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Interview Serbia I

1.     La jungla sin bestias is Your first book, You wrote it as a teenager. What kind of book was this novel?
It is in fact a collection of short stories, with very diverse themes, but I decided not to publish it because I considered this book just as a kind of training, too immature in many aspects. I just saved one of the stories for my second book, Vast Hell (Infierno Grande).

2.     Your story Infierno Grande is about evil and mass graves. Unfotunately mass graves was part of Balkan's past in last 10-15 Years. In that way, Your story is universal, isn't it?
Sadly yes. What is also sad is that after twenty five years of these facts, many young students in my country don't get what  the story is talking about. People keep forgetting and repeating the worst  kinds of political violence.

3.     For novel Imperceptible Crimes You won the Prize Planet. This is Your most successful book. How did You write it?
In a literary sense many people think that my first novel (Acerca de Roderer) is still my best book. But it is true that Imperceptible Crimes has been read much more widely... In fact, I wrote it almost by accident, as an interruption of a very difficult and ambitious novel. It was an idea that I was toying with when I left Oxford, but I thought I would write it in a distant future, once I had finished »the serious stuff«. What happened is that an educational site proposed me a novel in episodes to be uploaded online one chapter each week. I immediately remembered the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which started that way in the newspapers of the time, and I was tempted to create a new version of a »logician« detective, with bits of mathematical thinking.
After writing the first chapter, this project suddenly collapsed, by economical reasons, and I found myself with the beginning of a novel and all the time to develop it in a more sophisticated way. This was what I did during two more years and when it was ready I sent it to the Planeta Prize... The rest of the story surprised me more than anyone: this novel about maths and almost bloodless crimes got an incredible success. It has been translated by now to twenty six languages, it sold eleven editions in England and there is going to be also a movie, directed by Alex de la Iglesia. Maybe part of the attraction is that I really enjoyed writing it, and part of this joy gets to the reader...

4.     Imperceptible Crimes  is novel about crimes of an assassin in series in Oxford. This book writen in good tradiition of english crime novels, but there are a lot of inovations...
There was an academical tesis in my country about the variations in my novel with respect to the classical crime novel, most of all around the figures of the detective, the criminal and the relation Holmes-Watson in my own pair master disciple. But I was not concerned with these aspects while I was writing. The only innovation I conciously tried was the discussion about the aesthetic of reasonings in different fields, including crime investigation, and the theorical struggle between the mind of a mathematician and the mind of a police detective.

 5.     It is very interesting to tell us that Your friend from Oxford is Vladimir Tasic. How did You meet him? You are still in touch?
Vladimir was one of my room colleagues in the visitors office at the Mathematical Institute and we became friends in my second year in Oxford. When he knew that I had written a novel and he read it in the English version (it was my first novel Regarding Roderer) he tried to recover his own teenager afition for writing short stories. And in fact he wrote several of them, of course in Serbian language. He used to read them for me and my wife at that time, in an oral simultaneous translation to English. In this way he finished a whole book of short stories, and later on he published it under the wonderful title »Herbarium of souls«. Then we kept in touch and I translated to Spanish his philosophical book »A mathematical reading of postmodern thought«, wich I not only enjoyed a lot, but took as inspiration for some of the discussion in The Oxford Murders (for instance, Wittgenstein's point about non uniqueness in the continuation of a finite series). A year after of this he won the main prize in literature in his country, and I was delighted to learn that he was becoming also a well known novelist.

6.     Can we read Your novel Acerca de Roderer like book about  intellectual antagonism?
Yes indeed. This makes for the dramatic tension between the two main characteres. But it is also a contemporary version of the Faust myth.

7.     In Your novel Acerca de Roderer and La mujer del maestro You wrote about old myth (Prometeus and Faust). Is it right that writers always tell old stories?
Not as a general statement. It is one of the possible ways to look back at the past with the hope to say something new about those stories when restoring them in a contemporary setting. But there are many other ways to try new insights in literature. I do belive that there is margin for originality in literary creation, in spite of all the stories that have been already told. The wheel of human life keeps moving and categories that seem steel, like love, death, madness, are note really the same in each time. So in fact one is never really telling the same story, because also the perspective of the readers, their increasing irony and  knowledge are defying the repetition.

8.     How do You find balance between mathematica and fiction? Do You find similarities beween mathematica and fiction?
I find some striking similarities in the creative process and I wrote a whole book about this, called Borges and mathematics. The main analogies are described in a short essay I wrote that is also translated to English under the title Short story as a logical sistem. I am including it attached.

9.     Which writers and philosophers influenced at Your literary work?
Henry James, Thomas Mann, Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, Witold Gombrowicz, Jean Paul Sartre, and of course, the marxist way of looking at history and social movements.

10.  You interested in philosophy of mathematics. Which answers give us this field of philosophy, especially Wittgenstein?
I would say that what I grasped from Wittgenstein is that you cannot take anything for granted as solid knowledge, not even the rule of multiplying by number two. And also the importance of the games of language, and the aprovation-reprobation mechanism (as replacement of the impossibility of fixing a rule) in the social teaching and levelling of individuals.

11.  In Your literary work we can find that You respect well known mathematicians Gödel and his last theorem. Why?
Because it puzzled and amazed me for a long time, and I wanted to transmit something of this amazement to common readers without any mathematical background in a literary context.

12.  What Borges means nowadays for argentinian writers?
He is an important reference and there are people that think that the literary streams in my country can be divided in a kind of for or against Borges. I don't agree with this binary simplification. Borges has been a literary cicerone through literatures all over the world and a master of style, but I don't think at all that there is a kind of aesthetical  tirany from which there is neccessary to be freed. I feel that he is a company and that he set up a high level with his writings, as an inspiring obstacle, for the writers to follow.

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