Category Archives: Author Interviews

Three questions with Bamboo City translator Ezra E. Fitz

Wild Age Press asked Ezra E. Fitz, the man responsible for the beautiful translation of Israel Centeno’s Bamboo Cityavailable 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.

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Three questions / Tres preguntas with Israel Centeno

Wild Age Press publisher Kelly Lynn Thomas asked Israel Centeno, author of the soon-to-be-released bilingual chapbook Bamboo City, three questions. Here are his answers.

Israel Centeno, author of 13 novels and short story collections, including Bamboo City, out this week by Wild Age Press.

Q: What are the differences between Caracas and Pittsburgh?
A: Caracas is a city built in a valley with a mountain at its northern face, a mountain that separates it from all the Caribbean Sea, an icon that defines it: El Ávila. It is a city that sprang from an impoverished coffee-producing province to the modern capital of a rich producer and exporter of oil. A place where nothing remains and everything changes but the mountain. In my city you can hardly establish a time line unless you zealously work at archeology daily. Its modernity, arrogant, is overwhelmed by the chaos, transforming it into a chaopolis of sometimes insurmountable contrasts. It is a place that deconstructs itself.

Upon returning to Pittsburgh (I say return because in some way the first time I came was a return), I rediscovered certain landscapes of my childhood and my youth; it has nothing to do with the latitudes or the climate, rather with atmospheres. Living in Pittsburgh had given me back, or so I wanted to believe, a tempo, certain passages, streets, structures, spaces. Pittsburgh does not have the exuberance of a tropical rain valley or the sea behind the mountain, nor the crossing of a messy and turbulent river. It is very different and yet reconciles me to the idea of being, of the city, a sense of serene modernity I find endearing.

Q: If you lived in Bamboo City, what would your house look like?
A: I imagined Bamboo City as a land of foolish and incoherent dreams, a place of inner exile, of malicious and spiteful desires; the site where it recreates desire and nostalgia, unrealistic scenery falling over the feelings of one who lives there. It would definitely be a rural hut built in a humid and intimate rainforest, not a house or an apartment. I imagine Bamboo City and Almayer’s Folly by Joseph Conrad appears.

Q: Where do you write? What kinds of objects are in that space?
A: Although I find myself in transit, I should build a space absolutely mine. Create that illusion. Inalienable. Use books. I write in my room, I have to be surrounded by books or have books close to me. I can only write once I establish my territoriality with objects that are very dear to me.”


P: ¿Qué diferencias hay entre Caracas y Pittsburgh?
R: Caracas es una ciudad levantada en un valle con una gran montaña al frente, una montaña que la separa del todo El Mar Caribe, un ícono que la define: El Ávila; es una ciudad que dio un salto desde el paupérrimo provincialismo cafetalero hacia la moderna capital de un rico país productor y exportador de petróleo. Un lugar donde nada permanece, todo cambia, menos la montaña; en mi ciudad casi no se puede establecer una línea de tiempo a menos que se realice un celoso un trabajo de arqueología cotidiana. Su modernidad, prepotente, es rebasada por el caos, convirtiéndola en una caópolis de contrastes a veces insalvables. Es un lugar que se deconstruye.

Al volver a Pittsburgh (digo volver porque de alguna manera haber venido por vez primera ha sido un retorno) me he rencontrado con ciertos paisajes de mi infancia y de mi juventud; nada tiene que ver con las latitudes o el clima, más bien con atmósferas. Vivir en Pittsburgh me ha devuelto, o así lo he querido creer, un tempo, algunos pasajes, calles, estructuras, los espacios. Pittsburgh no tiene la exuberancia de un valle húmedo tropical, ni al mar detrás de la montaña, ni la atraviesa un río sucio y turbulento, es muy diferente y sin embargo me reconcilia a una idea del ser, de la ciudad, un sentido de modernidad serena que me resulta entrañable.

P: Si vivirías en Bamboo City, ¿qué parece tu casa o apartamento?
R: Imaginé Bamboo City como un territorio de sueños insensatos e incoherentes, un lugar de exilios interiores, de anhelos maliciosos y despechos; el sitio donde se recrea el deseo y la nostalgia, un decorado irreal cayendo sobre los sentidos de aquel quien la habita. Definitivamente sería un palafito construido en una selva húmeda e íntima, y no una casa o un departamento. Me imagino a Bamboo City y aparece la Locura de Almeyer, de Joseph Conrad.

P: ¿Dónde escribes? ¿Qué tipos de objectos están en este espacio (fotografías, papeles, cuadernos)?
R: Aunque me encuentre en tránsito, debo construir un espacio absolutamente mío. Crear esa ilusión. Inalienable. Uso libros. Escribo en mi cuarto, tengo que estar rodeado de libros, o tener libros cerca de mí. Sólo puedo escribir una vez que establezco mi territorialidad con objetos que me son muy queridos.

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