Christopher Isherwood (1974). Like a conversion: “I became convinced, after knowing Swami Prabhavananda for a long time, that there is such a thing as mystical union or knowledge.” The difficulty of transmitting the religious experience in writing. The Vedanta doctrine. The gay struggle: “Something that seems to me even worse than hatred and active opposition is the indifference that most people show towards minorities.” The Maurice From Forster: “What I loved about that novel was the passion. Forster was honest. ” Virginia Woolf: “What you saw was how tremendously animated and funny she was when she started gossiping, because she loved small conversations.” Huxley, Auden. Sexual abstinence and accumulation of energy.
Gore Vidal (1974). Precocious, reluctant to talk about his books. Writers who replace lack of imagination with language: Richard Brautigan, Robert Coover, William Gass. “I envy authors like Graham Greene, who every year without fail make the same novel to the delight of the same kind of reader.” They ask him why he has a bad press. “Envy is the central element of American life.” Critics: “Journalists gossiping about books.” Writer with writer friends everywhere. “Mailer is already what he wanted to be: the patron saint of bad journalism.” Nabokov, on his pedestal. Against Hemingway: “He pursued wars, but he never had much to say about the war, unlike Tólstoi and even Malraux.”
Bernard Malamud (1975). Reason for pride: his famous discretion has prevented anyone from writing about his personal life. Elegant and precise. “I like the privileges of the form.” “Review is one of the joys of writing.” “I like the drama of unproductiveness, especially when it is possible that it coexists with talent.” The interviewer asks him about the sources of one of his novels: “The questions about sources are banal, but since you are a friend of mine I will answer you.” Whipping the critics. “Sometimes I decide that a character is Jewish because I think that way I will understand him better as a person, not because he is trying to prove anything.”
P. G. Wodehouse (1975). At the time of granting the interview (1972), he was close to 92 years of age. “I don’t want to be like Bernard Shaw who produced lousy stuff starting in the nineties.” The humorous fiction. “Critics say that the world I write about has never existed, but of course it did, it was the world of the interwar period.” On his extensive career: “I have been a full-time writer since 1902.” Unlike the mainstream of his colleagues: he reads the criticism carefully, “because you always learn things.”
Kurt Vonnegut (1977). Says the interviewer: “The following could be considered an interview that he conducted himself.” Mix of four interviews, stubbornly intervened by the writer. World War II veteran, captured by the Germans. He was a prisoner in Dresden when the bombing of February 1945 destroyed the city: “But one day the siren sounded – it was February 13, 1945 – and we went down to a second underground floor where there was a cold room for meat. It was cold and full of hanging corpses. When we went back up, there was no longer a city ”. Family, training as a chemist and anthropologist, more episodes of war, Slaughterhouse five, Saul Bellow, the absence of women in his books and this phrase: “Suddenly there are a lot of vacant positions in my life.”
Joyce Carol Oates (1978). Reflective and parsimonious speech. Some questions were answered in writing to avoid distortions. “The later works of Henry James would have been better if he had resisted that curious form of self-indulgence that was dictating to a secretary.” “Sometimes I get the impression that critics are referring to works that are not the ones I remember writing.” To the question “What have you learned from Kafka?” responds: “To joke with horror, to take me less seriously.” “After finishing a novel saturated with what Jung calls the experience of God, I think I know less than ever about myself and my beliefs.”
Joan Didion (1978). Writing is hostile to the reader: “It tricks the reader into listening to your dream.” Hemingway: “A few years ago (…) I reread Goodbye to guns and I went back to immerse myself in those phrases. They are perfect. Very direct phrases, limpid rivers, clear water on a granite bed, without sinks ”. “When I write a novel I never know what I am doing, and the real thread does not emerge until I am finishing it.” A mania: “Another thing I need to do when I get near the end of a book is sleep in the same room as the manuscript.”
Stephen Spender (1980). Yeats, Woolf, Pound, Thomas, Hemingway, Eliot: juicy anecdotes. Auden: “He was extremely intelligent and very demanding, I would say, and he exercised his authority in commenting on one’s work, but he was never critical.” Critics: “I believe that an attack is never really objective: your criteria can be objective, but despite everything a kind of pleasure persists that is subjective (…) and for the critic it is very difficult to resist it”. Poetry and unhappiness: “It is surprising that, in the days of the concentration camps, in which seven million people have been gassed to death, there are those who aspire to unhappiness.”
Elizabeth Bishop (nineteen eighty one). The house and its objects. Travels. The gap between beginning and ending poems. “I don’t believe in teaching poetry, but it’s what they want you to do. You see so many poems every week that you lose all judgment. ” Years in Brazil. On his stories: “I suspect that some of the stories I have written are actually prose poems, and that as stories they are not very good.” The university in the 1930s: “All the intellectuals were communists except me. As I have always been very perverse, I opted for TS Eliot and Anglo-Catholicism ”.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez (nineteen eighty one). A couple hours, for three days. García Márquez answers the questions with his children in the role of translators. The interviewer’s tape recorder is unfair, “because it records even the moments when you make a fool of yourself.” Commendation of John Hersey, for his book Hiroshima. Inevitable: fiction and journalism. First steps as a writer. “It always amuses me to see that the highest praise for my work is focused on my imaginative capacity, when the truth is that I have not written a single line that has no real basis”. The loneliness of power: “When you reach absolute power, you lose contact with reality, and there can be no worse loneliness than that.” “I have no interest in what they think of me.” Fame, One hundred years of loneliness. This gem about the confrontation between Cuba and the United States: “We are facing a clash between an anti-consumer society and the most consumerist society on the planet.”
