My translation of an interview with Don DeLillo from L'Express (see post on September 14) has gotten some attention in the blogosphere. One puzzling reaction was that of Graham Lester (Intellectuals Say the Darnedest Things, September 15) in his blog uncategorical, who took exception to one particular line about life in the U.S. these days, that it "has become difficult not only to protest but even to speak":
Now, perhaps Mr. DeLillo is a genius of rare proportions. There must be some reason why he was being interviewed. But I must tell you that his answer to the question made me laugh out loud.It seems that this reaction confirms DeLillo's statement, rather than contradicting it. That is, forget about protesting: against what can one protest? Right now merely to utter a question publicly about the "war on terrorism" can put one into an uncomfortable position. Often the reaction to this line of thought (what does the United States need to change about its foreign policy to reduce anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world?) is simply condemnation. I think that's what DeLillo meant, not that authors are literally forbidden to speak out but that they fear a reactionary backlash to what they want to say.
Graham Lester has clarified his reaction to DeLillo's statement (see post on September 22, That Mighty Wind).
Anyway, to keep this post on the arts and not politics (see the Ionarts motto in the upper righthand corner), after leaving France DeLillo will be going to Cologne, Hamburg, Berlin, and Zurich. He has also done another interview, this time with a German reporter (Jede Art von Macht verlangt auch nach ihrer Ausübung, September 22, in Die Welt), which I am not going to translate in full. However, there was one question that I thought was an obvious followup to the French interviewer's question about the action of Cosmopolis taking place in a single day. While that interview missed the chance to ask the question, the German interviewer did not:
In interviews you have sometimes called reading Joyce's Ulysses one of the shaping experiences of your youth. In Cosmopolis you present a novel that takes place in a single day. Is this a bow before James Joyce?
One of the first people to read the novel told me instantly, "Cosmopolis is Ulysses." I was careful not to make the book a revised version of Joyce's novel. Not that long ago on 47th Street, on which my protagonist drives in Manhattan, there was even a restaurant called Molly Bloom's Pub. Under no circumstances would I have used it in Cosmopolis. On the other hand, in the novel some minor mythological allusions can be found, not least that of Icarus. There is actually something that psychologists call the Icarus complex, which if it can be believed, applies to very powerful men who seek their own destruction.