Gabriel García Ochoa was born in Mexico City. He teaches Comparative Literature, Translation, and Global Studies at Monash University, in Australia. He studied at Harvard University's Institute for World Literature, where his doctoral research focused on the works of Jorge Luis Borges.
The Hypermarket is an anthology of short stories about the magic of loss. Forgetfulness, death, change, the past, each of these experiences comes with a type of loss that is often hard to appreciate. We like to think losses are balanced with gains, that something is given to us when something else is taken away, but that is not always the case. And loss too, in its pure form, carries a magic of sorts. The characters in these stories have lost, are losing, or are about to lose something; one of them is the lost thing itself. Their stories take place in Australia, the United States, Kenya, a supermarket that has taken over the world, a tower in the sky, an unnamed country, and grey, liminal space between fiction and memory.
1. Could you explain your style and approach to telling this story?
Many years go I read an interview with Ursula K. Le Guin where she said that fantasy may not be factual, but that doesn’t make it any less real. The idea resonated with me, and it is something that I explore in these stories. What I like about magic, or fantasy, or the uncanny, or whatever you wish to call it, is that it can cut all ties to what must be, to formal discourse, conventions, expectations. In my opinion this is what true creativity is about, going beyond the status quo, not for the sake of going beyond the status quo, but because the status quo is no longer sufficient and there are so many possibilities that still need to be explored.
To whatever extent they are successful in doing this, at least that was the aim of the stories in this anthology. To spin these yarns in the way they demanded to be spun. The topics are actually quite basic, but I realise the way in which they are treated may be a bit unorthodox. I know saying this sounds like a cliché, but I find that stories have a tendency to grow organically. So I guess my style is about listening to the story, understanding and respecting how it needs to be told, and then pruning everything that ended up there by mistake.
2. What ideas drove you to write your story and what do you hope readers take away from your book?
To be perfectly honest, what drives me to write is always a combination of love and guilt. Love because I adore literature and writing itself; guilt because I never feel like I am writing enough, and that is usually what prods me toward my desk early in the morning. Love and guilt, both as feelings and conceptually, circle each other inside me all the time, like the paisley, black- and-white fish of the yin and yang.
I hope that readers look forward to my book at the end of a long day, and that it can keep them company and entertain them for a couple of hours before going to bed. Many writers have done that for me, and I am forever grateful to them and their stories. I think that’s my dream as a writer, being able to do the same for others. And hopefully, along the way, my readers will come across a new idea, an exciting way of looking at the world that they hadn’t considered before.
3. What character/section/story challenged you the most and why?
Michael, in “The Language of Flowers” was very difficult to write. There are characters whom I understand straight away. I can hear their voice, their syntax is very straightforward. But Michael was really difficult to pin down. I think that’s probably why I ended up going for a third person narrator in his section. I rewrote that story nineteen times, and only then it stopped feeling awkward.
4. What is your literary philosophy?
My philosophy in regard to literature is “anything goes”. As readers and writers we are only bound by our creativity, and our willingness to open ourselves to the creativity of others. I think literature is the right space to explore any and every topic. There are authors who don’t do this ethically, tastefully, morally, or with talent, but that is a different matter. I think literature provides us with a wonderful, privileged opportunity to voice whatever we need to voice, and learn from others who have had the courage to write the world as they see it.
5. What is your advice for young writers?
Two “Ps”: patience and perseverance. I don’t think I could write without them. Don’t allow yourself to think, not for one second, that there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel. There is. Just keep going for it. And if someone doesn’t like your writing or your pieces are rejected, listen carefully to the feedback you’ve been given, but keep going. It’s a learning curve. The Spanish novelist Javier Marías says that there are two type of writers: does who write with a compass, and those who write with a map. I think it’s important to figure out which one you are most of the time. It helps understand your writing process.