[CULTURE AND ENTERTAINMENT ★★]
ARGENTINE CLEANER’S DOUBLE LIFE AS PRIZE-WINNING NOVELIST
(P1) When the Buenos Aires subway closes at night, Enrique Ferrari goes underground to mop the platforms — and to polish his next THRILLER.
(P2) The Argentine station cleaner, 44, is also a prize-winning crime novelist.
(P3) He has been published in several countries, but it is the nighttime cleaning job which puts food on the table for his three children.
(P4) “Live off writing? The money isn’t good enough,” he says.
(P5) A representative for cleaning and other unskilled staff in the subway workers’ UNION, he is seen as a CURIOSITY: a writer who has never been to university.
(P6) The author and his GRITTY prose have captured the media’s attention. He has appeared on television and radio, and is called the “subway writer” in news reports.
(P7) “I understand that people find it surprising, but I am not a strange creature. There are lots of laborers who write, paint, or play music,” says Ferrari.
(P8) “It is wrong to think that we workers have no culture,” adds the novelist, whose many TATTOOS include one of KARL MARX on his left arm.
(P9) Ferrari, known as Kike, has published five novels and two collections of short stories.
(P10) His murder mystery “Que de lejos parecen moscas” (“They Look Like Flies From A Distance”) won a prize at the PRESTIGIOUS Gijon CRIME FICTION FESTIVAL in Spain in 2012. That got him published in France, Mexico and Italy.
(P11) Previously he won a prize in Cuba for “Lo Que No Fue” (“What Was Not”), a political thriller set in Barcelona during the SPANISH CIVIL WAR.
(P12) In the subway, he cleans up garbage in an ATMOSPHERE that reflects the dark settings of his crime fiction.
(P13) In the brief breaks during his cleaning shift, he switches on an old laptop and polishes his MANUSCRIPTS.
(P14) “I write whenever I can, wherever I can,” he says. “Although during the day I’m most interested in finding time to sleep.”
(P15) His other work space is a little table piled with books in a corner of his apartment.
(P16) He has worked as a baker, driver, and street VENDOR.
(P17) He spent three years living illegally in the United States before being DEPORTED, but came back home with his first novel UNDER HIS BELT: “Operation Bukowski”, published in Buenos Aires in 2004.
(P18) A fan of soccer and rock ‘n’ roll music, Kike grew up in a MODEST home.
(P19) When he was eight, his father gave him a book titled “Sandokan”, from a series of classic pirate adventure novels by the early 20th-century Italian writer Emilio Salgari.
(P20) “Instead of dreaming of being a pirate, I dreamed of writing without stopping, like Salgari.”
(P21) But he doesn’t want to END UP the same way as his literary hero.
(P22) “Salgari committed SUICIDE. He was tired of the publishers sucking his blood,” he says.
(P23) “He wrote them a letter saying: ‘I bid you farewell as I break my pen.’ I’m going to tattoo that on myself,” he says with a laugh.
(P24) Despite the prizes he has won, Kike is ON THE MARGINS OF the literary scene, SHUNNED by major publishers.
(P25) “I do not think of literature as a career,” he says.
(P26) “But at quarter to eleven, 15 minutes before I go to mop the floors, I dream of winning an international prize or of Steven Spielberg wanting to film one of my books.”
If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.
- Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
- Do you enjoy reading thrillers and crime fiction?
- Why do many writers make very little money?
- Do you know any writers, artists, or musicians who work at other jobs to make enough money to live?
- Is there respect for workers’ culture in your country, or not really?
EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:
What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.
- Crime fiction
- Under his belt
- End up
- On the margins of