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There’s nothing quite like the price of tobacco in Australia to spark conversation with an international guest to the Melbourne Writers’ Festival. Nicolás Casariego (Madrid, 1970) author of the recently translated Antón Mallick Wants To Be Happy (Hispabooks, 2014) was blown away not only by the duty-free restrictions on cigarettes but also by the tawdry, brandless packaging imposed on Australian retailers. It’s the way of the future, he laments, pulling an indistinguishable cigarette from the packet and lighting it with a well-travelled Bic lighter drawn from the breast-pocket of a stylish sportscoat.
That perhaps sums up the peculiar mix of pragmatism and romanticism that shone through in our conversation at a café on Spring Street. The author expressed pleasure at having worked in collaboration with translator Thomas Bunstead on Antón Mallick, but also acknowledged that a foray into the English-language market is something every Spanish writer working today looks forward to. Casariego says that when writing the novel, which appeared originally in Spanish in 2010, he employed a style and rhythm that he thought could be easily conveyed in translation.