The No Variations Companion

I am saddened to hear of the passing of immensely talented and erudite Argentinian author Luis Chitarroni. Although we never actually met, I had the privilege to interview him via email for gorse magazine, ten years ago, in 2013. You can read the whole interview here.

Luis was extremely kind about my long-winded questions:

“Yours is, honestly, the best interview — the most careful, the most intelligent, the most precise — I’ve been invited to answer. Thanks to your collaboration, the result could read as a real companion to The No Variations.”

He even went on to say:

“Your questions, as I told you, were the best reading of the book someone has ever done (including all the Argentine and Spanish critics). I’m flattered by your curiosity, and shattered by your intelligence and intellectual comprehension. Thanks to these qualities, I reread The No Variations, and developed a kind of No Variations Companion.”

The Novel Without Qualities

Chitarroni, Luis. “The Novel Without Qualities.” Interview by Andrew Gallix. Gorse, N° 4, 2015, pp. 185-206.

Luis Chitarroni is a prominent Argentine critic, editor, and novelist, whose staggering erudition is only matched by his warmth, humour, and kindness. Over several months—as I edited the following interview — he patiently responded to all my queries. Here is an extract from a message he sent me yesterday, which gives a good idea of the number of references he can cram, quite naturally, into a short paragraph:

The Distant Star is an allusion, almost a reference, to Roberto Bolaño’s title (Estrella distante). The man from Madrid is Javier Marías (an autor [sic] who declared ‘War’ to Jorge Herralde, his previous editor and publisher). The final sentence pretends to enhance Giordano Bruno’s observation on explosions and Shakespeare title’s play.

In the end, I cut the paragraph referred to above, because it still remained too obscure to me. There are other instances where I chose to leave in some rather cryptic sentences, due to their hypnotic rhythm or sheer beauty. After all, as Roland Barthes declared, ‘For writing to be manifest in its truth (and not in its instrumentality) it must be illegible.’ Tidying up Chitarroni’s answers felt, at times, like translating from English into English, which is slightly disquieting, but also ironic. Indeed, Susana Medina — a London-based Spanish novelist — had kindly translated my convoluted questions into her mother tongue, as I wanted Chitarroni to be able to express himself as freely as possible. When the answers came in, however, they were in English. So the questions were in Spanish, the answers in English, and the interview is the gap between the two. Whenever Chitarroni opens his mouth or puts pen to paper, it is the entire history of Western literature that seems to speak, and yet the voice is always unmistakably his. Whatever the language.

Read the interview here.