Interview with António Lobo Antunes at El Pais

El Pais has a long interview with António Lobo Antunes about his writing practices and how he has developed his style. It also mentions that since September when he finished his last book he has not been able to write anything new.

P. Siempre dice que los libros incluyen su propia clave para entenderlos y disfrutarlos. ¿Este suyo último también?

R. Uno tiene que entrar en un libro sin ideas preconcebidas. Mientras lees -a mí me encanta leer, que es un placer absoluto, no como escribir, que a veces no lo es-, mientras lees, decía, tienes que conservar una virginidad en la mirada. No se debe ir con prejuicios a cuestas. A veces se puede tener la sensación de no entender nada, y eso está bien porque luego, súbitamente, uno entiende todo: lo oscuro se vuelve claro.

P. ¿No le preocupa que esto no pase siempre, que algunos lectores de sus libros, difíciles siempre, se rindan y lo dejen?

R. Mientras uno escribe no puede pensar en el lector. Si le haces guiños al lector, el libro resulta malo. He hablado mucho con Juan Marsé (un amigo mío que me gusta mucho como escritor, cuya última novela, Caligrafía de los sueños, me parece una maravilla) de que no se puede transigir en eso. Uno tiene que hacer lo que tiene que hacer con la novela. Y si al lector le gusta, mejor. Y si no le gusta…

Margaret B. Carson, Translator of Sergio Chejfec, Interviewed at Conversational Reading

There’s a great interview at Conversational Reading with Margaret B. Carson the translator of Sergio Chejfec’s My Two Worlds. It is a book that the more I hear about the more I want to take it off my shelves and read. This in particular caught my eye (once I was accused of writing German sentences because they were so long):

On the whole, I tried to stick quite close to the original, not just in word choice but also in preserving the length and density of the sentences. I had to search for models in English to give me an idea of how to structure and balance the clauses and sub-clauses that, as Enrique Vila-Matas points out in his introduction to My Two Worlds, seem to test the elasticity of the sentence itself. I was happy to discover that the long literary sentence en English is not a relic from 19th-century, and that many contemporary writers—among them Lynne Tillman, William Gaddis, and David Foster Wallace—provided excellent models that helped me carry over this essential part of Chejfec’s style.

Interview with Antonio Muñoz Molina About His Short Story Collection At Canal-L

Canal-L has an interview of Antonio Muñoz Molina talking about his new book of short stories, Nada del otro mundo (Nothing exceptional). He talks about what he likes in short stories, why he thinks the fantastic only works in short stories, and how to be a Spanish speaker in the US is to be an internationalist.

Interview with Laura Freixas About her New Book at La Vanguardia

La Vanguardia interviewed Laura Freixas about her new book, Los otros son más felice.

La carrera de Laura Freixas es fruto del esmero por mantenerse firmemente anclada en el compromiso con una literatura que es y quiere ser femenina. Freixas nunca ha disimulado que le interesa proponer la mirada de la mujer sobre el mundo y sobre la propia condición femenina, una perspectiva bien escasa en la historia de la literatura, incluso en la historia de la literatura hecha por mujeres, y habría que decir, también en la hecha para mujeres. Los otros son más felices (Destino), su cuarta novela, es un relato de iniciación, el de una joven, Áurea, radicada en un pueblo de La Mancha pero habitante del Madrid del tardofranquismo, a la que su madre envía a casa de unos familiares ricos y cultos en Cadaqués. Es pues una novela sobre el descubrimiento del mundo.

Su novela puede funcionar como una lectura complementaria del clásico Nada de Laforet, porque aunque la condición social no sea la misma, el descubrimiento del mundo de Laforet está contado en el inmediato, mientras que en su novela pese mucho que se trata de un relato retrospectivo.

Oye pues es una buena comparación, no se me había ocurrido y claro me honra, porque Nada es una gran novela. Es verdad, ahora que lo dices seguramente me haya influido en ese planteamiento de una chica joven que llega de otra región de España a casa de una familia catalana que no comprende. Es verdad, ¿cómo no se me había ocurrido?

I thought her comments about Madrid in the 70s was interesting too

En su novela está reflejado algo muy cierto y que cambió luego de forma sensible: Madrid por entonces era muy rural, una especie de agregación de gente de pueblos. Casi la antítesis de lo que ocurre ahora.

