Writers on the Words That Define Their Work
At the renowned, international literary conference hosted by Villa Gillet and Le Monde, organizers asked more than seventy prominent authors to choose a word that opens a door to their work. Their musings, collected here for the first time, offer an extraordinary portrait of writing and reading from the novelist's perspective. Organized alphabetically by keyword, the anthology is filled with intriguing, amusing, and often surprising insight, essential to an intimate understanding of literature.
Through these personal "passwords," authors articulate the function of language, character, plot, and structure. Throughout the process, they reveal their relationship to the elements of story. Jonathan Lethem discusses the necessity of "furniture" in the novel. A. S. Byatt describes the power of the narrative web. Colum McCann details the benefits of anonymity. Daniel Mendelsohn expounds on the unknowable, or what the author should or should not impart to the reader. Etgar Keret explains the importance of balagan, a Hebrew word meaning "total chaos," and Annie Proulx clarifies terroir, which embodies the complexities of time, place, geography, weather, and climate. Other participants include Rick Moody on adumbrated, Upamanyu Chatterjee on the bildungsroman, Enrique Vila-Matas on discipline, Adam Thirwell on hedonism, Nuruddin Farah on identities, Andre Brink on the heretic, and Péter Esterhazy on the power and potential of words, words, words.
"Enlightening and enjoyable." — World Literature Today
"These authors represent an impressive range of nationalities, making their book a very good read. The essays are consistently well-written, playful, intelligent, engaging. They are so varied in their approaches and offer such distinct voices that, oddly for a lexicon, the book is something of a page turner. The reader is always curious to see what comes next. All the pieces provide interesting perspective on the workings of the novelist's mind(s)." — Jody Gladding, poet, translator, and author of Rooms and Their Airs
"This could be the beginning of a new literary genre& mdash;a collective, global genre, uniquely a product of our time. In it, writers, like participants in a reality TV show, find themselves forced to perform not in isolation (as they do in their own books) but as part of a group, against which they'll be instantly measured. This is a new kind of literary globalization, in which French and English mingle freely with Arabic, Vietnamese, Spanish, and every other language in the world. Each entry is strong and memorable, but what matters most is the sheer variety of approaches, the way each writer so fully defines him or herself, his or her idea of literature, in just a few lines, as well as the astonishing number of new names joined by more familiar ones. This bold experiment in taking the bull of literary globalization by the horns constitutes an important document of intensive, ongoing contact between all languages and all literatures." — Esther Allen, codirector, PEN World Voices