Could see it in the way he filled the space, with no urgency and an all-knowing air, as if made of finer threads. In fact, that is the story of Southern writers like Larry Brown and William Gay. EP: Yes, right. And I always had a small following. She wasn’t named after Tess of the D’Ubervilles. Or 30 rejection letters for a story. RB: It means I have shifted more responsibility to the writer. It can be appreciated in many ways. EP: Thank you very much for putting me in that threesome. Purchase this Issue » Volume 91 No. And not a widespread choice. RB: Wow. Love to go to the movies. Donald Trump’s attempt at a coup was not the first staged by a US president – just the first on US soil. RB: Are you tempted to write what seems to be a current trend–. By fallible human beings. EP: I started to write the book at three, but I didn’t get any further than the title. RB: The percentage may not be the different but the cause may be and thus the hold it has on our civilization may be different — more tenuous. RB: Tibor Fischer’s story is particularly amazing. YH: In this specific case it is because although I took for my model a very precise space, the border between Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, and a very precise issue, the criminal stupidity of the “War on Drugs,” designed by different American administrations and followed by several Mexican administrations, the craziness of the powerful was not invented by these criminals, the drug lords, it is something that has always been there. I go where I am asked. There were five seasons and every season had a different focus. My purpose is not to find new things. Why else be an artist?” When I read this, it reminded me of something that another writer I know, Scott McClanahan, said recently in an interview. RB: A guy takes a trip to some backwater town, and takes a train back to the capitol and meets a woman. Instead of doubt, his decision was based on confidence. He pauses for some time, his eyes dart up, and he tilts his head from side to side subtly. In final pages, you learn explicitly that they were lovers once. I’m also curious about the translation process and how involved you are in it? I can’t remember which one. But my letters were rather long. And passionate and they don’t write early music — it’s already been written, but they play it and adapt it. Put them to shame. EP: No, but a typewriter. EP: Well, I like best to read Dickens and I read him over and over again. (Both laugh). For every story I find a core around which the rest of the text is going to proliferate, sometimes it is a tension between characters, sometimes it is a dramatic line, like a transformational journey, sometimes it is an atmosphere. RB: I think not. His writing style is like nobody else’s, a unique turn of language, a kind of poetic slang. There are probably a half of dozen people who see the child — each of them has a thought that you know about. For the first time in my writing life, I think the future is going to be a better balanced one. He grins and acknowledges that, looking back now, he was probably wrong and perhaps foolish even. In general the writers are — they know how lucky they are. A man who looks like Yuri walks hastily into the Café. The Peauxdunque Review and the Words and Music Writers Conference are pleased that Michael Zapata has agreed to judge the 2020 Beyond the Bars category of the Words and Music Writing Competition. RB: What’s it like to be on book tour? That’s okay. EP: I started to write — actually I finished writing a mystery story with a friend but it wasn’t very good. He responded, “Yes, after 20 years in the Borscht Belt.” I’m not an overnight sensation, but at the moment I’m in demand. He becomes the court bard at the King’s lavish palace, but soon finds out that the price he must pay to stay in this elevated world far outweighs what he receives in return. TM: You have a very distinctive writing style: charged but very clipped, deceptively simple, with short sentences and not a lot of description. YH: There are a lot of words that work as markers of a certain rhythm and a certain character of Lobo, like Simón, which is another word for Yes, but, say, with more attitude. RB: You start out with a sense that there is a civilizing effect of thinking and writing and telling stories. Yuri Herrera in an interview with Armida Zepeda in A Literary Season Online “Many people think that books have a universally positive or healing function, I think that is not true: they are not there to make you happy, but to give you certain tools.” Your email address will not be published. (She quotes comedian Danny Kaye when I used the phrase). Yuri Herrera. Edith Pearlman: Interesting question. I am certain you know the stories of writers who have submitted their books to many publishers and were rejected. Yuri speaks excellent English, but we converse in Spanish and Yuri answers most of my questions without