Es cierto sí, efectivamente, y ahora es cosmopolita, una ciudad plenamente anónima, cosa que hoy no ocurre en Barcelona por ejemplo, donde rápidamente te preguntan de qué familia eres y donde veraneas y te hacen el retrato, algo que a mí me agobiaba un poco. El Madrid de los setenta era un Madrid que era muy pueblo, se notaba que había mucha gente que venía del pueblo y que mentalmente todavía estaba en el pueblo. Es un tipo de gente que todavía se ven en Madrid, aunque hoy sea efectivamente la única ciudad realmente anónima y cosmopolita de la península; sobre todo los viejos, es un tipo de viejo que no ves en Barcelona. Aquí ves viejas de luto, viejos con alpargatas y con boina sentados en los parques que serán de pueblo toda su vida. Eso en los setenta se notaba mucho, entonces la narradora de mi libro aunque haya nacido en Madrid se siente muy pueblerina en comparación con los elegantes y cultos catalanes. Y te diré más, de hecho, cuando yo empecé a escribir la novela, su familia venía de Castilla La Vieja, que es de donde viene mi familia materna, pero luego lo cambie a La Mancha por el nombre, porque ella lo siente como una mácula. Y quería huir del tópico. En cambio, Madrid se ha hecho más cosmopolita y más anónimo, se ha beneficiado de su condición de capital, y del crecimiento demográfico tan brutal, le ha perjudicado urbanísticamente porque ha crecido a tontas y a locas, muy mal…

Natasha Wimmer Interview about Bolaño at Conversational Reading

Conversational Reading has an interview with Natasha Wimmer about Roberto Bolaño’s latest book to be published in English, The Third Reich. It s a good interview, especially the parts about approaching a Bolaño novel.

SE: It’s interesting that you read the novel’s lack of a strong climax as a positive thing, since I’ve seen a number of reviewers ding The Third Reich for not having that one culminating scene of horror that many of Bolaño’s other novels accustom you to expect. (For my own part, I liked the anti-climax, regarding it more as a failure of Udo’s transformation than of Bolaño’s imagination.) To tie this in to your reading of the book as a farce, do you think there’s a certain perception out there of what Bolaño represents and that a book like Third Reich will be judged in terms of what’s accepted “Bolaño” instead of simply on its own terms?NW: Yes, I do think that there is a certain expectation of what a Bolaño novel will be, and I worried from the beginning that critics wouldn’t appreciate The Third Reich. Mostly I thought they would have problems with it on a sentence level, because Bolaño’s prose is thinner and more transparent than usual, with fewer of the oblique-lyrical moments that so dominate a novel like By Night in Chile, for example. My sense of the book, though, is that it’s one giant oblique-lyrical moment, and that the pacing is what gives it its stylistic edge and distinctiveness. It’s a book that leaves you feeling off-balance without realizing quite why, because the effect develops so gradually. I like your interpretation of the anti-climax as a reflection of the failure of Udo’s transformation, although I do think that he’s changed—diminished, or somehow shrunken—by his loss of faith in gaming, absurd or creepy as that faith was.

The State of American Fiction – Clancy Martin on Bookworm

Bookworm had an excellent discussion about American Fiction and culture recently. Ostensively, the show was about Clancy Martin’s new book, How to Sell, but the interview was more wide ranging, yet incisive and to the point (not something that Silverblatt always achieves). It was particularly insightful when positing that the ethical and intellectual works in fiction are more concerned with shock than anything else. The focus has led to the use of the serial killer as an over used literary device.

Well worth the listen.

Alvaro Uribe and Cristina Rivera-Garza on Bookworm

KCRW’s Bookworm has an excellent interview with Uribe and Cristina Rivera-Garza about their new book Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction (Dalkey Archive). It is an interesting conversation about the state of Mexican fiction, especially for post Boom authors. One of the good things about the book is that it is bilingual, a rarity in fiction.  It is definitely a book worth reading and an interview worth listening to.

Alberto Fuguet: from Film to Literature, the Hybrid Case of a Writer

La Jornada has an interview with the Chilean Author  Alberto Fuguet is a younger author who as a proponent of Mc Hondo has looked to turn away from the over saturated magical realism that came to define Latin American Literature. His book Shorts is available in English and is a mix of story telling methods, some leaning towards the cinematic and the interview makes it obvious that it is one of his focuses. He does have a new book out:

At the beginning of the year he published a new book in most of Latin America and Spain, a novel “mounted”by Fuguet, My Body Es a Cell, which is an autobiography of Andrés Caicedo, a Columbian cult writer whose book has continued to be the best selling book in Columbia.

A inicios del año, salió en la mayoría de los países de América Latina y España, la novela “montada” por Fuguet, Mi cuerpo es una celda, autobiografía de Andrés Caicedo, escritor colombiano de culto, cuyo libro se ha mantenido como el mejor vendido en ese país sudamericano

The interview covers several themes. First, he talks about hos he wished he could direct films instead of write, yet he isn’t interested in being a screen writer either. He has created a website for hosting independent videos. He has also made several short films.

