Jennifer Dubois ha pubblicato il suo primo libro (storia parziale delle cause perse)
ed io l’ho intervistata.
dear Jennifer, sometimes, books are hiding secrets (example, our main writer, Dante Alighieri, wrote his “Comedy” with different levels: literal, allegorical, moral, anagogical). In my opinion your real intention was the attack against Putin and his Russia. Am I right? And if “yes”, don’t you be afraid?
The critique of Putin’s Russia is a major concern of the book, but I wouldn’t say it’s the “real” intention or concern. I think the real intention is the exploration of Irina’s question – what do you do when you’re confronting a lost cause? – and Aleksandr’s experiences in Russia’s political opposition resonate with, and partially answer, that question. But the political situation in a lot of other countries would, too, and there’s certainly nothing in my book’s portrayal of Putin’s Russia that’s not already publicly known. As for whether I’m afraid of criticizing Putin, I think he’s probably too busy with other things right now to worry much about a minor American novel.
coming to the “destiny”: being pre-destined to die is not something that characterizes only the sick (Irina has a rare genetic disease), but it’s part of life, since the ultimate goal is common to all. Can we thence really deal with our fate?
Irina’s fate is absolutely universal, which is part of what makes her inability to invest in her life so absurd – even though it’s on some level understandable. What she needs to learn how to do is what everyone has to learn how to do – she just has to do it a bit faster.
Knowing that we are still fighting a losing battle (which is the disease lying in wait – for her – or the defeat in the elections – in the case of him), what attitude can we put in place?
I think Irina and Aleksandr both conclude that there is some value in just *trying* that life, and most of the things most worth doing in it, are ends in and of themselves.
Coming back to the attach against Putin, may I compare it to the famous “J’ACCUSE” of Emile Zola (written – that – in defense of Dreyfus). If Zola, with an editorial, tore the corrupt system of French justice, it is clear that you want the reader to meditate on the monstrosity happening now in Russia, “Putin is not motivated by something as pure as a philosophy wrong. It is motivated by money, by the need to protect themselves, by indifference, which can be as dangerous as the ideology.”
I hope that Russia’s political situation makes a compelling context for the novel’s plot and serves as an original metaphor for its central themes.
But there’s really nothing that the book says about contemporary Russia that hasn’t already been said. The damning facts about Putin that the novel assembles are all available to us because journalists uncovered them (risking, and sometimes losing, their lives in the process). So I can’t take credit for issuing any kind of original indictment of Putin’s Russia, though I certainly hope that reading the novel may prompt some readers to learn more about it.
Again on the “destiny” subject. When you write that we (oh, yes .. this goes for everyone, not just for Russians) … “we have become a nation of people who are content to sit there in the heat in the kitchen. And so we will be happy until we even take the kitchen.” you want us to wake up (optimistic view) or you just realize that there is no hope (pessimistic view).
This is something the character Aleksandr says during a political rally; he’s trying to rouse his audience from political apathy. The presumed political apathy of ordinary Russians has been an important dimension of the protests over the past year – Russian leadership has tended to assume that the citizenry only cared about economic concerns and were otherwise fairly uninterested in politics, but it turns out they were wrong.
There is a phrase that is, by itself, worth the price of the book: “what I imagine is what we remember, and what we remember it’s all we have left.” Again, I will like to understand if this is part of the optimistic or pessimistic view! How you feel when you think of your future?
I think the characters are struggling to find life’s significance and beauty alongside its futility and ugliness; perhaps that makes them realists. The question for Irina and Aleksandr isn’t necessarily about seeing in the world in either starkly positive or negative terms, but in finding a way toward meaning within the parameters of what’s actually possible.
Now I will like to know something more about you: how come that you decided to write a book and why this great subject?
I’ve always been interested in international politics generally and Russia specifically, and when I read about Garry Kasparov – the real life chess player turned dissident on whom Aleksandr Bezetov is loosely based – I was drawn to writing about a character with a similar arc. Irina’s story arose from my experiences with my father’s death from Alzheimer’s disease – he became ill when I was twelve, so I grew up with a lot of the same questions that Irina struggles with. And somewhere in the writing it became clear to me that Irina and Aleksandr’s journeys, though very different, were fundamentally similar. They were both confronting the same challenge: what do you do when you already know what’s going to happen?
What is still possible and valuable within that framework?
Do you play chess? Once, in the past, the chess game were something really great and important (especially the Russian-American games), but lately the chess seems having disappeared. Has the computer destroyed that old game? Shall we expect that the computer will destroy other parts of our lifes?
I play chess only badly and rarely, but I’m fascinated by the game. I don’t really know if the triumph of the computer program has contributed to a decline in interest in chess. To me, the brilliance of the best human chess players is in no way diminished by the existence of these programs, but computers certainly make all kinds of things feel less romantic to many people–maybe chess is one of those things.
After this first “big” success, you will surely continue writing. Have you already something … you are working on? Any possibility to know what’s the matter?
I have another novel about three quarters drafted. It’s based very, very vaguely on the story of Amanda Knox, the American study abroad student who was tried for the murder of her roommate in Perugia, Italy. I am fascinated by the way Knox seemed to provide a blank slate onto which everyone projected something different. In the book, I’m interested in exploring why people make assumptions about each other, and what these assumptions can cost us.
Any plan to come to Italy to “present” your book? If you should pass from Milan, I will be pleased to meet and talk to you!
No firm plans, but my fiance and I are going to be living in Paris in the fall, so if we make it to Milan I will certainly let you know – it would be great to talk with you, too!
Thanks very much, Paolo! I really appreciate your featuring the book.
All the best, and take care,