i am a japanese writer-dany laferriere

“At the time, I firmly believed that writers formed a lost tribe and spent their lives wandering the world and telling stories in all languages. That was their sentence for some unnameable crime. Hugo and Tolstoy were convicts. I found no other explanation for them having written those voluminous novels I devoured each night, in hiding. I imagined them with their feet in chains, seated next to an enormous inkwell carved out of rock. Which is why, later, I was reluctant to write thick books. I didn’t want to frighten children.” (13)

“Only a guy on unemployment who’s paid his rent can read War and Peace without skipping any of the descriptions of the landscape. I’d add to this short list of marathon readers the secretaries who plough through Stephen King’s massive bricks with shawls around their shoulders because of the Arctic cold that reigns in the downtown office towers. Most people prefer slimmed-down books. “No more than two hundred pages or I won’t even crack the book,” a celebrated literary critic recently declared on German television. I belong to that group of people who don’t watch TV, but who can’t stop quoting it. It’s like a Chinese proverb: you can make it mean anything you want.” (78-9)

i guess he doesn’t read long books anymore, either. but at least he doesn’t write them in hypocrisy.

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3 thoughts on “i am a japanese writer-dany laferriere

  1. shh…break it down:

    “Absence of noise is not necessarily silence. And what is silence for the Japanese? Emptiness in a conversation does not have the same meaning in all cultures. Of course it’s not emptiness at all, but a subterranean conversation (we speak to ourselves as we talk to the other person). We hear the silence when both conversations stop at the same time. It’s like a Ping-Pong game: you have to wait until your adversary returns the ball. And if he doesn’t do it with a smooth rhythm, brief spaces where nothing is spoken occur. Sometimes it isn’t an accident.” (66)

    “You don’t just meet a girl, I’ve come to see, you meet a culture. And you don’t leave that culture easily. It takes five unhappy affairs to break free from a culture as powerful as Japan’s. Once you meet your first Italian girl, you’ll be eating spaghetti the rest of your life. That’s what makes people suspicious of interracial romances: they wonder if it’s really them or their culture that interests their partner. Blacks want to know whether they are really loved, or if someone just wants to support a cause. And rich people, if it’s just about their money.” (150)

    “A guy who gives you his opinion about everything always ends up planting a seed of disquiet in your brain.” (6)

  2. sensual seduction:

    “I’ve never owned a still camera. That’s because I’ve never quite figured out their purpose. If it’s just to take pictures I’ll never look at, then it has to be the stupidest invention ever. Anyway, I have one that works very well: this skull where I’ve stored fifty years of images, most of them repeated until they’ve become the fabric of my ordinary life. This day-to-day life made of a series of tiny explosions. An electric life. I’ve been told that these images belong to me only, and that other people can’t access them. That’s not exactly true-I can describe them with such precision that, in the end, they become visible to other eyes. Even better: I can transform these pictures into feelings.” (23)

    “Watch out for your smell-it’ll give you away. The cops do their rounds at the smaller bus station (the main one is downtown and not to be recommended), sniffing at people to ferret out the scent of poverty. Here, race isn’t much of an issue (we all belong to the loser race); smell determines everything. And it’s not easy getting rid of that smell, believe me. I go for a shower at the Saint-Vincent de Paul. I soap myself down till the smell disappears. I put on a clean shirt. Everything goes according to plan until I start sweating. I’ve got a trick: I replace the identifiable smell of poverty with another one. I go and I sit in front of the Da Giovanni restaurant until the smell of spaghetti fully permeates my skin. I want to change smells.” (140)

  3. to be real (writers):

    “Are they real Japanese women? No doubt they’d be spotted right away in Tokyo. That old obsession with authenticity. The fake overtakes the real on the international market. Authenticity is for hicks. The rich were the first to buy cheap jewelry and act as if the originals lay quietly in a safety deposit box at the bank. It doesn’t cost much and looks almost exactly like the real thing. Since we always give the rich the benefit of the doubt, they just have to say it’s real to make it real. Their words are worth their weight in gold. The owner of a Japanese restaurant was complaining on TV recently about having to invite students to come in and eat for free, because no one would patronize his establishment if there weren’t any Japanese customers.” (168-9)

    “I hadn’t created all these identity displacements just to end up in a Japanese restaurant with Japanese people. In any case, that tells you a lot about the capacity of people to imagine the world, even those who are paid to be more curious than the rest of us. For them, the universe is narrowed down to their mental space and their petty diplomatic chicanery. They intend to die in the spot where they had their first shit.” (68)

    “It wasn’t news to me that literature doesn’t count for much in the new world order. Third-world dictators are the only ones who take writers seriously enough to imprison them on a regular basis, or even shoot them.” (72)

    “My phone conversation with my contemporary renewed my vision of an author who lived long ago. I always prefer dead writers-they stay younger longer. Death preserves us.” (55)

    “The Korean wasn’t sure if I was serious or not. I put on my most serious face. For me, it’s easy: everything is serious, yet nothing is. That’s how I move through life. I can’t even separate what’s true from what’s false in myself. I don’t distinguish between the two. To tell the truth, all this business about authenticity bores me to death. I’m talking about the concrete fact of dying. When people start conjuring up their origins, I literally find it hard to breathe. We’re born in one spot, and afterwards we choose our place of origin.” (10)

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