Second, he talks about what he sees the role of the blog and the new media. It is refreshing for an author not to see it as just another means  of publicity, or a half way step to print.

I think that there are people in the virtual world who are very shy and unknown who write very personal things in their blogs; the people who are less shy use the virtual as a type of trampoline to eventually publish on paper. I am sure that there is a Kafka, a Pavesse, and people like that hidden on the web and that we are going to discover them latter. My idea of a blog is to help myself, to help others, as breaking the circle of books, in my case I see that my books come from the same planet.

Creo que lo que hay virtual es de gente muy tímida y muy desconocida, que escribe en sus blogs cosas muy personales; la gente que es menos tímida lo usa como una especie de trampolín para eventualmente llegar al papel. Estoy seguro de que hay un Kafka, un Pavesse, y hay gente así escondida en la red y que vamos a descubrirlo después. Mi idea del blog es apoyarme, apoyar a otros, como romper el círculo de los libros, en mi caso yo veo que mis libros vienen como del mismo planeta.

Finally, he talks about Rulfo and Bolaño.

Rulfo is super global writer, super preliminary, who seems very interesting to me. In general I have voices and companions that interest me. In the future perhaps one should find that not all of the world is Latin American. I am interested in everything hybrid, like chronicles; in Andrés Caicedo, the Argentine Fabián Casas, or what the small presses are doing.

I think that Blaño is a hybrid writer, but one that has the respect of intellectuals. He is very pop, has a much more mixed world…Rather than writing about a nostalgic Argentine exiled to Paris, he wrote about Mexicans or Spaniards. He dared to with other passports. He took on voices that were not his and transformed them.

Rulfo es un escritor súper global, súper liminar, me parece muy interesante. En general tengo voces y compañeros de ruta que me interesan. En el futuro habría que analizar que no todo el mundo es latinoamericano. Estoy interesado en todo lo híbrido, como crónicas; en Andrés Caicedo, en el argentino Fabián Casas, o en lo que se está haciendo en las editoriales pequeñas.

Siento que Bolaño es un escritor bien híbrido, pero que logró tener respeto intelectual; es súper pop, tiene un mundo mucho más mestizo […] Más que escribir de un argentino exiliado nostálgico en París, él escribía sobre mexicanos o españoles, se atrevía escribir con otros pasaportes. Logró meterse en voces que no eran las suyas y las transformó.

Brief Daniel Sada Interview at El Universal

A brief interview with Daniel Sada appeared in El Universal. It doesn’t get into too much but there are a couple quick quotes worth noting.

In a novel “the characters are the most important, more than the language or the plot” […]

Sada took apart the argument of those who define him as a writer who mainly focuses on the language and that some have called baroque, and affirmed that en the best novels of all time, the characters were the most important.

En una novela “los personajes son lo más importante, más que el lenguaje y que la historia” […]

Sada desmontó los argumentos de quienes le definen como un escritor especialmente centrado en el lenguaje y al que algunos han llegado a calificar de barroco, al afirmar que, en las mejores novelas de todos los tiempos, lo más importante son los personajes.

Having started to read some of his writing (mainly a short story from Letras Libres), it is obvious that he is a great stylist, but he tends to keep his style short and compressed, focusing more on the details, rather than long clause heavy digressions.

He also wanted to note that he isn’t just a northern writer, which if you read Christopher Domínguez Michael’s review in Letras Libres, as I did, you may have that impression.

He also wanted remove what he defined as “the nickname of northern writer” that he always wanted to get rid of it because it guarantees that it limits him a lot and because, en his opinion, “there are many norths.”

También ha querido desvincularse de lo que definió como “el mote de escritor norteño” que siempre se quiso quitar porque asegura que le limita mucho y porque, en su opinión, “hay muchos nortes”.

Ana María Matute Interview in El País

There is a great interview in El País with Ana María Matute. They talk about how her heath has kept her from writing recently even though she has been completely mentally able to write. When talking about literature they discuss Matute’s works for children and how she has often written from the perspective of children. It has been very important throughout her career to write for them, in part because there wasn’t anything good and she wanted to write for her son. They also talk about how her mother supported her writing, something rare during the Franco Period, and with her help would type up her drafts before submitting them to publishers.

There was fascinating questions about her style.

You seem especially predisposed to this type of literature [sparse], since you uphold plain and straightforward writing that is not easy to achieve; en fact, you say it is very difficult. Yes. It is that I want the whole world to understand me. I don’t want to torture the reader. No. There are a lot of writers that love to torturer the reader. Not me! [Said harshly] I like that the understand me. For this reason I write. In addition, I’m not such an elitist.