pause. Interview with Yuri Herrera. And though I love to read novels and so do my colleagues, I have no wish to write in the long form. EP: Absolutely. While avoiding aggressive Texan drivers – a staple of Houston – I recall one last question. EP: Yes. He would need a “truly original” idea before attempting it. RB: That’s the Frankfurt Book Fair. Success frequently is serendipitous. Lisa Dillman lives in Decatur, Georgia, where she translates Spanish and Latin American writers and teaches at Emory University. It was the one entitled “Chance.” It had a Torah study group card game. RB: That was a while ago — it just came out in paper. Many years ago, the writer Rivka Galchen loaned me Francisco Goldman’s first novel, The Long Night of White Chickens.The musicality and irreverence of the title was equally manifest in the verve of the writing, and in the novel’s searching questions about a … RB: Sure, but within the usual window of attention. Maybe a few were/are heroic — Truman Metzel of the late Great Expectations in Evanston Ill., or Sylvia Beach in Paris, Vincent McCaffrey in Boston. RB: Is there one thing that moves you in taking up or developing a story — a name, an image, feeling, a memory? And Ben Katchor, he started early. EP: No, that’s what the destruction of Jewry was about. I then ask, a bit pointedly, if he feels any tension between the creation of fiction for a general readership and the academic world of theory? Is risk the main reason to be an artist? YH: I don’t know if it’s the main reason, but it’s something that you are going to have to face if you truly engage with the creative labor, because art implies creating new ways of looking at familiar subjects, and in order to do that you have to disassemble rules, meanings, certainties, you have to look at the arbitrariness of certain aspects of reality, or at the nonsense of cruelty, or at the complications of love, and in this manner you can not only mess with your readers’ emotional stability, but with your own. I ask: does he know the ending for a story before he starts writing? (Both laugh). And a few weeks later, the writer decides the editor was right (laughs). C’mon! If the BEA invited me, I would go. RB: Yes, it’s mentioned in the middle of the story. Let Us Help You Pick Your Next Book. How did you come to select this book by Yuri Herrera for the interview? YH: I always think my next novel is going to be as long as War and Peace, because I have many notes and I think that once I develop them it is going to be a long breadth book, but then I discover that my notes look a lot like how I want the story to sound, or that they require not more development but more concision and more versatility. He accepts, and, only after my wife insists, sits in the front passenger seat. EP: I don’t know that the percentage is any different now. Edith Pearlman on Fame and the Importance of Short Fiction, What It Is to Be Alone: The Millions Interviews Anne Enright, Over the Brink of Disaster: The Millions Interviews Elisa Gabbert. It’s going to see these younger women coming through, and they don’t give a damn. TM: I’m interested in the influence of fairytales, folklore, and fables on your writing. EP: Why don’t they have that luxury in their off hours? , Yuri sits a bit back from the table with his body open to the entire table. I must have read about you in Variety. Not wholesale revision. TM: Your novels were all written in Spanish and then translated, often by the same translator, Lisa Dillman, into English. Forty Stories: New Writing from Harper Perennial, Messing with People’s Expectations: The Millions Interviews Mark Binelli, Creation Myths: The Millions Interviews Lindsay Hatton, Ada Limón and Erika Sánchez Discuss Self-Care and a Life of Words, Novelist-of-the-Future: A Profile of Jennifer Egan, Facts That Turn Out to Be Fiction: Ann Cummins and Sarah Stone on Writing, Landscape, and Family, Overnight Sensation? Kingdom Cons includes lots of recognizable archetypes that appear in fairy or folktales across the globe—the King, the Witch, the Commoner, the Heir—can you talk a little bit about your choice to use these sorts of stock mythic characters? I don’t remember. RB: So, do you go to book related events? The train is blocked at a tunnel and the passengers have to get off and return to the starting point — as man and the woman walk side by side, their hands come close to touching but do not. I was so dazzled by that that I didn’t hear the rest of the question. EP: I thought it was done to the best of my ability at the time. EP: All of those things. EP: It certainly has. It won’t last forever, so I am responding to it. As is the case with my author colloquium, Edith Pearlman and I talked about many things – Tales From Shakespeare, Hermes typewriters, Penelope Fitzgerald, reading Dickens, the task of literature, Aunt Jemima cookie jars, and more. I did not get an MFA — I took a total of three courses. Weeks ago, I