Saturday, April 26, 2008

So La Vanguardia and El País both got interviews with the Pulitzer-winning American novelist Richard Ford, whose book The Lay of the Land has just come out in Spanish. El País's interview is longer and more detailed, but Ford told both of them pretty much the same thing.

From La Vanguardia:

I set the novel in the interim between the election and the judicial decision about the election in 2000, because the way George Bush was named president was flagrantly perverse, since the Supreme Court overruled the will of the electorate, and much more importantly, I think the American voters allowed this to happen without protest. In other countries, such an event easily could have caused a coup d'etat or some kind of civil revolt against a plutocratic and oppressive regime. But the Americans just went to sleep during this serious constitutional crisis, whose consequences have been disastrous, of course, for our national morals, for our sense of right and wrong, but also disastrous for the rest of the world, especially for Iraq and other countries.

Americans are not interested in politics anymore. They want to abdicate their civic duties and turn them over to the "experts," who supposedly act in our name, but in reality they are acting in the first place to keep their jobs and then in order to serve the interests of the greatest fortunes, who have bought their access to public office. Americans are no longer citizens. As political entities, they are asleep from a moral point of view, and they don't want to be woken up, they just want to be allowed to keep living the life they are living--working, buying, getting rich at the expense of the poor and of our own future. It's not a pretty sight.

1) No wonder the Europeans have a bad image of Americans, if this is what our cultural leaders are telling them. 2) Note that Ford dislikes the American people, who are ignorant, selfish, and shallow in his view, as well as active agents in "exploiting the poor." 3) Note the conspiracy theorizing: the rich folks run everything in a plutocratic and oppressive regime. 4) How come Spanish newspapers never interview any pro-American Americans?
From El País:

It's a fact that America is a very violent society. When I began to write about New Jersey in the year 2000, every time I imagined a scene and thought about what would be the background sound, there was always a police car. It's part of American life, we are numbed by our violence, and by the violence we are inflicting upon other countries.

I was a Democrat. Not any more. Although I voted for Obama. But I'll never be a Democrat again. The Democratic party isn't even a party, it's splintering up.

I'm going to vote. I'll vote for whoever the Democrats nominate. But I don't want them to consider me as one of their party...But I'll never be a Democrat again in my life. They're a bunch of liars, a bunch of narcissists, they're disorganized, they waste money, they're irresponsible and untrustworthy. No. That's it.

(McCain's election) is worse than frightening. It would be a disaster. Not just for America. It would be a disaster for America's relations with the rest of the world, that's what scares me the most. Our relationship with those countries that we have every reason to get along with. And our relationship with the Muslim world. We've burned our bridges there, and that terrifies me. Not personally, I don't fear for my life. It terrifies me spiritually. The things I think my country represents or should represent in the human spirit are being abandoned. My country has become pseudo-democratic and imperialist. We make five enemies for every friend.

My European readers are more important for me (than my American readers). I feel privileged to be read by Europeans and Latin Americans, because I believe they are better readers in general. They understand the value of art in a complex cultural scene. I'm American, so I suppose I write for American readers, but, based on what I feel, I think I reach my goals better with the European audience.

1) I think Mr. Ford is suffering from a cultural inferiority complex. No Yank who has lived in Europe for more than a month believes that the average European is any brighter or has better taste than the average American. 2) There's not much more violence in the US than in the UK. Violence is simply not part of the lives of the great majority. Agreed, Spain is less violent than either place, but here in Barcelona we hear plenty of police sirens just like in Jersey. 3) He dislikes his fellow Americans so much that he even puts down his own readers. I wonder if his contempt includes the voters for the Pulitzer Prize and the Faulkner Award. 4) Note all the Marxist jargon, imperialist and pseudodemocratic and plutocratic and oppressive. 5) There are some American interviews with Ford linked on his Wikipedia page. He doesn't say anything like this in any of those. 6) Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Mr. Ford is absolutely right about the Democratic Party.

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