So I’m heading north, as it were. As an etiology of the current cultural situation, this book belongs on a shelf with Frederic Jameson’s Postmodernism and David Harvey’s The Condition of Postmodernity. When a father dies from one of the families, a series of responses is triggered, leaving every family member loose. Cole?) TM: How did you come to the story of Rafael Sánchez Mazas? Rosemary Villanucci, our next-door fried who lives above her father’s café, sits in a 1939 Buck eating bread and butter.”. TM: And in Spain, what was the reaction to this book? CITY ON FIRE is his first novel. GRH: Books brought me to New York. Of course, fiction was always written; the way the writers found to express themselves was writing historical fictions. Whereas philosophers—or at least the old philosophers—need to demonstrate the principle, need to demonstrate step by step what a novelist doesn’t. I’m wondering if there is similarly a core passage or image or set of paragraphs or images in Thus Bad Begins that you felt yourself writing around or toward … or that you began with. I hasten to say of baby N, as of Proust: totally worth it. To my mind, though, it’s worth it — not least because the house’s sun porch is my favorite place to read in the entire world. Another way of saying this is that it’s Salman Rushdie’s most generous novel. I may not have been a great reader, but by God I was dogged, and if I made it through the opening 10th of a book, then I was going all the way to the end. TM: What you call, in The Anatomy of a Moment (following Hans Magnus Enzensberger) the “hero of retreat.” Like Prime Minister Adolfo Suárez there, who appears in that one moment or period as a very complicated sort of hero, and was far from heroic in all kinds of other ways. I had thought of it as a proto-muckracking work about the evils of the 19th-century coffee trade—the thing it’s famous for—but Multatuli is also an extraordinary writer and literary architect, hurling thunderbolts of satirical and polyphonic prose, as much Sergio De La Pava as Ida B. You fled what you were. Eduard Douwes Dekker). I ran down a copy in preparation for interviewing Cercas and ended up thinking this may be my favorite of his books: a story of survival during the Spanish Civil War and of an attempt to recover the truth half a century later. Sufficiently cooled from Ferrante fever, I moved on to Elizabeth Hardwick’s Sleepless Nights, from 1979.  He published his first novel, City on Fire, in 2015, to criticism and acclaim.
Were you at all worried about picking a time period that had been so culturally mined?
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