It appears our old buddy Jonathan Franzen’s reign of terror continues. He totally bungled an interview with Colombian writer Juan Gabriel Vásquez. Franzen said, “To me it feels as if there’s been a kind of awakening in Latin American fiction, a clearing of the magical mists,” and asked Vásquez if his wonderful new book, The Sound of Things Falling, is a reaction to Gabriel García Márquez and his peers.
Chad W. Post at Three Percent didn’t like the interview either, and tried to rework the question for Franzen instead of a Latin American author:
I’m struck by how different in feel The Corrections and Freedom are from the American “modernist” novels of a generation ago. I’m thinking of both their disinterest in language and representations of the inner workings of the human experience (the straightforward neo-realistic prose that dominates both of them) and the obsession with the suburbs. To me it feels as if there’s been a kind of awakening in American fiction, a clearing of the obfuscating mists, and I’m working to what extent you see your work as a reaction to that of Faulkner and his peers. Did you come to fiction writing with a conscious program?
I guess Franzen was trying to say that realism is replacing magical realism in Latin American literature. Post’s point, and the real problem with the original interview, is that Franzen takes a half-century of Latin American work and pegs it all to García Márquez.
Attributing a region’s entire contribution to the field to one author is, frankly, pretty ignorant. In fact, there are so many other essential books and authors in the Latin American canon that it seems fair to wonder (once again) whether JFranz is just trolling us all for sport.