Wild Age Press asked Ezra E. Fitz, the man responsible for the beautiful translation of Israel Centeno’s Bamboo City — available now! — three questions about place similar to the ones we asked Israel in an earlier post.
Q: What kind of a place is Nashville? How does it compare to other cities you’ve lived in or visited?
A: Nashville is a city in conflict with itself. Unlike New York, which is big enough to be anything to everybody at all times, Nashvillians are constantly debating one another over their identity. It’s a question of how to integrate deeply rooted Southern values and beliefs with the realities of 21st century globalization. In 2009, a local councilman introduced a proposal that would have made Nashville the largest U.S. city to make English the official language of local government. Ultimately, 57% of the voters here rejected it. Last year, the city elected a Jewish immigrant who had grown up in Argentina during the military dictatorship to the metro council. So even here, in the South, where the old guard dies hard, we see growing evidence that all big, American cities are cities of immigrants. It’s home to me, a Yankee immigrant from the Northeast, and home to my wife, a Colombian immigrant who came to Nashville on a college tennis scholarship.
Q: If you lived in Bamboo City, what would your dwelling look like?
A: As I was translating Bamboo City, I couldn’t help thinking vaguely of The Beach by Alex Garland, as well as the summer I spent backpacking through Belize and Guatemala, and the expats I encountered along the way. I think I’d be living a solitary life on the water in a thatched palafito with a dog, a fishing pole, and a skiff.
Q: What does your writing/working space look like? What objects surround you?
A: My writing desk faces a window overlooking my yard. To the right of me is a large, framed, black and white photograph of William Faulkner’s writing desk from his home, Rowan Oak, in Oxford, Mississippi. To my left is the poster from a feature film, Múscia Campesina, that I helped make here in Nashville. And behind me, against the wall, are shelves containing books written by my professors, friends, and the authors I’ve translated. I’m thrilled to have added Israel Centeno and Bamboo City to this collection.