Of Hungarian origin, author and photographer Alberto Vezendi grew up in Spain, has lived in five countries and has visited more than forty. He holds a master's degree in conference interpretation, speaks five languages, and has spent more than two decades working for international organizations as a conference interpreter. In 2018, after twenty years of being somebody else’s voice, he decided to be his own and embarked on a new journey as a writer and photographer.
IAN: Please tell us about your latest book.
Alberto Vezendi: Awake, Arise, or be Forever Fallen! is a memoir of my struggle with an eating disorder, anorexia, in my early twenties.
After twenty long years of keeping it secret, I’ve decided to share my personal experience as a young anorexic male in the hope that this will help readers avoid falling into a trap created by their own mind, and find their inner light without having to endure a long and painful rite of passage like the one I went through. That light within is called life, and it's the only light that can guide you to happiness – but it's a light that can only shine in the present, with no regrets about the past or anxiety about the future.
With this book, I seek to inspire readers to be themselves, take control of their lives, and live a purposeful existence, instead of living at the mercy of other people's wishes. However, none of that can ever be achieved until we learn to see our real self, and ultimately accept ourselves as we really are, and not as others expect us to be.
Finally, this book carries a message of hope for all: that a better life is possible, regardless of your situation, and that we already have everything we need to live it. It’s all inside our mind. I hope this book will help readers find their own way to live the life they desire and deserve.
IAN: Is Awake, Arise, or be Forever Fallen! published in print, e-book or both?
Alberto Vezendi: Both. I would recommend the paperback version because Awake, Arise, or be Forever Fallen! is full of illustrations by Alicia Varela, an exceptionally gifted artist.
IAN: Where can we go to buy Awake, Arise, or be Forever Fallen!?
IAN: What inspired you to write Awake, Arise, or be Forever Fallen!?
Alberto Vezendi: From its very inception, the deeper meaning of Awake, Arise, or be Forever Fallen! was to help people choose life over death in all circumstances — and to choose life not merely as the preservation of our biological existence, but to deliberately and positively choose to live fully every single second of our lives.
In less than one year, three people I knew well had put an end to their lives. And although each one of them had a different personality, lived in a different country, and had their own particular set of circumstances, they had nevertheless several things in common. They were all great people, intelligent, full of life, and none of them lacked any of the essentials for living a happy life. They had wonderful families, a good job, good health, and had all the freedom in the world to change their circumstances, instead of taking an irreversible step. And yet, that’s what they did.
Since people who seem to have everything in life choose to die, while other people who have nothing choose to survive against all odds and live, the purpose of life cannot reside in a person’s circumstances, possessions, or relations, but somewhere else. And that “somewhere else” can only be inside. The purpose of life, therefore, must be inherent in every human being.
Having had suicidal tendencies myself, I know that the choice is not always easy. But life is worth living; and having chosen life each time, I’ve never regretted my choice. On the contrary. Looking back, I would have missed so many wonderful days of sheer happiness, so many blissful hours, so many enriching experiences… in short, I would have missed all the beauty and magic of this magnificent thing that we call life.
IAN: What do you hope your readers come away with after reading Awake, Arise, or be Forever Fallen!?
Alberto Vezendi: We’re all here for a reason. Every single manifestation of life on earth has a deeper meaning which makes it worth living in spite of all adversity. But we have to find that meaning!
And that’s the very aim of Awake, Arise, or be Forever Fallen!: to help readers find their own purpose in life, which will, in turn, enable them to live a fuller, happier, and more meaningful existence.
Indeed, the reason which prompted me to write this book in the first place was a desire to share a lust for life that has always kept me going in spite of all hardship. But that lust did not come easy: I, too, had to find my purpose before I started to live fully.
For protracted periods of my life, I thought I was living in hell until I found happiness precisely at a time when all traces of happiness seemed to be absent from my existence. Just as heat can be drawn even from matter which is well below zero degrees, I found light in my inner darkness, a light that, although hidden under a bushel, had always been there to illuminate my life, but I had been too blind to notice it.
We are all living in heaven, but we fail to realize it because we look for happiness in the wrong places. We try desperately to find happiness without, but true happiness only exists within. The good news is that this happiness is inside each one of us, it is ours, and nobody in the world can take it away from us.
