By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
The week it took to create the world, the universe, wasn’t six days, it was six very long periods that were later turned into days. Man is always more stupid than he appears to be.
But it’s an interesting story because it shows that you can make words mean whatever you want them to. Six days, six periods.
Well, words have their limits. And we don’t have enough available to us to express everything. And what would it mean to say it all? To say what you know? And what use is that?
There is a question that has no answer, or I, at least, haven’t to this day found it. And this is it: Why do we think what we think? Why do we think what we think? When we say “my ideas,” “my opinion,” does that really mean they are your ideas and your opinion? The fact is that they are inside you. What does that mean if you don’t share them?
You express an opinion, declare it, but what is the consciousness of all that? What is really a part of a person? And what is external to a person?
Even though, as we were saying, this book [Death With Interruptions] is something of a comedy, there is also a more serious idea at work, which is that the world is perched on the razor’s edge of fascism.
Yes, of course we are. I feel that I don’t need green or gray clothes to know that fascism is there, latent. And the U.S. must answer for that too. For example, when one travels to the United States and goes through immigration, if you have a personal laptop computer, the [immigration officials] can copy the hard drive of your computer. This is being done in the United States in the name of democracy. Where is the right to privacy?
They have a wonderful name for this: “The Patriot Act.”
Oh, it’s called “The Patriot Act”? That’s great! [laughs] You have a good sense of humor. That’s called black humor. I haven’t been to the U.S. in many years and I won’t return. To go through immigration and customs and to have everything about my life known is unacceptable to me. The U.S. lives very well without me, so I too can live stupendously well without it. And the United States is a great country, no one denies that. Americans are a great people, no one denies that. The fact is there is a deep well of latent (or manifest) reactionary-ism which can change. The appearance of Obama, whether he wins or not, is a sign. It’s a sign because it’s not easy for him. He’s black, he has no support, and that he becomes the candidate for president for the Democratic Party, that’s like a revolution. That is a revolution. Even if he loses, it is already revolutionary, because this can be repeated in the future.
I couldn’t help but notice that when Death writes her letter to the newspaper in the book, she writes a bit like Saramago. She uses lowercase letters and not much punctuation.
In order to describe Death’s handwriting, I had to invent my own handwriting.
It’s a way of asking how you came to develop this style of writing, because inManual of Painting and Calligraphyit seems that you’ve almost arrived at this style but not quite.
In that period, time passed. I wrote Manual of Painting and Calligraphy on a normal manual typewriter. I now write on a computer. They are two different worlds. An important advantage that I find writing on a computer is that there is something artisanal about writing on a computer. The same way the potter takes a piece of clay and has an idea in his head and goes to work on that clay, he puts it on the pottery wheel.
Writing on a computer is exactly the same. When you write with a typewriter or with a pen, you have to think of the phrase so that when you put it on paper, there is little left to correct. What happens when you write on a computer is completely the opposite. You have an idea, you put it, more or less, on the screen, and then, as the potter does, you work it. You add things, you remove things; in fact, you can make it to the very end without preserving a single original word. You have corrected it, amended it, until you say, “That’s how I like it.”
I guess I’m interested in going back even before this book, in a way. I’m thinking about how, when you go to school, there are certain rules they teach you about writing: This is how you write a sentence, this is the subject, this is the verb. And there are many writers who write many books more or less by these rules. And then there are writers — of course, we know all the great names, Shakespeare, Joyce, Pessoa, I could list a hundred more — who make their own language, their own rules. So I’m interested to talk to you about how you arrived at your language, your style. For example, if we were to read your novel that you wrote in 1947,The Widow(Terra do Pecado), how would that seem by comparison to the books of yours that ...
How can one compare the person I am today with who I was back then?
That’s what I want to know about.
That first novel, Terra do Pecado from 1947, was written by someone who had no life experience. And it’s a novel that deep down was the product of books. A writer learns to write by reading, and the books that I had read at that time were undoubtedly by important authors, a type of consensus on what good writing was. That’s not a great novel, on the contrary; but it is not badly written. I wrote another novel that remained unpublished. And then I spent almost 20 years without writing and in the end, in 1976 or 1977, I wrote Manual of Painting and Calligraphy.