Usted parece especialmente predispuesta a este tipo de literatura, ya que defiende la escritura llana y sencilla, que no es tan fácil de conseguir; de hecho, usted dice que es muy difícil. Sí. Es que yo quiero que me entienda todo el mundo. Yo no quiero torturar al lector. No. Hay muchos escritores a los que les encanta torturar al lector. ¡A mí no! [Proclama con dureza]. A mí me gusta que me entiendan. Para eso escribo. Además, no soy tan elitista.

She also talked about her relationship to the Civil War and recent pushes to investigate the past in Spain.

Undoubtedly it is a traumatic experience. It was tremendous. I still can’t stand fireworks. They have the same sound as the bombs. The bombardments here in Barcelona were terrible. By sea and by air. We lived on Platón Street and back then I saw the sea from my room and I was completely frightened. You feel so powerless…My father would say: take everyone by the hand against the teacher’s wall. And we all would stay that way…[She remains quiet, in suspense, with a face of fear]. I also remember the lines. Those of us who were bourgeois children, those that didn’t go out without one’s father [she makes a face of horror], we quickly had to go stand in line to get bread, where nobody gave a damn. For us it was great! Because we had the liberty to come and go…We looked like mice wanting to go after cheese. My older brother and I discovered freedom. We enjoyed it a lot.

I have found that many people your age reject, perhaps out of fear, the plans to recover the historical memory, to remove this part of history from the past. It is that the way perhaps the fear hasn’t gone, but yes the sadness [remains], the laceration, and the waking of hatreds. I understand that those that have not lived the war have their own feelings, but for me it makes me shiver. To return to relive, to remember. I remember the attempted coup de Tejero [in 1981]. I was with my son in a taxi and we hear the shots on the radio. Look! And I became desperate. “Not again! No, God, not again!” My son asked me: “What’s happening mama?” The taxi cab driver and my son began to talk about what was happening and I would only say: “No, not again. No I will resist it.

Indudablemente es una experiencia muy traumática. Es tremenda. Yo todavía ahora no soporto los fuegos artificiales. Tienen el mismo sonido que las bombas. Los bombardeos aquí en Barcelona fueron terribles. Por mar y por aire. Nosotros vivíamos en la calle de Platón y entonces veía el mar desde mi cuarto y pasaba un miedo espantoso. Te sientes tan impotente… Mi padre decía: cojámonos todos de la mano, contra el muro maestro. Y así nos quedábamos todos… [Se queda quieta, en suspenso, con cara de susto]. También me acuerdo de las colas. Nosotros, que éramos unos niños de clase burguesa, de esos que no salían más que con las tatas [pone cara de horror], teníamos de pronto que ir a hacer colas para conseguir el pan, sin que a nadie le importara. ¡Para nosotros era fenomenal! Porque teníamos libertad de entrar y salir… Parecíamos ratones deseando salir del queso. Mi hermano mayor y yo descubrimos la libertad. La disfrutamos mucho.

He comprobado que mucha gente de su edad rechaza, quizá por miedo, los intentos de recuperar la memoria histórica, de remover esa parte del pasado. Es que de la guerra quizá ya no te queda el miedo, pero sí la tristeza, el desgarro y un despertar de odios. Entiendo que los que no han vivido la guerra tengan un sentimiento distinto, pero a mí me escalofría. Volver a repasar, a recordar. Me acuerdo del intento de golpe de Estado de Tejero [en 1981]. Yo iba con mi hijo en un taxi y oímos los tiros a través de la radio. ¡Mira!, me entró una desesperación… ¡Otra vez no! ¡No, por Dios, otra vez no! Mi hijo me preguntaba: “¿Pero qué te pasa, mamá?”. El taxista y él empezaron a hablar de lo que estaba pasando y yo sólo decía: “No, otra vez no. No lo resistiré”.

Amanda Michalopoulou in Context

Dalkey Archive’s magazine Context has a good interview with Amanda Michalopoulou. She talks about I’d Like and it sounds as interesting as I have heard. I can’t wait to read it, although I have a couple more books lined up before it.  She said a couple of interesting things.

Characters are the vehicles of ideas, but they have to work as characters. If not, you’re writing theory, not literature. The idea behind the characters in this book is that family can be a mechanism of oppression. I guess all my characters feel very clearly that they are obeying other people’s wishes. Writing can be a true act of disobedience, so the desire the younger sister has to write these stories down is a step towards salvation. I believe that writing can and should do that: save characters who are suffering, and, possibly, their author as well.

And later

Helping people to be alone in a room, alone in the world, and yet surrounded by so many human beings inside their head. This is one of the greatest joys in life. And I say this as a reader now, not as a writer.