Sunday, June 13, 2010

Craig Nova

Craig Nova is the author of twelve novels and has received an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is also the recipient of NEA and Guggenheim fellowships. His writing has appeared in Esquire, Paris Review, New York Times Magazine, and other publications. His latest novel is The Informer.

From his Q & A at Fringe Magazine:

Q. Fringe readers will be interested to know that you chose 1930 Berlin partly because of some cultural and political parallels between that time and place and ours. Can you talk about those parallels a bit, and how they helped lead to The Informer?

A. Well, this is a good question, and I’d like to answer it from the beginning, from the way the book came into existence.

When push came to shove, in the actual writing, I was interested in three things, story, story and story: I imagined it as a sort of collaboration between Graham Greene and Albert Camus (my inspirations for this book). I wanted to write a sort of Brighton Rock set in Berlin in 1930. Of course, there were gangs in Berlin, the Rings, and people were getting murdered all the time. It seemed like an ominous, moody place to set a sort of book like Brighton Rock.

The first item in writing a novel, at least for me, is a general feeling, a sort of uneasiness or curiosity, that gets me started. This, for The Informer, was the realization of the truth of Orwell’s discovery, if you can call it that, that people make up their minds first and then look for facts to support an argument already made.

Few people look at the facts first, and then decide. Mostly, in political circumstances, it’s the other way around. In politics, a fact is either convenient and should be emphasized, or it is inconvenient and should be suppressed.

So, this inability to discover what is going on presented itself to me as a problem and one I wanted to write a book about.

Then I began to look around. What was the most dangerous and most politically intense time in modern history? Invariably I came to Berlin in 1930. And the first thing that came to mind, which I found through reading and actually going to Berlin and talking to people, was a sort of cultural similarity.

So, in Berlin in the twenties we had many things that were like today. We had people confronting the impact of Modernism, that is people had lost the traditional support of, say, village life, of family, of the church, of a belief in what was known as civilization (the First World War had surely finished that off), and while the freedom of this new way of being was great for many people, I think others were simply uneasy and a little confused.

Today, we don’t have Modernism, but Postmodernism, which I take to mean that we don’t have a standard truth, but instead a series of points of view, from different perspectives, and that the entire notion of truth is somewhat under attack. A lot of people...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: The Informer.

--Marshal Zeringue