World

The write side of the tracks

Award-winning Argentinian crime writer leads double life - he is also a subway station cleaner

When the Buenos Aires subway closes at night, Mr Enrique Ferrari mops the platforms - and polishes his next thriller.

The Argentinian station cleaner is also a prize-winning crime novelist.

Mr Ferrari, 44, has been published in several countries, but it is the night-time cleaning job that puts food on the table for his three children.

"Live off writing? The money isn't good enough," he told AFP.

A representative for cleaning and other unskilled staff in the subway workers' union, he is seen as a curiosity - a decorated writer who has never been to university.

The author and his gritty, succinct prose has attracted media attention and he has appeared on television, radio and in news reports, where he has been dubbed the "subway writer".

But he is fed up with the sobriquet.

"I understand that people find it surprising, but I am not a strange creature. There are lots of labourers who write, paint or play music," said Mr Ferrari, an easygoing man who also laughed about his disparate vocations.

"It is a peculiarity of capitalists and the bourgeoisie to think that we workers have no culture," said the novelist, whose many tattoos include one of Karl Marx on his left arm.

HIS WORK

Mr Ferrari, also known as Kike, has published five novels and two collections of short stories.

His murder mystery Que De Lejos Parecen Moscas (They Look Like Flies From A Distance in Spanish) won a prize at the prestigious Gijon crime writing festival in Spain in 2012. That got him published in France, Mexico and Italy.

Previously, he won a prize in Cuba for Lo Que No Fue (What Was Not in Spanish), a political thriller set during the Spanish civil war.

In the subway, he cleared up commuters' rubbish in an environment that reflects the dark settings of his crime fiction.

"I work in an abandoned city. In a universe which is always overpopulated, I come along after the party."

In the brief breaks during his cleaning shift, he switched on an old laptop and polished his manuscripts.

"I write whenever I can, wherever I can," he said.

"Although during the day, I'm most interested in finding time to sleep."

His other work space is a little table piled with books in a corner of his apartment in the Once district of Buenos Aires.

He has worked as a baker, driver and street vendor.

He spent three years living illegally in the United States before being deported, but came back home with his first novel under his belt: Operation Bukowski, published in 2004 in Buenos Aires.

Despite the prizes he has won, Kike is on the margins of the literary scene, shunned by major publishers.

"I do not think of literature as a career. But 15 minutes before I go to mop the floors, I dream of winning an international prize or of Steven Spielberg wanting to film one of my books," he said.

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