Telenovela writers are key for the genre’s existence and survival. For those of us who study telenovelas, it’s essential to learn about these women and men. We read their interviews and their writings as they ponder about the colossal job that writing a telenovela is.
An excellent reference is the recent book by Valentina Álvarez, Lágrimas a Pedido (Editorial Alfa), where we find the voices of some of the best known authors as they detail the process of writing a telenovela.
For me, it’s particularly interesting to find the rare moments in which we can witness an exchange between telenovela writers. One of these occasions is when Venezuelan writer Leonardo Padrón interviewed Cuban author Delia Fiallo (Lucecita, Esmeralda, Cristal, Kassandra, Leonela, Rafaela….to name only a few of her telenovelas) in the first season of his radio show Los Imposibles (Caracas, Onda) on November, 2005.
Like all his interviews in Los Imposibles, Leonardo Padrón begins the conversation by reading a “postcard” that he has written especially for the person to be interviewed. Following is the postcard that Padrón wrote for Delia Fiallo:
(If you understand Spanish and prefer to listen to it, click here)
Fifteen years ago, a massive combination of destiny and randomness placed me in Miami so I could meet the mother of the Latin American telenovela. Her name? Is it necessary? We’re talking about Delia Fiallo. I was about to write my first telenovela and it would be an adaptation of one of her stories. César Miguel Rondón and the legendary Juan Lamata decided that I should meet in persona the queen of telenovelas. I thought it was a ritual moment in my life, a sort of initiation, that was taking me to the major sanctuary of the Latin American telenovela. And there she was, in her house in Miami, petite, beautiful and categorical, willing to share with this unknown man the secrets of the most denigrated and powerful job in the history of television. Allow me to remind you that telenovelas are Venezuela’s most important non-traditional export, and the main responsible for this miracle is Delia Fiallo. When we talk about the illustrious origins of the telenovela we all mention Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas and even Balzac. But, no one has written more scenes of impossible love in the 20th Century than Delia Fiallo. For better or worse, depending on who you talk to, she established the aesthetic codes of the most popular massive television genre. Today, fifteen years later, I’m again in Miami sitting in front of a woman who’s impossible to erase from the mind of the Latin American imaginary. Welcome, Delia Fiallo.
The interview details Delia Fiallo’s journey writing telenovelas, her discomfort with the way Mexcian television has “remade” her stories (“they make me sick”), and her considerations about the many telenovelas she wrote: He major succcesses (Esmeralda, Cristal and Kassandra), her best written telenovela (Leonela), her biggest failure (María del Mar), and the one that had to wait for “The End” of its competition to bring out its best plots (Emilia, which waited for the end of Estefanía).
The conversation between these two authors, who happen to have opposite writing styles, was cordial, interesting and very informative. It would be impossible to detail it here. However, there’s a question-answer that is particularly fascinating to me:
Is Delia Fiallo willing to say that the telenovela has reached the point in which it can be called a literary genre?
Yes, of course. There are very good and very bad telenovelas. In the same way as there is good and bad theatre, and good and bad literature. What you can’t do is judge the telenovela with a theatrical play, because you can’t compare different genres. She must be judged within her own genre.
This interview can be read in its entirety in the book Los Imposibles: Conversaciones al Borde de un Micrófono (Padrón, 2006). It’s a jewel because it helps us understand both writers, breaks with speculations about them, and fosters our comprehension regarding the difficult job of writing telenovelas.