An Interview I Love

I have to thank GoodReads reviewer extraordinaire/B&N Union Square employee (who makes the best book displays ever) Karen Brissette for pointing me to this interview. She was searching for information on Iren Nigg (who is apparently awesome and totally not translated1) and came across this Stefan Sprenger interview that was done as part of the promotions for this year’s Best European Fiction anthology.

I didn’t realize this until Karen pointed it out, but Dalkey has a ton of interviews with BEF contributing authors available on their website. Looks like all of these ask the same six questions—all of which are interesting and worth asking, but lead to some pretty entertaining comments when applied to writing from Liechtenstein. Witness:

Do you see your work as fitting into the traditions of European fiction—or indeed any national or regional tradition?

I’m not part of a Liechtenstein tradition of literature, because there is no Liechtenstein literature, and never has been. There are a handful of authors in Liechtenstein, but they are individuals and solitary; there are no groups and no common ground. [. . .]

Are there any exciting trends, movement, or schools in contemporary Liechtenstein fiction? Who do you feel are the overlooked contemporary authors writing in Liechtenstein who should be more widely read and translated?

How could there be one? Literature and publishing need a critical mass in order to function. The Nanoprincipality of Liechtenstein isn’t even remotely close to this size. There’s also the fact that for the past century our national sport has been banking secrecy, keeping absolutely silent and discreet. [. . .]

Are there enough publishing outlets in Liechtenstein for contemporary fiction? Is there a market for literary fiction in Liechtenstein?

No. There isn’t a publishing house that would bring out the professional, long-term, and programmatic literature that comes out in and around Liechtenstein. That would presume a small national market: let’s say, to be generous, that such books would sell 500 to 800 copies. Those numbers are all the reason that there isn’t a publishing house here. It would only be possible if the government decided to use state funds for such an endeavor. Since literature is always a betrayal—especially considering Liechtenstein’s banking secrecy—we’re far more likely to have a Royal Liechtenstein Space Station on Titan than to finance a publisher of Liechtenstein’s literature.

Do you want your work to be translated? Why or why not?

No, of course not. I never would have taken part in BEF 2011 if the Archbishop hadn’t ordered it and if the royal service hadn’t threatened me with confiscation of my state-subsidized electric bike.

Brilliant! Dead serious that this makes me want to read Sprenger’s story . . . He sounds so entertaining.

On a sidenote, I’m really not sure how you’re supposed to answer the “do you want your work to be translated” question. If anyone says no, it’s for reasons that are likely pretentious and irritating. And the most common answer to yes has to be that translation helps you reach a larger audience, and, in this context, reinforces the belief that you’re only a “real author” if your work is available in English. But I’m maybe reading too much into this . . .

Regardless, I wish all interviews were this entertaining.

1 Anyone know more about Nigg? Very interested, but there’s next to no info online . . .

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