Interview with Nestor Amarilla: nominated for Nobel Prize for Literature

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Anthony Carranza recently had an opportunity to interview Nobel prize nominee, Nestor Amarilla.

The following is a little bio that I found on

About the author:
Nestor Amarilla was born on the 24th of July 1980 to a farming family in the country town of Coronel Oviedo, Paraguay. Since he was a little boy he has been very interested in the arts.

Nestor was exchanging languages with a Peace Corps volunteer at 13, when he began to write a newsletter, Kokue Poty (The Farm’s Flower), directed at the farmers of the area. At 17 he won the AFS exchange program full scholarship, to attend Fridley High School in Minnesota. At 20 he received the Wallin Foundation grant to attend Metropolitan State University. Five years later he graduated from the same institution as Outstanding Student of the College of Arts and Sciences with degrees in Dramatic Arts and Communications.

Nestor writes in English, Spanish and Guarani. Some of his plays are: Americana Rose, Ripped Dress, La Pruebera Makes a Good Day, (Produced in 2004 and 2005 by Metropolitan State University, Minneapolis, MN), Vestido Roto (Produced in 2005 at Teatro de las Americas in Asuncion), Born in Iraq, (Produced in 2006 at Mixed Blood Theater, Minneapolis, MN), Saved by a Poem (First produced in 2006 at Minneapolis Intermedia Art by Teatro del Pueblo, and its Spanish version Fecha Feliz produced in 2009 at Teatro Latino in Asuncion.)

The Interview:

1. When the story of your nomination was published in February 19th, 2010 what was your immediate reaction? Can you narrate what was happening at the time the story was leaked?

I was in shock; I don’t know what I felt. My mind drew a blank for a while. It is hard to grasp the idea for such a nomination. It was happiness mixed with surprise and I suppose wrapped also in fear. I thought it was such a heavy burden to carry, and I am too young for it. But today I feel differently.

2. It was said by the paper “El Mirador Paraguayo” that Fulvia Sánchez de Coronel and Joel Filártiga catapulted your nomination. How do you know both individuals? Where did you meet? What connects the book “Fecha Feliz” to Joel? Any specific examples?

Mrs. Sanchez was my literature professor in High School, in my sophomore year. She knows me from my beginnings, as a person and as a writer. In Paraguay, she is probably the person the most familiar with my works. I am such of an admirer of Dr Filartiga. He is a very well known activist here in Asuncion. He was one of the thousands victim of the Stroessner regime, and his only son was brutally murdered by the government police. He is a real fighter, with his daughter Dolly, they have changed the Human Rights law even in America. I met him at the opening of Fecha Feliz in Asuncion. Instantly we became friends.

3. Did you ever anticipate that your literature work would be ever be nominated for such an important award?

Not at all… I don’t think that one writes thinking of a nomination. I was too busy concentrated in the story that there were no rooms for such a thought.

4. What are some of the authors that have inspired you in your lifetime? Any specific books or modern novelist?

August Wilson’s works have always inspired me. I love most of his plays and how cleverly he documented the African American experience in the US. I also admire a lot the Paraguayan writer Mario Halley Mora. He was such a talented playwright whose works are so true to our people.

5. Were there any obstacles, hurdles or challenges when you were drafting the novel? Any turn of events?

It was pretty simple, I suppose because I was writing about a story I knew so well. And also because I already had the entire plot figured it out in my head, so putting on papers was not too difficult anymore.

6. What have been some transformational experiences since the announcement, and have you changed in light of this once in a lifetime event?

More people are interested in my work now. I have offers to publish or to produce my plays in different places. And definitely it has encouraged me a lot to keep writing. I am more than ever committed and compromised to give a voice to my people.

7. What are some influential figures if any inspired you to write and direct plays? Can you mention any specific plays, novels that ignited this passion?

The need of telling amazing untold stories of so many people makes me want to write with so much passion. I feel like there are so many wonderful stories on this side of the globe that the rest of the world needs to hear about it.

8. Why was the play written first in English and not Spanish?

Most of my plays, so far, have been originally written in English, just because they were written for American audience at the beginning. I went to school in the states and that is where I started writing plays. That is the truth.

9. Coming from a humble upbringing how has Minnesota played a role in your life and in your professional development? Can you explain or provide insight as to why the U.S was the place to come and study and were there other choices at that point in time?

I think that America played a very important role in my personal and professional development. I moved to Minnesota when I was only 17 and lived there for almost 10 years. I am sure I have grasped many things from the American culture. The opportunities that I was given in the states were crucial. Being able to get a college education, for example, through scholarships was wonderful.
When I was just a boy, growing up on the farm, I used to hear incredible stories about America; on how everyone has a car and people walk on the street and pick up their dog’s feces. Those stories, I guess, have awakened my curiosity about America and its people.

10. What do you think is the most important information you want to share with your readers and followers of your novel? What do you think is important about the novel and the Paraguayan experience?

I would like them to read and know that this is a true story and that many people were brutally murdered in Paraguay and in many other countries for just thinking differently. The other aspect for people to understand is that a dictatorship is not just part of history. Many countries in the world, today, still deny basic rights to its people. Freedom is not necessarily free for everyone in around the world.

11. Augusto Roa Bastos as a noted Paraguayan novelist and short story writer, and one of the most important Latin American writers of the 20th century. Do you consider the comparison to be fair? What is your reaction to the claims made in the media that he was never nominated for the Nobel Prize and you are? Is he an influential figure for you in what you do or someone you hold esteem in your country’s culture and history?

Augusto Roa Bastos is the most important writer in Paraguay. His literary works are remarkable, for which it would be totally unfair for him to be compared to me. The other big difference is that he is mainly a novelist, not a playwright. He has documented so many important moments of our history and has uprooted our culture at the same time given us great pride for representing us in Paraguay. I feel so proud to have his daughter illustrating this book. Roa Bastos will live forever.

12. What is the image and take away you want everyone to learn from this experience?

Everyone has incalculable potential. That everything is possible and that it is worth to dream. Education is the key for a better tomorrow.

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