The Quarterly Conversation for Winter 2013 is out now. It looks quite interesting. On first glance what catches my is an interviews with Jorge Volpi. Below are just a few that caught my eye.
The Latin American Hologram: An Interview with Jorge Volpi
Interview by Diego Azurdia and Carlos Fonseca
Certainly there is some provocation to this statement, a small boutade like the ones Bolaño loved so much, but there is also something true to it. Bolaño seems to me to be the last writer that really felt part of a Latin American tradition, the last writer that responded with a knowledge of those models. Not only did he have a battle with the Latin American Boom but with all of the Latin American tradition—in particular with Borges and Cortázar—but that extends back to the 19th century. His was a profoundly political literature that aspired to be Latin American in a way different from that of the Boom, but that was still Latin American. I believe that this tradition stops with Bolaño. After him, my generation and the subsequent generations, I don’t see any authors that really feel part of the Latin American tradition, or that might be responding to these models.
“The Thoughts of Other People”: James Wood and the Realism of “Mind”
By Daniel Green
Certainly there is room for disagreement about what is considered the “proper” purpose of literature. Some readers (and some critics) want “content” from the fiction or poetry they read, indeed want works of literature to “say something” about human experience depicted either through the behavior of individual characters or through their interactions with social and cultural forces. It is also true that such “saying” can be direct or indirect, as James Wood probably believes is the case in those works he praises for their psychological acuity. Such fiction in a sense unwittingly, through the formal and stylistic choices the author has made, reveals the operations of Mind. In remaining faithful to the perceptions and the cast of thought projected on the characters they have created, writers of fiction use the resources of fiction in a way that illuminates the nature of consciousness. In either case, however, these readers and critics are turning to fiction for what it is “about,” although not necessarily in the most reductive sense in which this means preoccupation with “the story.” Most of the novels James Wood approves most enthusiastically, in fact, are notably short on plot, which only gets in the way of providing depth in characterization.
The Obituary by Gail Scott
Review by Jan Steyn
In a world where most stories are produced under severe restrictions of time, space, and genre, and where their emphasis is on accessibility, digestibility, and instantaneous appeal, serious literature goes against the grain. Surely this is a fact known to Gail Scott, who before turning to literature was a newspaper reporter in Montreal, where much of her fiction, including The Obituary, is set. Far from the easy unity and confident voice of journalistic prose, The Obituary makes both the narrative and its narration into puzzles.
The Planets by Sergio Chejfec
Review by Brad Johnson
The books of the Argentine writer Sergio Chejfec defy easy classification, but we can say that he writes for walkers: those for whom each step signifies something both taken/found and lost/forgotten. He writes about wanderers: those for whom destinations are rarely known, where every recognized face and remembered story proves too heavy with significance, slipping the grip of its proper naming. This is especially true of his recently translated novel, The Planets. Originally published in Spanish in 1999, Chejfec’s meditation on friendship, loss, and memory defies easy summation. This is fitting, for these also inform the fluid bounds of reality lived and described by his characters. Here, dreams are recited alongside the real events they anticipate and/or create; characters from dreams slide into the parables of protagonists; and iconic females blur within the slippages between vowels (e.g., Lesa/Sela) and consonants (e.g., Marta/Mirta). The Planets, in short, is a strange novel. It is made stranger still by the absence of its principle character, known only by the narrated memories of others, the enigmatic, nearly nameless M. This strangeness is fitting, then, for each story told about or by him is born of a gap—between dream and reality, past and present, cause and effect—and manifests the trauma of his absence.