Joseph Brodsky (1982). Interview conducted in 1979. Complex, brilliant, deep. “My main interest in the nature of time.” Mind that does not cease. Translator of his own work. “When translating, one tries to preserve the lights and shadows of the petals, and you have to accept that some are ugly, because perhaps that ugliness is due to some strategy that you used when you wrote the original.” Walcott, Lowell, Frost, Auden, Spender. “With Frost it all started.” The first arrest: 1959. Akhmatova: 1961. “But I remember one night, returning from home on a crowded train – I lived on the outskirts of Leningrad – I realized who the person I was dealing with, as if soon the seven veils would have fallen ”. Another prison in 1964: “They ended up releasing me thanks to the immense annoyances (Akhmatova) that he took to free me.” Solzhenitsyn. The question: Did you have a hunch it would end up in the West? Part of the answer: “You are born in a very small world, and the rest of the planet is pure geography, an academic discipline, nothing to do with reality.” “Another poet who not only changed my idea of poetry, but also my perception of the world – which is what it is all about – was Tsvetaeva.” “His voice, his poetry, gives one the idea or feeling that the tragedy is in one’s own language.” “In his own poems, the narrating voice is prey to a terrible loneliness, without the benefit of any human interaction.” Invisible Readers: Auden and Orwell. “I have received two or three revelations, or at least they have settled on the limit of my reason and have left their mark.” “I am probably more Jewish than any Jew in Israel, simply because I believe — if I believe at all — in the arbitrariness of God.” On Saint Petersburg: “The city is so beautiful that you can live in it without being in love.” “I wouldn’t know where I have to go back. I have no notion of paradise derived from my childhood, which, above all, is the happiest period in life, and the moment when one hears about paradise for the first time ”. Venice. Philip Larkin. Mandelstam. Susan Sontag. “I can’t think of anything in modern literature capable of matching the agility of his essays.”
Heinrich Boell (1983). “I was a deserter in the last months of the war, along with my brother, and lived in a constant state of fear.” “The realistic aspect does not exclude the metaphorical, the idea that in this world we are in a waiting room.” Salinger, Hemingway. Opinions of a clown. “You can’t always be joking, but professional comedians have no choice.” “When I was awarded the Nobel, I told myself that the award did not make me wiser or more foolish.” The Nazi campaigns against the Jews: “it was always a question of words.” “The absolute meaning exists and is somewhere, what happens is that we have not found it yet.”
Guillermo Cabrera Infante (1983). Truculent, dismissive, conceited. He asks the interviewer to address him as “sir.” Very willing to prosecute. Solzhenitsyn: “Your novels are pretentious rubbish.” Swift: “He was right about something that we are not willing to admit: that man is a beast, a predator, an evil with no possible redemption.” Three sad tigers. “There are too many people for whom, despite its shortcomings, the revolution has at least served to improve public education and health in an extraordinary way. That’s like praising Hitler for getting Germany out of the economic crisis. ” Havana for a deceased infant. “The main character in my books, especially this one, is language.” The cinema, the radio. “For me there is Borges and, later, the others.” His participation in the events of the Bay of Pigs (Playa Girón).
Nadime Gordimer (1983). Concise, sharp ideas. South Africa, England. “After my first departure from the country, I realized that my ‘home’ was truly and exclusively Africa. It could never be another place ”. Lithuanian origins. Cardiopath: “It was a little old woman.” College: “It was the first time in my life that I mixed with black people.” Eudora Welty: “The best American short story writer that ever lived.” There is an orthodoxy of the black conscience, which defines what a black writer can or cannot: “A party discipline. For example, you have to show the nobility of the character of the blacks, it is frowned upon that there is a white character who is human ”. “Borges the only living successor to Kafka.” The Hemingway factor.
Raymond Carver (1983). “I’m fine anywhere.” Early years: reign of economic, emotional, literary difficulties. The alcoholism. “I more or less gave up, threw in the towel and devoted myself body and soul to drinking full time.” Literature and reality: “None of my stories step really, you know, but they always have something, some element, something that they told me or I witnessed, as a starting point ”. Tolstoy, Chekhov, Hannah, Ford, Hemingway, Babel, Beattie, Tyler. The lives of those who fail: “Much of my experience, direct or indirect, has to do with these kinds of people.” “With Cathedral I experienced a high and I said to myself: this is what it is, this is why I write. “After the reception of What do we talk about when we talk about love, I feel a security that I had never experienced ”. “I will always be an alcoholic, but I no longer drink.”