Thursday, July 28, 2005

a conversation with jachym topol - part four

Q: I know that some critics have compared you to Kerouac, but I don’t know that I really see that influence. Maybe some Burroughs. Have any American authors influenced your work?

A: A great number. Nabokov and Isaac Bashevis Singer are two. I don’t why people keep asking me about Kerouac and Burroughs. I think their books are pretty much the same because they got into a certain rhythm and kept producing. I don’t want to sound rude but it’s something completely different to read Kerouac when you’re sixteen and when you’re thirty-six.

Q: Exactly. Even though you say that your language is changing, I can read both of these books, Sister and Angel, and still know it’s you. You’re not writing the same thing but it’s still your style here. Both books, for example, contain a lot of anger. In one, the protagonist stomps on a rat. In the other the protagonist takes an axe to a lock and then finishes the job by stomping it into little pieces. There’s a lot of stomping, a lot of anger in both.

A: Neither of these books is an autobiography but both of these instances were.

Q: Is anger necessary for you to write?

A: Yes, because I believe that anger is necessary for my heroes to survive.

Q: These two books were written in the past, though. Maybe anger was necessary to write these two novels.

A: Definitely. I was really surprised by the interest and the positive reviews because when I was actually writing the books I felt like I was spitting into people’s faces.

Q: Is anger always necessary to write? Some people have to get worked up to a certain level in order to put quality words on the page. Is that necessary for you?

A: I’m still hoping to write about some kind of harmony, about some kind of peace, even though every time I experience it, which is very seldom, I don’t feel any need to write anymore. At the infrequent times I feel peace and harmony I don’t feel the need to write.

Q: So despite the wife and child, you still have enough anger to draw up the passion to write?

A: There isn’t much harmony in your life if you have a small child. The fact is I experience the most harmony when I’m a little drunk or stoned.

Q: So you don’t write much when you’re drunk or stoned.

A: No.

Q: You’re smiling, but there are writers who don’t feel like they can write while they’re sober.

A: I’ll admit that a little bit of booze helps me to concentrate but I can’t work when I’m drunk.

Q: Do you ever listen to music when you’re writing?

A: When I was writing Sister I kept listening to hard rock music, some heavy stuff, but I didn’t when I was writing Angel, even though I had a tape recorder. At the moment, now that I’m working on a screenplay, I’m mainly listening to an Egyptian singer.

Q: We spoke earlier about the rhythm of language for this subject, the rhythm of language for this character. Is the music that you listen to, or the fact that you don’t listen to music, carefully selected for each work?

A: Irrationally. I might have chosen it but subconsciously, irrationally. I like these technical questions because these are things that I think about everyday. My biggest problem right now is that I don’t have a room of my own, a place to write.

Q: Even now?

A: Even now. My child is in one room and my wife in the other. My biggest problems are technical ones, when and where to write. So what I’m trying to do at the moment is go to the country, find a place with peace and quiet. I might go to Germany on a scholarship soon and that might help. But the other problem is that I’m in another trap in my life and that’s the kid. I don’t want to be without her.

Q: Does the fact that you have to move around to write mean that you write on a laptop?

A: I have one but it’s not very good. It’s another technical problem. The laptop is very low quality and I can’t afford to buy a better one, so I’m taking the risk of losing all of my material. I’m reminded of Romantic writers burning all of their poems but that was Romanticism. Nowadays these machines are killers.

a conversation with jachym topol - part one
a conversation with jachym topol - part two
a conversation with jachym topol - part three
a conversation with jachym topol - part five

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