tirsdag den 9. august 2016

Drømmeeksamener & Personlige kirkegårde (PROJECTISMO!)

- fra interview med Alejandro Zambra i Vice:

"In the United States inevitably when they talk about you they talk about Roberto Bolaño. Was his work important for you?
Yes. The first one I read was Nazi Literature in the Americas. I remember perfectly. I was in a bookstore called the Furious Toy. It only stayed open for two years because there were three owners who were all literature graduates and they didn't like to sell any crap. I remember one time an actor entered and I was there with the owner, who was a friend of mine. Always after school I headed there. This actor entered like a famous actor and said, "Hey, recommend a book for me," and the owner said, "I can't recommend anything for you because I don't know who you are." [Laughs] A bookstore with these criteria wasn't going to last very long.
So then I had the brilliant idea of writing a book with various authors, four or five friends. We'd invent a writer and interview him, etc. I wanted my bookstore-owner friend to be one of the authors and he said, "Yes, it's a good idea, but check out this writer—he's a Chilean who lives in Barcelona and seems a little like what you're thinking, plus he's super good." As soon as I opened it, I saw it was a book that parodies manuals, a book with lots of sarcasm, and with this thing Bolaño does of making worlds interesting that in theory shouldn't be interesting at all. I continued reading, and he became one of the few writers whom I read as soon as his books were published.
Later, when I was a literary critic, it was always a pleasure whenever I received a Bolaño book. I understand that there are always these comparisons. I'm a little embarrassed about them because I believe he's a great writer. It bothers me a little since I come out losing [laughs]—and I will always lose. He's a writer whom I like very much. His writing is simultaneously contemporary and classic, which is what I also like about Thomas Mann and Elias Canetti. The humor, too. He's an immense and irreducible writer. One can say, "Bolaño, Bolaño," but no one knows very well what they're really saying when they say this. " Bolaño-ian"? What's this mean? He can't be labeled. Labels are never right anyway. Garcia Márquez isn't magical realism. The Garcia Márquez novel that I like the most, No One Writes to the Colonel, doesn't have anything magical in it. It's a heartbreaking realism. No one flies. I love that they can't label Bolaño—it demonstrates the power of literature.
The comparison doesn't bother me because I understand it but, sure, I wind up disserviced in the end.
It sounds so empty to speak of liberty in a creative sense, but what you do can't be compromised—it always has to give you a certain amount of joy. —Alejandro Zambra
You always talk about childhood, about your college period, about travels, about everything related to youth. Your literature is based on your own experience?
I think all books are autobiographical. I've never understood this definitive line between fiction and not fiction, probably because no one asks a poet if their book is autobiographical. There's this misunderstanding that fiction is a lie. Many writers say it. But fiction isn't the opposite of the truth.
As far as themes go, I really never proceed with one in mind, like, "I'm going to write about this." Ways of Going Home might be my most "thematic" novel. Its origin involved writing about these neighborhoods with identical houses in Maipú (a county of Santiago de Chile) that don't have any apparent grace. And later, sure, infancy and the dictatorship—it's impossible not to confuse them and record this influence. Deep down this is the novel's theme.
Your next projects are based in the present?
I'm in a moment of out-of-control projectismo right now, but that's because I always have multiple projects underway. I always have many ideas so I don't follow through on them all. I'm writing three books. There's the one, a sort of short novel or long story called "Chilean Poet." It's about the life of an 18-year-old Chilean poet about to leave high school. He doesn't want to study in the university because he wants to be a poet. He's going to study only when the education is free because he doesn't want to go into debt. This is his excuse, but he's very passionate about Chilean poetry. It's about the myth of Chilean poetry in Chile. All things related to Chilean poetry are odd. It's filled with half-eccentric figures. No one reads poetry, but it occupies a place in the collective imagination because we won two Nobel Prizes. The genesis of this book or long story is odd because it occurred to me as a television series. I'm a Louie fanatic, but in Chile they don't see Louie. It's not on TV. But with Louie, the freedom impresses me so much. He does what he wants. That's how this story occurred to me. Seinfeld, which has nothing much to do with Louie, also involves a guy in a similar scenario. In my case, it's poetry readings. So I imagined a series about this poet. It seemed entertaining to pitch this project to see if it could be made. For the treatment, they said, "Write it like it was a story, without worrying about scenes, like telling a story." I liked the prose that appeared, so I kept writing. I pitched it, but they didn't take the project. What I liked most about the project was showing people and places I know well. It's where I'm from and I'm very interested in showing how life unfolds there.
The second project is a novel with a working title of Dream Exams that's very much set in the present. And the third project, Personal Cemeteries, is about libraries. I don't know what it really is yet—an essay with a lot of fiction and stories mixed in. The story in part tells about why a certain book wasn't returned. They're real stories—it's fiction, but not in the sense that these stories never occurred. The feeling and the pulse of the story are important, what the presence of the various titles triggers. I thought one book would take precedence over another, but there are days I write a little on one and a little on another. I feel like it's a problem, but really it's stupid to think this way. It would be a problem if I were trying to write and nothing ever came."

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