Antonio García Ángel, Recursos Humanos

Recursos Humanos

Launch in Madrid

March 2007 - Antonio García Ángel, 2004-2005 Literature Protégé

Colombian writer Antonio García Ángel launched the European edition of his second novel in Madrid in March 2007. Written under the guidance of Mario Vargas Llosa during their 2004-2005 mentoring year, Recursos Humanos is an unusual comedy that captures the reader from its first lines.

It is with great pride that Rolex supported Antonio García Ángel in this exciting literary project.

Recursos Humanos

The Book

March 2007 - Antonio García Ángel, 2004-2005 Literature Protégé

In Recursos Humanos, García Ángel tells the story of Osorio, the head of the human resources department at a Kafkaesque corporation. Though suffocated by the monotony of his labyrinthine office and by the boredom of his marriage, Osorio finds relief in his own powers of sharp, satirical observation and in the play of his exuberant and ribald imagination.

Adding to these mental leaps, García Ángel periodically interrupts Osorio’s story with chapters of witty, digressive commentary. The ingredients the author lays his hands on demonstrate his capacity to tell transcendent stories enlivened by the humour and irony generated by descriptive scenes in an office, at home and in other everyday places.

An Excerpt from Recursos Humanos
Chapter 1 (excerpts)

Ricardo Osorio´s thoughts were fixed on the clock’s tick-tock. The fears, dreams and guilt that sometimes came walking or running, frequently synchronised with the clock’s mechanism, with the tempo of a military parade. For a while now, Osorio had been thinking obsessively about Angela´s tits, tick. Angela´s tits-touch, tock. Angela´s tits-taste, tick. Angela’s nipples, tock. Angela´s hard nipples, tick. How Angela´s nipples feel under my fingers, tock. When I lick them, tick. Angela´s round tits, tock, will make me strong enough to ask her, tick. Angela´s beautiful tits, tock. I’m going to think about them when I ask her. tick. Or maybe it’s better if I ask Angela when she is naked, tock. That way I can look at her tits and comfort myself, tick. Because this time I will ask her for sure, tock. I won’t get cold feet, tick. I’ll tell her at once, and that’s it, tock. The rest is up to her, tick. What is important for me is to not keep quiet like I did the last time, tock. Or feel bad about it, tick. That’s why I´m going to look at her titocks. And she will decide if yes, tick, or no. Fucktock! This fucktick clock is really loudtock.

When Osorio looked at it, the clock showed 10:24 a.m. and, in time with a rhythmical strike of the clock’s hands, Osorio kept trying to evoke Angela´s tits, but the thought evaporated with the overwhelming beat of the clock which was a wedding anniversary present. Fortunately, anyone’s presence was sometimes enough to make the clock’s tick-tock disappear. It was Elsy, Osorio´s secretary. Elsy stuck her head in Osorio´s office by the half-open door, and asked him bossily if she could come in.

When Osorio nodded, Elsy's weak female shape approached his desk. Elsy Cuartas was tall and hunchbacked. She had a hooked nose, old-fashioned glasses and long, clumsy arms. Her flabby tits and her assless back were wrapped in a dress which looked like it belonged to someone else. She was wearing cheap jewellery and such a perfume so sweet it could provoke looks of hatred. She was an old maid and though she appeared to have been in her late fifties for a couple of decades, she looked her age now.

“What’s up, Elsy?”

“Hello, sir.”

“Did you do something to your hair?”

“No, sir, it’s the same.”

“Come on, don’t lie to me,” Osorio continued maliciously. “You did something to it; you look more elegant.”

Elsy’s hair had curled into baroque waves since the early 1980s: She couldn’t have done anything to her hair. But Osorio performed his part well and made Elsy blush. It was his little game: try to embarrass his secretary even with this kind of provocative compliments, which were beyond any logic.

“Ok, sir, stop messing around and let’s get started. You have a lot of work to do today.” Elsy recovered with the usual strictness. She put her glasses on and started reading out the matters to be dealt with. “Disciplinary problem in the Candy plant…”

“What happened?”

“Some graffiti made out of chocolate bars was found this morning on the walls, on the ceilings, and even in the management offices.

“And what do they say?”

“Some kind of love statements addressed to one of the canteen staff girls.”

“Martha Yaneth!” Osorio speculated.

His secretary looked puzzled.

“She’s the hottest one!” Osorio explained.

Elsy made an indecipherable gesture, and went through her notebook.

¨What else?”

“There are 687 simultaneous holiday requests”.

“That must be because of the god-damned photocopy machines robbery. I must talk to Lozada so he will stop fucking around,” Osorio thought out loud.

“Fonseca was here again.”

Manuel Fonseca, from the company’s Legal Department wanted a raise. The Board of Directors had approved it, but Osorio wanted to make him suffer for one more week. In the meantime, he avoided him and sent him discouraging e-mails. That was one of Osorio´s little games, like making Elsy blush.

