A single man – New Spain

A single man – New Spain

Every book published by John Bilbao (Ribadesella, 1972) is confirmation that we are dealing with a great storyteller. And ensuring this does not mean, in my opinion, simplifying what the author of “Basilisk” is capable of doing, in the sense of his interlocution with the narrative genre in its double aspect: that of the novel and that of the story. It is convenient to place Bilbao in a preferential place among the current narrators of this country, for what it means to innovate and question the tradition itself without abandoning it and exploring the possibilities of genre literature, as is the case of western novels.

His new title: “Araña”, published as usual by the Impedimenta label, signifies a giant step in his career. Increasingly emphatic and more certain of the possibilities that his search offers, the Asturian author picks up the baton where he had left it in “Basilisk”: the option of prolonging the life and vicissitudes of a character like John Dunbar was already something easy to intuit after his first appearance. The lone gunman who does not let go of his past and who improvises his future as he goes along has, among other virtues, the opportunity to provide Bilbao with a hinge or passageway between different temporal and spatial planes. Somehow, “Spider” develops largely through replicas and parallels distant in time, but significant in their relationship with the development of the characters: behind or next to John Dunbar is Jon’s most contemporary character, writer and creator of Dunbar, or the adolescent Jon himself in the process of forging himself as a writer and quiet observer of adult anomalies.

In a novel where, something very typical of Bilbao, the landscape and nature are so important (if you review his work it is easy to see how the landscape is an element that usually intervenes in enigmas in its own way) the power of the word and of the narration they acquire the status of an ecosystem with incidence in the adventures of the novel: at the beginning of “Spider”, Dunbar meets a weight writer who earns his living inventing novels about the gunman: last name Bramble and willing to Let it be as long as the bargain doesn’t end.

Literature within literature: a nod to “Don Quixote” and at the same time a tribute to the Marcial Lafuente Estefania, Silver Kane… At that intersection, for many, impossible, the writing of Jon Bilbao grows and becomes unique: in that crack that grows between Conrad y Verne. Dunbar could be a Strogoff with the existential angst of a Marlow. Although he is not a classic hero or a cowboy from the Far West. The one I think of most when analyzing Dunbar’s motives and behaviors is a comic book character: the Corto Maltese of the great Hugo Pratt. Something that does not seem so far-fetched to me considering the fans of comics in Bilbao. Lonely, elusive, short on explanations: like writers who do not recognize any other path than solitude. “You are a man free from moral sanctions and ambivalence,” Dunbar is told at one point in the novel.

“Spider” is a novel woven from numerous stories. Almost everyone has something to tell as a way to get ahead and justify their existence.

Spider, the character that gives the book its title, could be a representation of fiction

In a subtle way, without stridency, Jon Bilbao does not avoid going through issues that might seem current to the reader: the relationship between parents and children; couple relationships; religious deceit… effluvia of the text that without occupying, from my point of view, a central space add reading possibilities.

And then there is, let’s say it like this, the character / presence that gives the novel its title. An element both disturbing and stimulating. The stories are linked and unfold until the end of the book. A storyteller does not run out of breath. While he narrates he questions us. And as if I had to answer a question that, in reality, nobody has asked me, I say that the Spider could well be a representation of fiction, just like that, with its contradictory nature of whip and blessing.


John Bilbao

Impedimenta, 416 pages, 22 euros


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