Some people ask me, “Since you have had such a strong experience when you were very young, taking care of your father and then your mother, why didn’t you just write a memoir?”
I find this to be a very, if you’d allow me, a very American question. This impact of the real story, this certain sensationalist approach to writing. I’m not saying that all American readers want this, but it’s like a journalistic infection of fiction, which is beauty on one hand—but on the other hand, this has restricted the perspective of the complexity of fiction. What I mean is that if I had written a memoir with my experiences, I would have been much more constrained. I would have been much more concerned about my family. I don’t think I would have dared to say all the things I said about my own family through Elena.
Thanks to the filter of the fiction, thanks to the fact that there was a factor of difference—because it was Elena and not me—I felt less scared to go really deep within my own real conflicts and contradictions about taking care of someone. So I call her Doctor Jekyll and Lady Hyde of the caregivers, because she tells all the parts: giving yourself—entregarse—devoting yourself to someone, doing so many things out of love, taking genuine care of someone, having a very intimate and deep experience with someone else’s body and needs.
Everyone talks about that part of the caregiver—the politically correct part. You’re giving your life for someone else—the sacrifice, the obligation. That’s great. That’s what religion taught us. I understand that. But what about the other part that only Elena—not me—dared to say? You feel resentful. You can hate everyone, and you can hate yourself. You have fantasies of running away, or throwing yourself through a window. You fantasize about having another life. You’re looking for the other to die, and on the other hand, you’re looking for the other one never to die, even though he’s suffering, because you don’t want to be left alone. So one part of you can’t wait for this to just stop, and on the other hand, in a second way of selfishness, you prefer the other one not to die even if they’re suffering, because as long as the other person is there, you won’t be thinking about your own suffering. In a way, it’s safer to be taking care of that person, because after the death, there will be the grief, their regrets, the questions—the dark side of the caregiver giving. I don’t see this on TV or on the radio. It’s like: love as much as you can and say goodbye with love. It’s not that easy.