The only preface I have for this interview Dubravka Ugresic did with Verbivoracious Press is that you really need to read the entire thing, and then you need to buy all of her books.
VP Editors: Can you start by telling me a little about your interest in literary activism, and what revelations sprang from the Kolkata conference you mentioned attending last year?
DU: Literary activism, as I see it, should be a useful corrector of mainstream literary values, a reminder and promoter of unknown literary territories. Literary activism is supposed to usurp our comfortable and rigid mainstream opinions, to shake up our literary tastes and standards, to promote unknown writers and neglected literary territories, to bring fresh knowledge about literature. The role of literary activism is irreplaceable especially today, when one can’t rely on national literary canons (they are predominantly male and operate with the old-fashioned, dusty concepts of national literature). We equally can’t rely on the literary marketplace, because it operates like any other marketplace. When a book becomes a product, we are no longer talking literature, but about sales and trade. [. . .]
VP: In your essay ‘Can a Book Save Our Life?’ (from Europe in Sepia), you ruminate on the quantity, and impermanence, of books being produced today. What is your prognosis for the future of serious writing, and is there any way for us to escape the gross commodification of literature?
DU: I don’t think there is an escape. There will always be various forms of personal, authorial escapes, forms of intellectual gestures; there will also be group initiatives, literary activism, and literary elitism, but as far as publishing and the creative industries are concerned, things will go on and on. [. . .]
VP: What do you think of the likely impacts of technology on the directions which literature can take in terms of form as well as function?
DU: Soon we are all going to write, I’m afraid, and nobody will have time, or need, to read us. We are all going to produce art, but nobody would have time to see it, I’m afraid. The visitors to museums, libraries, and exhibits are going to be school children, no older then 12, because at that age children will aready be producing their first novel, or/and their first piece of art and further on they won’t have any time, or need, for consuming works of art. They will produce their own art using mostly copy-paste techniques. Copy-paste technique will enable the future creators to consume and at the same time produce literature, art, music . .
VP: Do we still have a literature of exhaustion, or is now merely an exhaustion of literature?
DU: I am personally exhusted by literary-market manipulations, e.g. every minute of my reader’s life I am distracted by warnings of a brilliant book that just appeared on the market and I’m missing it.
Now go read the whole thing.
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