had ordered a copy at Brazos from his Spanish publisher, Editorial Periférica, but was waiting to get my copy at his signing. I wondered if there is an equivalent word that you used in the original Spanish or is this something that only exists in translation? En la primavera de 2019, los autores entrevistados serán Achy Obejas, Yuri Herrera and Claudia Hernández. RB: Well, at least if you pay attention to The New York Times. I’ve read all of Yuri Herrera’s novels that have been translated to English and I find his work to be fascinating. I participate in the process only as much as they ask me to. The Irish tradition has been very male heavy. Yuri Herrera Yuri Herrera Interview Author Yuri Herrera on ‘the American problem that Mexico is suffering’ Yuri Herrera (in Spanish) Today it would seem passion — people who like reading and literature passionately began to champion the independent bookstore. A. Bruno Figueroa: Mexico has great novelists like Octavio Paz or Carlos Fuentes, but they are some of the most renowned writers of the past and I wanted to present the latest generation of brilliant novelists. [She writes:“My only challenge was to keep from interrupting myself as I read. I was in an event in which three short stories were read by three actresses which was a lot of fun. RB: When you begin, do you know what is going to happen? I have a feeling that I’d become addicted if I started watching. I was making my living as computer programmer, so writing was in those days confined to letters. I read for my other three books a lot and seven people would be there. “Signs Preceding the End of the World,” Yuri Herrera — very excited to dive into this one! I work with people who don’t read — 35 year olds who play video games. And I don’t mind that. There are many artists that one can say that about. RB: And what the Torah is about (laughs)? RB: That was probably the case for most of history — that only a small fraction could benefit from reading and writing. And this is a necessary step in order to provide a space for critical thinking, or for emotional discovery, but also for madness. RB: Besides fatigue, there aren’t a lot of cultural prompts. EP: Well some time ago they might have been plowing the fields. RB: Richard Russo introduced the volume of Best American Stories he guest edited with an amusing anecdote about Isaac Bashevis Singer visiting the campus where Russo was teaching and answering a graduate student’s inquiry with the “task of literature is to instruct and entertain.” Apparently the gathering wanted a more elaborate answer. So I go back — when a story is accepted by a magazine, it’s an opportunity to correct things. It made life somehow better. He then uses an English word to describe his house: he calls it a “shotgun.” I’d never heard the term before, so he describes it in Spanish. Yuri Herrera in an interview with Armida Zepeda in A Literary Season Online “Many people think that books have a universally positive or healing function, I think that is not true: they are not there to make you happy, but to give you certain tools.” Especially when a small amount of people show up for an event — has that happened to you? I was watching one writer listening to her own story — she said later all she could hear were the infelicities. People who read, people who write–. Basically, they are narrow, rectangular houses with similar-sized rooms stacked one after another front to back. EP: I don’t know that I got better — I got different. With excerpts included, Herrera explores his use own of language while describing the transience of memory and the challenge of translation. There is a moment in the middle of Kingdom Cons when the Artist is talking about writing corridos and he says “The story tells itself but you have to coax it […] you take one or two words and the others revolve around them, that’s what holds it up. He never once crosses his arms or legs. EP: It begins with the Torah being delivered, and so I had hoped that the Torah would always be somewhere in the back of the reader’s mind. How do these decisions get made? EP: No, I don’t say that. EP: No, no. I start all over again with the knowledge that I have gotten from the improvisation. EP: Right. Yuri Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World is a masterpiece, a haunting and moving allegory about violence and the culture built to support and celebrate that violence. Yuri Herrera: I don’t think everything has to be explained in a novel. I enjoyed the Hassidic slant, but I really like that it went somewhere I didn’t see coming. In the case of the novel, not naming certain places helps avoiding clichés and easy formulations of issues that are much more complex than what the mass media and government speakers say. The Millions' future depends on your support. The body can't always keep up. I guess that is why I can’t write long novels. I agree with the statement, “Trust the tale, not the