Interview with Cristina Peri Rossi
Mercedes Rowinsky-Geurts: What were your main motives for writing Panic Signs?
Cristina Peri Rossi: I was impelled by the sociopolitical situation during that period in my country, Uruguay—the extremely serious economic crisis, the repression of unions, workers, and students. There was tremendous tension: a guerilla movement existed and a military coup was brewing; prisoners were being tortured; economic and political corruption were rampant. As intellectuals and artists, we felt a moral and civic duty to fight for freedom and for a better and more just society. My intuition was telling me that very difficult times were approaching—a cruel dictatorship and exile. That is why I titled the book Panic Signs. In all the clues around me, I read a future of panic.
Mercedes Rowinsky-Geurts: How do you think those signs relate to the ones that appear today at the world level?
Cristina Peri Rossi: Aside from economics, religious or ethnic fundamentalism has supplanted political fundamentalism, and both of them are dangerous. The disintegration of the Soviet Union has provoked a great crisis in Europe. Drugs, mafia, arms trafficking, and prostitution have taken over a large proportion of the economy, and nationalisms are sectarian and exclusive. The immigration of inhabitants from the poorest countries is a new phenomenon in Europe, which doesn’t have a policy of reception or welcoming for those who arrive, often from Europe’s ex-colonies.
Mercedes Rowinksy-Geurts: You explain in the prologue of the second edition of Panic Signs that you possess the capacity to detect clues about things that are going to happen. Do you think this is an ability that can be acquired or is it innate?
Cristina Peri Rossi: We all foresee, or read in the present, part of the future, but I’m not sure that we want to do it—illusions, fear, and desires are stronger than those signs.
Mercedes Rowinsky-Geurts: What impact has this ability had in your life?
Cristina Peri Rossi: Many times I would prefer to be wrong, when the omens are painful, but I’m also very happy when they are wonderful or good. The large majority of humans are good—they work hard, they don’t rape, they don’t kill, and sometimes, they even help or love others. If some fanatic terrorists were capable of destroying the twin towers in New York, it is also true that hundreds of volunteers spontaneously offered to help the victims. It is impossible to eradicate pain from our life, nor can we avoid the bad, but when pain and evil happen, sometimes solidarity and goodness appear.