce us, and that seducing us does not feel like much. Often the “nudges to the reader” that irritate so much Javier Marias, by the way. The narrator is a ‘thesis student’ immersed in books who finds in role-playing games the vault key to – strictly speaking – almost everything. Unamuno’s literature, with its belief that a character is more alive than an author, was a role-playing game; religion, he concludes, is the true role-playing game of civilization. Meanwhile, in his work as a crucigramist for the local newspaper, is forced by phone to include the word “harlequins” in his next crossword puzzle. This simple concession under threat precipitates the ruin of Holy Week, burned orange trees, riots, children put for their protection in garbage containers and shoes lost in the streets.

Religion is the true role-playing game of civilization

It is a light novel, which is read with remarkable speed for its digressive, festive style, full of witticisms and jokes. There is a lot of sex. Like the protagonist of ‘The magnitude of the tragedy’, by Quim Monzó, Simón Cárdenas lives in permanent erection while trying to know if everything is his fault, of the ‘harlequins’.

Bonilla dedicates a long passage (pages 246 to 250) to contextualize role-playing games, going back to 16th century theater groups and passing through board games, ‘wargames’ and the first role-playing game itself,’ Dragons and dungeons ‘. looks like you know today what he talks about. Because the novel, the film and the events that occurred in the 90s before and after these works had the consequence of stigmatizing role players, to the point that parents forbade their children to play. (I also tell them that in the faculty those who played this were the smartest of all; it is only a subjective data, excuse me). Thus, many role players of the 1990s (such as the writer Jimina Sabadú) they still hate Juan Bonilla for contributing to this somewhat psychopathic image of fans of this game, and consider that Bonilla really didn’t know what she was talking about and it ruined their fun.

Now, with ‘Nobody against nobody’, the community of role players (which, according to what I have been told, and unlike the community of break dancers, exists) has an opportunity to reconcile with the author, or to hate him definitively; Holy Week has the opportunity to go out a little in El Confidencial, exactly in this article, and you have the opportunity to recover this Dantesque episode, terrible, but at the end very expressive of our culture, which was how a book put God on the ropes overnight.

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