Guernica has an interview with Sergio Chejfec about his new book My Two Worlds. This is his first book to be translated in English and I’ve heard some good thing about it. I’m intrigued also because Scott at Conversational Reading has said it is “is a fairly difficult book to find one’s way into”. He has some interesting things to say about literature and I’m curious if they work in practice.
Guernica: Something else I noted in the text, something that interested me, was the narrator’s experience with nonhuman things, and things that are untraceable. You mention well-trodden paths that have been walked countless times by other human beings. And at one point you say “the ground of the world speaks different, near-incomprehensible languages.” Could you talk about instances like this, instances your narrator experiences that don’t belong to the realm of human experience?
Sergio Chejfec: Yes, for me, this speaks to the stuff of life, the unnatural stuff of life, which is quite distinct from the life of nature. One must distance oneself from the idea of strict realism. It seems to me that real nature doesn’t exist anymore, this idea of “the wild.” This is why I love parks, and why I chose to use them in my work—they are beyond nature. I see nature as a resource. We can speak of politics, ethics, and in this way, speak about the world. But at the same time, it’s always in a way that is totally nebulous and abstracted, this way of thinking about reality. And that’s why I write the way I do—it’s an almost immortal way to show dependence on the biological, the political, the moral parts of us. I say immortal because we now have to find new formats, new eloquences, and resolve within ourselves this “constructed” life, a life that is incomplete, imperfect. I find that, for me, it is this concept of borrowed or built life, life on loan, that gets me writing. It’s similar to speaking about literature. I like it, and then I don’t like it. It has such an inherent vein of pretention, because you’re not speaking about real things. There’s a literary pretentiousness made of speaking and spending so much time on unreal persons. And it seems, now, impossible to create an unpretentious, totally organic character.