teller.” My attitude about a story I have written may well be different from a reader’s. EP: I am. (Laughs). We realize Yuri’s event starts in less than ten minutes. What caused the switch from poly sci to letra? Suddenly, time rears its ugly head. EP: Well, in Dickens, each time I find something, some turn of phrase, a manipulation of plot or a character I hadn’t appreciated. I once was on a lineup that included David Sedaris and I was the first reader and he was the second. RB: Right. So this somehow happened. The present day criminals are a very explicit example of that, but the need to have your name in golden letters, to proceed following your testosterone, to not listen to other opinions, to believe that artists are there to promote your greatness, that kind of megalomania can be seen very clearly in the old kingdoms, as well as in decaying democracies with spoiled frat-boys-turned-presidents who decorate their houses with animal skins and golden furniture. I’ve never had my writing translated so I have not yet had this experience and I’m curious how it feels to you to read your words in a different language? My grandson is the same way. It has also been translated into French, Dutch, German, and Italian. RB: They had all been previously published somewhere? RB: Right. EP: Because literature is important. Silences are important because they are the most eloquent part of a creative work in how it allows the readers to reveal themselves when they fill them. The man looks puzzled and nods no, and Yuri scans about and sees me waving. Q. Regarding the names of the characters, these are like that in order to introduce an element of tension: their names as roles create an expectation of what they are supposed to do, and each character is going to define itself by resisting or obeying that expectation. Signs Preceding the End of the World is his second novel, and was published in English in 2015. I had the experience of standing before 500 people reading my story — all of 499 had come for him. It was a Tolstoyan tale. Meander? He says “it’s possible,” but it’s been “done before” by others. It was fun. RB: Do you think the task of literature is to instruct and entertain? The editor doesn’t respond. Its a recreation of places as a way of transporting yourself, using memories to embellish your virtual surroundings. RB: Do you think the piece is finished when the story is written? I used it for years. I don’t remember what model it was. I love the narrative. Anything And Other Stories brings out is worth checking out and Yuri Herrera in particular is just a fantastic, fascinating writer. In Spanish with English subtitles. I ask Yuri about his life in the United States and more specifically New Orleans, where he teaches at Tulane. RB: Why are writers like Alice Munro, William Trevor, and yourself admired in a way that seems different than many writers? Don’t you think? Yuri Herrera (Author of Signs Preceding the End of the World) And I read somewhere that Nabokov wrote his novels that way on 5×8 cards. I think we read [Lamb] together. (Both laugh). EP: I took a course in college and a course or two in my 30s. For instance, many novelists write short fiction, but it seems that short fiction practitioners don’t often write novels. I write my stories on a typewriter too. I go to festivals. Yuri Herrera was born in Actopan, Mexico, in 1970. Cause if you’re just saying what happened, why bother with a song. Robert Birnbaum: What was the first book you remember reading? I recognize his face and glasses, but he doesn’t see me. And that is fine, that is something that should be embraced, precisely because it is a way of expanding the life of a text. Those of us who want to sell books are delighted. EP: Obviously, I don’t go to it since I don’t know what it is. It was pretty old. At one point you felt the story was finished. I confess to him that I have not yet read Kingdom Cons, Spanish title Trabajos del Reino. I had the honor of speaking with Herrera recently about silence, power, creation, and translation. As he explained to me in an interview, Herrera’s protagonists share a border condition, something much more complex than simply occupying the border between two countries: a border is “any situation where you have different individuals and different communities exchanging values, exchanging goods, always in conflict but also in different levels of dialogue.” Mostly there is a six-week window of attention for books and then goodbye. EP: Improve? I lost track of why the card game devolved to the temple and presentation ceremony. I also admit to laughing at having read the phrase “Hijuelachingada,” which may sound odd to non-Mexican ears. But other books are coming along with good reviews. EP: Well, the title of the story is “Chance.” That’s what poker is about–. And the things we believe today, we can expect not to believe tomorrow. 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