Seven Minutes with Mick Jagger
– Jordi Soler, Chronicler of Mexican Rock Culture
Born in the state of Veracruz in 1963 to Catalan parents, for years Jordi Soler has featured as one of Mexico’s brightest media stars. He was the head of the legendary radio station Rock 101, chronicler of Mexico’s rock scene, journalist and author of many literary works. As an urban author, he brings cultural philosophy and elements of pop culture into his texts, which are known for their rapid tempo and humorous tone. Well in the tradition of many other Mexican intellectuals, for over a year he has represented his country as cultural attaché in Ireland.
Jordi Soler is one of the contemporary authors who stand in contrast to those of the sixties; their work can no longer be defined by a genre label such as La onda or boom literature. His treatment of the medium of language is many-facetted and diverse. Soler oversteps the boundaries of all literary genres – in the issues he writes about as well as in his language, adapted to each different type of subject matter in a way that makes every book a linguistic “gesamtkunstwerk”.
Ever since the eighties, Soler has been active in radio as well. As the director of the legendary radio station Rock 101, he exerted a critical influence on the history of Mexican radio at that time. Later he worked as a presenter on Radioactivo 98,5, which was occupied by the Zapatista organization EZLN in the nineties. In his late-night show for Radioactivo he interspersed songs by Psychodelic Furs with texts by Jack Kerouac, and after a piece by U 2 he read an excerpt from Javier Mariá’s latest book – taking his listeners on literary and musical expeditions. The main character of his first novel “Bocafloja” (1994), a radio presenter called Johnny Bocafloja, comes across as Soler’s alter ego.
In the print media field he attracted attention with his interviews with rock stars like the Rolling Stones as well as his sensitively-observed articles on contemporary social phenomena, examined and described with irony. Worthy of special mention are his articles and columns for the daily La Jornada, which has published such Mexican writers as Carlos Fuentes, Carlos Monsiváis and Germán Dehasa.
Soler included several of these columns from La Jornada in his collection of short stories “La cantante descalza y otros casos oscuros del rock” (1998), a musical chronicle which ironically and analytically describes his interviews and meetings with musicians such as Mick Jagger, Patti Smith and Robert Fripp, Brian Eno’s former guitarist. Soler is especially fascinated by stars as cult figures. Whether he is tracking down Jimi Hendrix’ visit to Mexico in 1969, making comparisons between Frank Sinatra and William the Conqueror – especially with regard to his attraction for women – or writing about a Japanese plastic surgeon who specializes in giving women a belly-button like Madonna’s – it is the grotesque aspects of idolatry, the “casos oscures del rock” which are his focus, described scathingly and cynically, but always with a genuine affection for the protagonists and an impressive knowledge of the musical background.
In his novels he picks out current, socially relevant issues as well as interpersonal phenomena as central themes – usually in terms of their specific meaning for the individual. Music and film are Soler’s preferred fields in journalism, and they are never absent from his literary work. Migration, the resulting isolation, and drug consumption are the fragments which make up the collage “Nueva Aquitania” (1999), about a young Mexican who attempts to make it in Lisbon. A simple plot which – and here Soler exhibits his skill as the stage-manager of his story and characters – the non-classical narrative technique rises to the level of an intelligent, comic masterpiece, inspired by the poetry of Fernando Pessoa.
In his most recent novel, “La mujer que tenía los pies feos” (2001) Soler delves into the phenomenon of infatuation. The male protagonist is a film producer, the classic stereotype of the womanizer who uses the casting couch to get his hands on every woman who catches his eye. But he meets his match with Varsovia, “the woman with the ugly feet”. The novel rhetorically savours obsessions, human frailties, and the eternal question of why chemistry works between some people and not others.
More than any other writer of his generation, Soler has managed to develop his own, highly visual style in all genres of literature: prose, essay and poetry, as shown by three collections of poems. The language of his poems, in particular, is strongly reminiscent of the aesthetics and the issues of contemporary Mexican cinema – such as “Amores Perros”, by Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarittu. Others treat political events in the style of a lyrical essay, such as “Monologue on Michigan Lake as a Duck Burns” from the collection “La novia del soldado japonés” (2001).
More than a thousand Zapatistas reach the city
somewhere there must be a whirlwind,
the face mask shows the eyes
the eyes show the rainforest
the rainforest, their home
their home, their wives, their daughters
soldiers raping, poisoning wells,
hurling a torch onto the house,
who defend the fatherland of these men
who fight to keep it.
The face mask shows the eyes,
behind the eyes grows the rainforest,
somewhere there must be a whirlwind.
More than a thousand Zapatistas cross
the reform road
into the spiritual heart of America
there is nothing more important.
Like many of his literary contemporaries, in his works Soler no longer seeks identity, much less a definition of “Mexicanness”, as does Octavio Paz, “but rather a multitude of different and in part contradictory identities and visions“. (Cf.: F. Schmidt-Welle, in: Matices 29, Spring 2001)
(Translation: Isabel Cole)
Jordi Soler was born in 1963 in La Portuguesa, a coffee plantation in the rainforest of the Mexican state of Veracruz, 800 meters above sea level. He regards his cultural identity as half Mexican, half Catalan. Though trained as an industrial designer, he never worked in the profession.
Soler worked as a radio presenter in the eighties and nineties, later acting as director of the radio legend of the eighties, the station Rock 101, and for a highly successful late-night show on the station Radioactivo 98,5.
Beginning in the early nineties, Soler wrote for various dailies and magazines such as El Excelsior, La Reforma and Uno más uno. He became famous for his weekly column in the left-wing daily La Jornada, where he focused on current tendencies in the music business, literature, youth culture and current political events such as the activities of the Zapatista organization EZLN.
He is the author of several novels and poetry and short story collections.
Since 2001, Jordi Soler has been the culture attaché at the Mexican Embassy in Dublin.
This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.
The Mexico-festival in Berlin
(15 September 02 - 01 December 02)