Interview with Rodrigo Fresán (Part V)
If you’d rather read this podcast in one document, just dowload this PDF. Otherwise, click here to find all four of the earlier pieces along with a bunch of other Two Month Review posts about The Invented Part.
Special thanks to Will Vanderhyden for conducting—and translating—this interview.
Will Vanderhyden: Most of your books change over time, meaning subsequent editions are published with corrections, changes, and entirely new content. Like for instance, in the case of The Invented Part, you added some 60 pages of new material to the book as I was translating it. This tendency of yours to continuously rewrite, to add, reminds me, again, of Borges and his quintessentially postmodern ideas about the impossibility of an authentic or definitive original, about how all writing is rewriting, about how literature is alive and cyclically shifting with every reading, rewrite, translation, never fixed and never finished . . . Where does this impulse of yours come from? And, while we are it: can we call your novels novels?
Rodrigo Fresán: Let’s say that it’s hard for me to let go of my books (though it gets easier all the time: material fatigue as time goes by . . . ) When it comes to what I do, the truth is I don’t think much about genres and formats. I prefer to imagine that each one of my books is a different room in the same house that I am discovering as I move through it. Someday, I hope, I’ll climb up to the basement or descend to the attic.
WV: The Invented Part has now grown into a trilogy. The second volume, La parte soñada The Dreamed Part has already been published in Spanish and you’re well into the writing of the third volume, La parte recordada The Remembered Part. Can you talk about how this happened? You didn’t set out to write a trilogy did you?
RF: In the first place, The Dreamed Part wasn’t going to exist. When I wrote The Invented Part I had no plan to do a trilogy, just the opposite, when I finished the novel I had the impression that everything would end there and that I was going to devote myself to something else. And yet, I spent almost a whole long year adding small fragments to The Invented Part, first for the French translation, which came out un January, and, then, to the English translation, which is just coming out now. I didn’t have a plan about how and what the next book after The Invented Part would be, but I was thinking of something small, of something uncomplicated and quickly written. And yet, I realized that I was having a really hard time letting go of the voice of The Invented Part. I really liked what I had achieved with that voice: it’s a kind of third person in first person. I think that, also, when I finished the novel, I had become sort of addicted to that version of myself, a kind of alter ego/Mr. Hyde who could say all the things that not only could I not say, but that I couldn’t even think. It was appealing to see how I would have been if I had suffered certain constants and not done certain things, like become a father. Then that small book that I had thought of, whose idea was a night in the life of two kids and their slightly mad uncle, going all over a city looking for their parents, was abducted by The Dreamed Part and, in fact, that story of the two kids was the last thing I wrote, turning it into the final four or five pages of The Dreamed Part. And the truth is that when I accepted that I was going to continue with the voice of The Invented Part, I felt very comfortable and the writing of this second novel went quite quickly, as is the writing of the third one, The Remembered Part. The idea is that the trilogy ends up creating a portrait, between figurative and abstract, of how a writer thinks . . . A memoir not of a life but of a method. When you remember something, at the same time, you decide to forget something, because you never remember the totality of events. That, in itself, is already exists a form of editing and narrative building. The same thing happens when you dream and when you invent. That is, if you will, the formal center of the trilogy. To invent and to dream and to remember. Those are the three motors of the narration of a life that together make a work of art. The inevitable problem, of course, will be what to do when the trilogy is finished. But it will be a happy problem, I hope.
Tune in tomorrow for the final episode of the Two Month Review on The Invented Part. Then come back next week when we launch into season two, which will feature Guðbergur Bergsson’s Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller.