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Writings, influences and Gibraltar’s culture and literary scene

Pic by Alex Menez

By Richard Cartwright
More than a dozen Gibraltar themed books, novels, journals, memoirs, historical studies, short stories and probably more stuff he’s written about Gibraltar still unfinished stuck on a jam-packed shelf somewhere! He’s also given talks at universities whilst on his travels around the world and had reviews and essays published in major journals.

The theme running through most of his work is dedicated to promoting Gibraltar and Gibraltarian culture without the need to sweep anything under the carpet! His talk at the JMH focused on the need for more Gibraltarian writers to take up the mantle and really get stuck in and write about the Rock and about who Gibraltarians are as a people. Mark laid emphasis on the need to encourage our youth to take up writing and get those young writers to come forth and get involved and write books about Gibraltar.

Whilst acknowledging we’ve had many books on local recipes etc he feels there is a need to push the message out there to the rest of the world and let them know what Gibraltar is all about, what makes us tick and who we really are. It’s always good when someone asks where you’re from and you’re able to explain about your country and its people. Mark agreed it was not always easy to paint the right picture about how quirky the place might come across to many, yes it takes time to explain us properly, unlike if you say you`re from Paris there’s no more to explain: you’re French and that’s it! Coming from Gibraltar takes a lengthier explanation to be fully understood about the place and its inhabitants.

Mark Sanchez has a bucketful of degrees (and more) to his name! Here’s an individual who worked as a labourer, in bars and other, no less important, but menial jobs. He lived in the UK for much of his young life and was bullied in the English schools he attended but did discover reading during that time.

Despite his burying his head in reading during those years his higher education was complicated as he dropped out of university not once, but twice...What’s more, he got rid of all his books and didn’t read a book for six or seven years considering himself a failure. He eventually got round to seeing sense, pulled up his socks and went off to Leeds University (third time lucky) for seven years no less...he recalls it was tough going but he got there in the end obtaining degrees, BAs and PhD’s - or a mix of the aforementioned – hence his overflowing bucket, full of qualifications! Mark took the opportunity at the talk to promote his novel `Marlboro Man,’ in it, he highlights the years of tobacco smuggling on the Rock which features individuals who took part in the activity offering refreshing recollections candidly to the author. The book reveals much about the goings on around the Rock during those years without any brooms hanging around to `sweep anything under that carpet!’

Mark Sanchez is passionate about his writing and is more than eager to encourage school children and local writers to put the word out there about our existence – because we do exist. He praises occasions like the Gibraltar Literature Week hoping for more local events that promote Gibraltarian writers and their work. Mark gives Malta as an example of how their Maltese Book Council promotes their writing abroad, suggesting that’s the kind of thing that should be aimed for here!

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