One cannot set out to love forever; it’s something that must be built day by day, Alberto Ruy Sánchez tells Ajachi Chakrabarti.
Alberto Ruy-Sánchez Lacy is the author of six novels set in the Moroccan city of Mogador (now called Essaouira) that seek to investigate life’s mysteries and understand what it means to love and desire. He is also a poet and essayist, chief editor and publisher of Artes de Mexico, Latin America’s leading arts magazine, and has been a visiting professor and delivered lectures all around the world.
What does it mean to be in love?
For me, it’s like an initiation to another dimension of reality. Reality is made [up] of many ways of being in the world, and being in love is a different one. And the wonderful thing is that even if I describe it like that, like a general feeling, it’s absolutely and radically different for each one. It’s one of the things that even if you can say every human can do it, [it] is never the same for everybody. It’s where individuality—and more, the plurality of persons that each one of us is—is suddenly put into action.
What power does love wield?
Love has the power of transforming people.
Does all love stem from desire?
Not always, you know. Desire and love are separate, but when they are together, it is one.
It’s where individuality—and more, the plurality of persons that each one of us is—is suddenly put into action.
What is the difference between masculine and feminine desire?
Well, you know, it’s not only in the individuals. It’s like I mentioned, because in men [there] can be feminine dimensions, and in women, masculine dimensions. So again, we need to see case by case. The only thing that a man like me can learn asking a woman about their desire is that we never finish learning. That we do continue to listen again and again.
The Secret Gardens of Mogador, the halaiqui who narrates the story says, is the story of a man who became “a voice. A voice that seeks to be heard with special regard by the one he loves, that desires to be sown in that intimacy like a seed in the earth. A voice that wishes to be fertile, sensitive to the earth that receives it, if it is received.” Does love require the boundaries between two individuals to break down?
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. You become another, breaking the boundaries that you are used to.
In The Names of the Air, when a young fisherman tells Fatma that he would like to see her shoes placed under his bed every night, she finds this “more offensive than the time the other fisherman had tried to touch her in the street. Rather than pawing her, this man wished to anchor her beside him, to wrap her up forever.” You make marriage sound like a prison sentence. I ask you this as you hold your wife’s hand—is it?
(Laughs) Well, you know, one of the passions that we face in love and desire is possessiveness. That’s something that not only men have, women have it also strongly, but men exert it with some violence. There is the challenge of avoiding violence; taming violence is always a challenge for men, because our society is made to allow violence.
The only thing that a man like me can learn asking a woman about their desire is that we never finish learning.
What does it take to convert the initial spark of desire into a love that lasts a lifetime?
That is something that is not, or should not be, an aim. You know, I’ve lived with the same woman for four decades. And we began by saying, “Day by day.” We never [planned] to make something for a long-lasting life. Our beginning was, let’s see what we can do every day. And, you know, sometimes we are in such complicity that we have the same feeling that we are really building something together. It’s a challenge not of posterity; it’s a challenge of everyday life. You can be awful, and the other can be awful, and there can be intolerance—it is very easy to break a relationship every day.
There’s this dichotomy that is created about love. One view of it is that it is looking into your beloved’s eyes. Another says that it is sitting side by side with your beloved, looking at something together. Which one do you think is more apt?
That’s beautiful, isn’t it, that sometimes, when you plan to do something together, you are more together than when you are looking at each other? Because, to read the world together is something that is amazing.
Is it possible to love multiple people at the same time?
I think that it is possible, but it is not a very practical thing. (Laughs) Especially if you want to live with one. If you don’t want to live with one, of course, you do whatever you want, but I think that one of the things that you should do when you’re very young is to love very much. Because, in that way, when you decide to live with one, you know that it’s an everyday choice, and that you can spoil things very easily.
I think that one of the things that you should do when you’re very young is to love very much. Because, in that way, when you decide to live with one, you know that it’s an everyday choice, and that you can spoil things very easily.
You’ve written that “[knowing] Mogador, living in it, became an erotic experience.”
Yes, absolutely. Erotic in the much wider sense, erotic in the sense of allowing all the senses to let you get in touch with the world. It’s a windy city; it’s a smelling city; it’s a flavoured city. It’s very erotic in that sense, not only in the sense of sex.
Is it possible to fall out of love?
Yes, that happens all the time. People suddenly don’t like the people next to them.
Is it like flipping a switch, that love just stops, or is it something that happens over time?
You know, I think that that is a really interesting subject that I try to explore in the last book, The Fire’s Hand. You talk a lot about falling in love, and literature is all about falling in love. But then, when people get apart, you get immediately into the battle instead of trying to understand how it happens. And many times it happens suddenly, or the expression of it chooses to be a sudden reaction to something that is inside the relationship already.