IAN: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Alberto Vezendi: Awake, Arise, or be Forever Fallen! is a memoir of my own experience with anorexia, suicide and survival. However, in the book I take that very personal experience and expand it into something much wider, something readers can relate to.
IAN: What books have most influenced your life most?
Alberto Vezendi: Too many! So many that they would not fit in this interview, however, if I was forced to choose only a few — as I believe I am — I would pick The New Testament (especially Matthew's); Giacomo Casanova's Memoirs; Sándor Márai's Napló (which means: Diary. I don't think it's been translated into English); George Orwell's Nineteen-eighty-four; Michael Ende's Momo; John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath; Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching; and many, many more.
IAN: Do you see writing as a career?
Alberto Vezendi: Yes.
IAN: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Alberto Vezendi: I probably would, but I don't want to... I could go on forever changing things in my books which would improve or ruin them. When it comes to writing a book, instead of seeking perfection in vain, I believe every writer has to come to a point when they say "That's it!". Then, as Ovid put it, books have their own destiny. I guess it's like giving birth to a child: once it's out there it's no longer yours. It comes from you — or through you, as Kahlil Gibran wrote — but it does not belong to you.
IAN: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Alberto Vezendi: Of all the wonderful flowers that adorn endless meadows, of all the stars that brighten the Universe, how could I choose only one? And yet, if I have to choose only one writer that I admire more than the rest, that's Sándor Márai. Márai is, and has always been, my main source of inspiration; not so much as to the subject matter of his books, but as a role model of a person who devoted his entire life to writing "because that was his mission", "because that was the measure of his worth". A person who stood firm by his principles at all times, in spite of never knowing real success, and in spite of his books being banned for 40 years in the only place where they could truly be understood — his own country.
IAN: What was the hardest part of writing Awake, Arise, or be Forever Fallen!?
Alberto Vezendi: The hardest part of writing Awake, Arise, or be Forever Fallen! was having to face again the darkest years of my life, reviving ghosts from a past that, although I believed dead and gone for good, were still alive in the deepest layer of my mind, out of my conscious reach. I had to pull them out and confront them one by one. That's when I came to realize that they would never go, that they are part of me, that I am one with them.
IAN: Did you learn anything from writing Awake, Arise, or be Forever Fallen! and what was it?
Alberto Vezendi: I realized that overcoming trauma is not a finite event that ends with the complete healing of the body and the mind — which for most of us will never happen —, but a never-ending process that we must endure. Healing is no longer the goal. It's like amputated limbs that still hurt, scars that still itch, and will never stop hurting and itching — and we should never shun our scars because they act as a permanent reminder of the hardship we endured, and the process itself makes us stronger day by day.
IAN: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Alberto Vezendi: Yes: write! Sounds obvious, I know, but how much time are you actually devoting to writing books? Not promoting, not editing, not posting on social media, not telling people about your books, not signing books... but writing. And I don't pretend to lecture anyone but myself, because I recently came to realize that after I published my second book I've been spending more time doing all those "other things" than writing. Now I'm going back to what I love: writing, and it feels great!
IAN: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Alberto Vezendi: Yes, just a few days ago I wrote the dedication of my last book. It goes like this:
"Dear reader, I am deeply indebted to you for the silent support and motivation you have given me while I was writing this book. During the long, lonesome hours that I spent turning my thoughts into words, you were always there, by my side, eagerly listening to me, and it is you I have been talking to all along. Only you could make this book happen. And you did."
IAN: Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?
Alberto Vezendi: I'm currently busy with two books. One is already finished, I'm going through the last readings to delete any superfluous text and then I'll send it to a professional editor. It's a self-help book in the style of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, i.e.: thoughts on how our mind interprets reality and how we can influence that interpretation to shape our fate. In essence, it's about learning to be at the helm of our life's ship, instead of living at the mercy of people and events, drifting purposelessly until we're washed upon the last shore, from where there's no way back.
The other book is a dystopic novel set in the (near) future. It deals with all my social and personal obsessions: dehumanization, tyranny, social control, communism, freedom at large (of thought, belief, speech...). It's about the need to teach people, especially children, to think freely, to analyze what they're told, to question authority, instead of swallowing like a sinkhole all the information they — we — are bombarded with relentlessly every day.