By Catherine Wagley
By Catherine Wagley
By Wendy Gilmartin
By Jennifer Swann
By Claire de Dobay Rifelj
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Catherine Wagley
By Zachary Pincus-Roth
Fantasy must be used in a homeopathic way. In small doses.
Are these kinds of fantasy stories in any way related to the stories that your grandfather told you when you were a little boy?
No. My grandfather would tell me stories about things that had actually happened. My grandfather had a lot of experience but not a lot of imagination. He didn’t need it. Or he believed he didn’t need it. Who can know what was going on in his head? When I say he didn’t need it, perhaps I’m talking nonsense.
The critic Harold Bloom, who is a champion of yours, has said that to be a Portuguese Stalinist today means you’re simply not living in the real world.
Perhaps, perhaps. We have to allow for everything. We don’t want to contradict people, especially someone called Harold Bloom. The real world, the world of the neocons, of America, seems like the most real world you can imagine. It would seem that, after that, nothing would happen. But look at the situation we’re in now. The world’s superpower, the United States, is in a financial crisis.
On the other hand, I’m not just a Communist, I’m a lot of other things. First of all, I am not responsible for the crimes committed by what was called “real socialism.” Secondly, I’ve never been a Stalinist. I’ve had some ideas through reading Marx, and I would say that Marx has never been so right as today. The time we are living in now is proving Marx right.
Harold Bloom has been very critical of me, when I said what I did about Israel. So I would also say that Israel is not living in the real world. Israel is living a fantasy which makes it try to reach what they themselves have termed The Great Israel.
And I also sometimes say that in my books I am often more right than I am myself in life. That is possible.
While you were speaking just now, I was reminded of how, today, the meanings of certain words have become distorted or altogether lost. Like “Communism” or “Socialism.” In America, these are bad words, but fewer and fewer people seem to know what they really mean.
They don’t know what they really mean. Misunderstood, misapprehended and then people’s behavior becomes completely irrational. On the other hand, they have every right not to like it. I also don’t like American fundamentalists. I also dislike the absolute power of the great capital of the United States. I don’t defend the idea of universal love. It has never existed and will never exist.
Yet in many of your books, maybe even in all of the books, there’s a yearning or desire for love.
Not universal love, no, no, no. Love is something highly personal. You’re not saying that everybody acts as if they were like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who deep down was really not preoccupied with people’s lives, but more so with people’s souls? There are some slightly erroneous ideas of love. With Mother Teresa of Calcutta, to continue that example, twice she was offered hospitals that were completely equipped and ready for use. And she rejected them. What she liked was finding a dying man with his soul bared and saying a prayer for him. For her, that was love. Of course, I love my wife, but I could never imagine that love I have for her being subsumed in a universal love for everyone. Everyone has love.
What I mean, for example, is the way that Raimundo Silva, the proofreader hero ofThe History of the Siege of Lisbon, by changing a word, stops the Crusades from happening.
A historical truth doesn’t exist. Doesn’t exist. Everything is an interpretation. A fact can be understood, interpreted in different ways. What Raimundo has done in the face of that supposed historical truth is limited to repeating it, repeating it, repeating it. So when he adds the word “not” and the Crusaders never returned and the Portuguese never reconquered Lisbon, that means the story should change drastically.
But this doesn’t strike me as pessimism exactly, and you have often been described as a pessimist. Maybe it isn’t optimism, but it also isn’t pessimism.
I am absolutely a pessimist. That is your opinion, my opinion is different. The human species is a disaster. That’s why we find ourselves where we do today. With millions of people dying of hunger, suffering from diseases that can easily be cured, with a criminal distribution of wealth.
And the Crusades are still going on.
It doesn’t even compare. The executives of those financial corporations, in the depths of the crisis, receive multimillion-dollar bonuses. They have done a terrible job and are being paid for that terrible job.
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