“Don´t pass me any of his calls,” Osorio ordered.

“But sir, he was furious when he came. He said that you were hiding from him. That you had to face up to the situation.”

“I’m not here. I left and I haven’t come back, and you don´t know when I’m returning. Leave him a message. You know how it is, Elsy.”

The secretary nodded and continued.

“The estimates for the company’s anniversary party…”

The date was getting dangerously close, and Osorio, who had a strong tendency to procrastinate, had not booked a place for it yet. Nor had he hired the musicians, the waiters or the clowns for the employees´ children. The same thing happened a few years ago. And, in the end, when he realised that it was impossible for him to get it all done, he went to talk to the Board. Osorio convinced them that because of the failure in the mid-year goals, the staff didn’t deserve a celebration. But they wouldn’t forgive him if he couldn’t organise the company’s fortieth anniversary party. That certainty turned into a cold feeling in his stomach, and dryness in his mouth.

“Shit, Elsy! Ask for estimates from the place we had last year’s party, and I will sign the authorisation”.

“Sir, remember that last year there was massive food poisoning with Lechona Tolimense. A lot of people ended up in the hospital.”

“Tell them what happened and that if this happens again, we will file a lawsuit.”
Osorio was a man capable of dealing with several issues at the same time. That’s why he had taken a quick look at some pending-to-sign letters and documents while talking with Elsy. Maybe he wanted to look at something more attractive than his secretary. When Osorio signed the last paper, he gave it back to her.

“What else?”

“It’s your sister´s birthday.”

“Send her flowers,” Osorio said while putting on his jacket and opening the door. He was a first-line guy, so didn’t like to stay behind his desk for a long time. He preferred to attend to his business personally and visit every single corner of the company. Besides, there was this stupid clock.

“Uh, one more thing…” Elsy stopped him. “Before you arrived this morning, a girl came looking for you. She didn’t want to wait or leave her name. She said it was ‘personal’.”

Angela, Osorio’s mistress and his wife’s best friend, came to his mind. Osorio wished she was the one who visited him that morning, but Angela was too old to be a “girl”.

“Tell me something, Elsy,” said Osorio as he was leaving his office.

“Yes, sir.”

“How did she look like? Was she hot?” he asked, and closed the door behind him, without listening his secretary’s weak complaint.

He didn’t really have a daily route planned. It depended on the matters to be dealt with or Elsy’s daily reports and other contingencies.

Recursos Humanos

Words from Mario Vargas Llosa

March 2007 - Antonio García Ángel, 2004-2005 Literature Protégé

Both Mario Vargas Llosa and Antonio García Ángel participated in the Madrid press briefing held on 12 March 2007 to launch Recursos Humanos in Spain.

Mario Vargas Llosa’s speech
12 March 2007

On the mentor experience
Perhaps I should start by telling you something about my experience. It is totally unique, one that I had never experienced before, despite having been a teacher of literature and creative writing. This experience was very different because it was far more personal. Over the course of a year, I witnessed the gestation of a novel from the moment the first seed was planted. After spending so many years writing novels about what I do, I don’t have the same perspective working with Antonio from the first idea he came up with for this story. From that moment on, it was a fascinating experience, very different from my experience writing other novels. The way in which writers work is not identical; it varies greatly. It depends on their personalities, idiosyncrasies, psychology, obsessions and the goals the writers set themselves. In the case of Antonio, the way in which he goes about constructing a story is markedly different from the way I go about writing a story. And for this reason, the experience was truly fascinating.

When we started working together, he had an idea that I thought would be very entertaining for this novel for which he still did not have a title. His idea was the following: in a modern company in Bogotá, or another big city, during one of those restructuring processes that are so frequent in corporations these days, one employee is left out of the organisational chart. He doesn’t disappear, he’s still there as if forgotten, as an exile from the operating system, except in two respects. He still has a desk and an office, and he still has a salary. But he has nothing to do and he remains living in a stratosphere within the company.

The idea could hardly be more entertaining or more appealing. I was very intrigued as to how the story was going to unfold, what was going to happen to this individual who was going to experience an increasingly solitary and almost clandestine existence within the world of a large, modern corporation.

On watching the book evolve
He started working with this idea, and for me the most interesting thing was seeing how, without imposing itself, almost despite itself, this initial idea gradually transformed itself into something different. One of the story’s minor characters, a character who was going to be secondary, suddenly took on greater importance as the story progressed. The character started imposing himself and gradually displaced the one that was to be the protagonist. As he was writing the episodes and chapters, this process became more pronounced, until at a given point, the initial project actually became a very different project. Without entirely disappearing, the idea of the employee who was left off the radar screen, as it were, without ceasing to exist, evolved into another character who became the protagonist and took over the reins of the story.

