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July 29, 1980 - Image 13

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Michigan Daily, 1980-07-29

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The Michigan Daily-Tuesday, July 29, 1980-Page 13

An interview with I.

(Continued from Page 4 Y
Anna Karenina and enjoy it and understand it. He
didn't need guides and explanations. It was crystal
clear. While Joyce used his gifts to become so ob-
scure that readers would have to use 10 dictionaries
instead of one.
Q. Some people do genuinely enjoy Joyce,
A. Almost everyone of them has a Ph.D. or is
working for one. They enjoy obscurity and riddles.
It's their privilege.
Q. It sounds like you have little sympathy for
American writers today, who often feel that their
books go out into a void.
A. If their books go into a void it is because they
write for a void. If you write for people, you will
reach them.
Q. Then does the distinction usually made bet-
ween serious literature and popular literature not
exist for you?
A. Yes, there is a difference. A popular writer
knows how to tell a story, but he tells it in such a
primitive way that to a good reader it looks obvious
and banal. Anna Karenina entertains, and so does
a kitsch novel. The question is, what entertains
Q. You seem to appeal to both audiences.
A. My editor Abe Cohen once said, a pig will eat
garbage, but he'll also eat a piece of cake if you give
him one. There is something of a pig in all of us.
Q. You've said that a writer needs to have roots in
order to produce good fiction.
A. Yes. Real characters come from real people,
and real people have roots. You can't write a novel
about just A Human Being. You have to pick a
specific man or woman, a person with an address.
Real writers, therefore, stay in their own environ-
ment, in their own corner. Flaubert's Madame
Bovary could only have taken place in one par-
ticular French provincial town, at one particular
time. It couldn't have happened as Flaubert wrote
it a hundred years before, or in Dublin.
Q. You write so much about spiritualism,
mysticism, demons-

A. Not about spiritualism, but about psychic
phenomena like clairvoyance, premonitions,
telepathy, yes. This is a subject which literature has
neglected, but to me it is life.
Q. I've often wondered how much of this you
literally believe, and how much you are using
metaphorically, for your own artistic ends.
A. Well, both. It's a literary metaphor, but at the
same time I do believe in entities, creatures, souls,
whatever you want to call them, the existence of
which we don't have any scientific evidence for, but
which we feel just the same-at least I do. You can't
photograph them or bring them into a laboratory,
but can you bring into a lab love, talent, the human
Q. Must a writer believe in demons to write a
good novel?
A. I never said that! A writer can be a
materialist, an agnostic, and still write. There's no
such thing as "must" for a writer. However, it is a
fact that you find the element of God-searching in
the works of all great writers. Great men ask the
eternal questions. For them, this is a must.
Q. You seem to have an inexhaustible supply of
characters. I have the impression that people are
drawn to pour out their life stories to you.
A. All the time! The moment I ask, out comes a
story. Sometimes even before I ask. And if they ask,
I tell them mine. The passion of the writer exists in
everyone of us. We don't want our experience to be
ours alone, we'want others to know about it too,to
share it. I listen to the story, I understand it as best I
can, I store it up in my memory, and someday it
comes back to me. You can erase a recording
machine, but you cannot erase anything from the
Q Do you still learn from other writers?
A. Most of what I learn now comes from life, not
literature. The writers of this century, after all, are
not the writers of the 19th century. We don't have
Tolstoys and Dostoyevskys and Flauberts.
However, this century is not finished yet.
Q. Are there any new writers you admire?
A. I'm glad there are old writers I admire!

B. Singer
Q. What are you working on now?
A. My new novel is a kind of fantasy, set in the
time when the Poles stopped being hunters and
began to work the fields, some time before they ac-
cepted Christianity. It's called The King of the
Fields. I call ita fantasy because there's very little
historical information about this era, so I've had to
use my imagination. But when I read it, I feel that in
some way it has the element-or at least the
smell-of reality.
Q. You're a famous writer. You've won the Nobel
Prize. Do you think about whether you'll be read in
a hundred years?
A. I hope that when people a hundred years from
now ask, "What happened to the Polish Jews in the
20th century that is now so far away," someone will
answer, "If you read Isaac Singer you may find
some clue."
Q. Do you think there will be Yiddish readers
A. I'm not sure. But people -will study Yiddish,
just the way they studied Hebrew for centuries after
it became a dead language. I've said it so many
times: Jews suffer from many sicknesses, but am-
nesia is not one of them.
Q. What do you think about the future of fiction?
A. I will tell you. There is a future both for ex-
cellent writers and for very bad writers. There will
always be an audienace for good literature and for
cheap literature. But the prospect for middlebrow
or average fiction looks very dark, because its
audience will get more and more of its entertain-
ment from films and television and perhaps from
media we don't know yet. So when a young writer
sits down at his desk today, he should say, either
I'm going to write for the best or the worst. He
should never try to appeal to the reader who has lit-
tle taste and big pretensions, because this reader is
going to disappear, I wish.
Copyright © BySaturday Review
All Rights Reserved
Reprinted by Permission
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tured and poisoned others so they would
agree to settle a money claim.
(Continued from Page 12)
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Besides the person who was beaten to
death, others were seriously injured,
including several who had been
poisoned with cyanide, authorities said.
A SPOKESMAN for the prosecuting
attorney's office said the bus company,
which he refused to name, invited the
relatives of four people who were killed
in an accident last week to a meeting
Friday to discuss indemnities.
One there, however, eight bus com-
pany thugs began beating up the 20
relatives and tried to force them to
agree to a small $8,700 indemnity
payment, the spokesman said.
The family members, including
several children, were locked up for
three days while thugs tortured them
and poisoned several of the group with
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cyanide, authorities said.
The spokesman for th
attorney said one relative
death and others were ser
after they refused to si

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