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Matilde Asensi was born in Alicante, Spain and studied journalism at the University of Barcelona. After beginning her career on local radio she began working for the Spanish national radio, responsible for reporting local news, while working simultaneously for a number of press agencies and magazines. She is also the author of international bestsellers Iacobus, The Amber Room, and more recently, The Lost Origin. She is one of the most successful authors of historical thriller of her generation. The Last Cato is her first book to be published in English.
Since you published The Last Cato, have you had any problems with the Church? Have you been excommunicated?
No, they haven’t called me on it yet, but the truth is I don’t think I have done anything other than thorough research. The Church is packed with hundreds of fascinating mysteries and the stories I tell are true…I wouldn’t dare make anything up. Everything I write about has been fact checked with books, press articles, etc…
Few women write adventure novels…Have you had to face any resistance for being a woman who has excelled in a traditionally masculine-dominated literary genre?
In our contemporary society women are still widely marginalized, but I have to say this is something I myself, have never had to deal with. Things are changing. More important than there being few women who write adventure novels, I find it more interesting that overall, there are few adventure novels being published in Spain, other than Don Quixote, which could be considered a bit of a classics “road movie” novel. Perez-Reverte opened the door, and those of us who have come after him, have had it much easier.
How did you think of using Dante’s The Divine Comedy as your characters’ Lonely Planet guide?
When you start reading a book, the experience never ends. One book leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to another…And all the books I was reading when conducting my research always pointed me in the direction of The Divine Comedy, a book I had always wanted to read, but had never had the courage to sink my teeth into. The truth is, Dante is a wonderful character for a novel, he was a member of secret medieval societies, he was a member of the Fidei de Amor, a group closely associated with the Knights Templar. The Fidei de Amor were, together with all the other poets of the dolce estil nuovo, a group of intellectuals that attempted to introduce rationalism into everything they touched, as well as renovate a society completely dominated by the Church. Much of their writing couldn’t be straightforward, or they would be persecuted, so they were forced to communicate in allegorical language that today would be considered obscure and confusing, but is in fact, now considered the highest manifestation of Medieval Culture.
(from an interview published in Que Leer magazine, December 2001)
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