Finally, for me, it was a fascinating process in which, from the outset, I had absolutely no input except to make reader’s comments. In fact, my work with Antonio was that of a privileged reader. I read not the final copy, but drafts. And I commented on the drafts in a way that could be useful to him, if he considered that my comments contributed to what he was discovering and wanted to do with his novel. In many cases, he did well to cast aside my suggestions. Except in one respect where I think I did help him. I convinced him that to write means work, inspiration. Without a doubt, if someone does not have any imagination, does not have a certain imaginative flight, then it would be difficult to write a novel. But if all this is not backed by discipline, an effort, perseverance, a certain stubbornness, then it often fails. I believe this advice, fortunately, convinced Antonio that discipline is an essential aspect of the creative process.

On the result
I am very pleased with the result. The novel is magnificent. It is a humorous novel. You know that in our language humour is not a major part of our literature. I confess that I, too, suffer from the prejudice of having thought that humour is incompatible with serious literature. Now it no longer is. And a good example of it’s no longer being so is Recursos Humanos. There is a lot of humour in this novel. On almost every page, it is impossible not to smile, or at times to laugh out loud. At the same time, it is an extremely serious novel. On many of its pages, it is tremendously sad because it relates an aspect of human nature that is broken and pitiful. But even in these moments there is a cheerfulness that Antonio makes bubble up with natural authenticity.

The novel’s structure evolved, more intuitively than rationally, as Antonio worked. I was fascinated by this process, as it is not something that happens to me when I write. I tend more to plan the organisation of stories in a more conscious way. Not so Antonio. As things occurred to him, he found a place to insert them in the novel’s overall structure.

In addition to being entertaining and interesting, the novel is very well constructed. It’s a novel with a creative and original construction, giving the impression of having been very carefully planned. But that is not how it happened, as I can testify, since I followed the creation of its structure step by step.

On the initiative
The experience was exceedingly interesting, a truly magnificent programme. I would have liked to experience it myself when I was a young writer just starting out, to have had the possibility of working with a known author whom I had read, an experienced author. It’s also a valid approach for a painter, a musician, a ballerina or a film-maker. This programme is magnificent and the experience was very instructive. I am sure that others, who, like me, have had the experience of being a mentor have learned as much as their protégés.

Recursos Humanos

Words from Antonio García Angel

March 2007 - Antonio García Ángel, 2004-2005 Literature Protégé

Both Mario Vargas Llosa and Antonio García Ángel participated in the Madrid press briefing held on 12 March 2007 to launch Recursos Humanos in Spain.

Antonio García Ángel’s Speech
12 March 2007

On working with Mario Vargas Llosa
The first thing is that Mario, without knowing it, has been my teacher through my reading of his work. Ever since the age of fourteen14, when his novel Who Killed Palomino Molero? fell into my hands, I have always felt that there was something in his work that was speaking to me.

I was really delighted when I won this scholarship, especially when I discovered that Mario was the mentor chosen for this initiative. The bonus was Mario’s thinking about literature and his willingness to teach. He had already written books like Letters to a Young Novelist that had something of this in them. In this respect, I was very motivated.

On discovering artistic freedom
When I filled out the questionnaire they sent, they asked what outcome I wanted to achieve at the end of this mentorship. I replied that I wanted to find a personal voice and polish a style in the full meaning of the term. I think that if I have achieved this, it is largely thanks to Mario, who has always defended the freedom of literature and continues to be a libertarian. I remember once we were walking in Paris and I had started to get very nervous because, in this novel, there was a character who was rebelling, just thirty 30 pages or so from the end, and, grammatically, this was a little difficult. So, one day I said to him, “What if I do this or don’t do it...?” He answered that, no, in literature you can do what you want. You can do whatever pleases you, as long as it is well done. I realized that what he was saying was right and I felt relieved. I realized that I had complete freedom to do whatever I wanted, which is just what I did, learning from all the guidance and experience that he was kind enough to place at the disposal of this story through his sound advice.

I must thank him for the time he took to do things that were beyond the call of duty, such as inviting me for meals and attending exhibitions and going to the theatre with him. He gave me two things that were missing for me, that at some stage I had lost and with which, thanks to Mario, I have reconnected. One of these is the theatre, where one hears the spoken word with such passion. He took me to see a play in London. It was like an excursion, like you do at school. The first things that I started to write were play adaptations of short stories by Juan Rulfo. This was my literary awakening.

The other thing he did for me came when it became impossible for me to write if I wasn’t in front of the computer and wasn’t open to writing. Mario said to me, “Well, I go out to a café and start to write by hand.” So I said to myself, I can do that. Now I feel the freedom with which words come to me without having to connect to anything. This too I owe to Mario, among the many other things I learned.

I am aware that the best way to pay tribute to the memory of this mentorship is to shine very brightly, but with my own light.

Read more about Antonio García Ángel