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  Lidia Vianu - Director of CTITC (CENTRE FOR THE TRANSLATION AND INTERPRETATION OF THE CONTEMPORARY TEXT), Bucharest University, Professor of Contemporary British Literature at the English Department of Bucharest University, Member of the Writers’ Union, Romania.


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Literature is half imagination and half game

Interview with JOHN FOWLES (31 March 1926 – 2005), British novelist
Published in LIDIA VIANU, Desperado Essay-Interviews, Editura Universitatii din Bucuresti, 2006

© Lidia Vianu


LIDIA VIANU: What is your favourite activity (writing included)?

JOHN FOWLES: I think very definitely studying and remembering nature; what we call natural history over here.

LV. How do you feel about critics who try to interview you? Do you welcome/ tolerate/ hate attempts at making you explain what should actually be enjoyed and left at that (your work)?

JF. I am grateful for their interest. I am certainly not against people like academics (or you) for their just curiosity.

LV. What else beside fiction have you written? Poetry? Criticism? Drama?

JF. I have tried to write poetry all my life and am indeed hoping to publish a new form I have only very recently evolved. I have written a certain amount of criticism, mostly not yet published. My most important other work concerns a diary I kept through most of my life. I hope that will say what I mean. It should come out next year.

LV. What is your opinion on the film made after The French Lieutenant’s Woman, the change in perspective? How do you feel about the film made after The Collector, which totally ignores the best part of the book, Miranda’s diary, the necessary half of the scales, without which the novel loses its intensity?

JF. I did, when younger, study the cinema a good deal, and thought about it. I certainly don’t feel it is effortlessly superior, especially in its French and Italian forms.

LV. Which do you favour, book or film? What is the future of literature, in your opinion? Will people ever stop reading in favour of the screen?

JF. I am highly suspicious of Hollywood and think most of the best cinema in Europe is French, German and Italian.

LV. What question would you most like to be asked but have not yet been asked so far?

JF. The only question is: Who am I? I’ve lived 74 years and still don’t begin to know.

LV. What is it you most hate about interviews? What question is most hateful of all?

JF. It’s generally the questions that give my ignorance the most scope to extend. Every answer should really begin: ‘I don’t know, but I suppose...’

LV. I have guided dozens of graduation papers on your work at Bucharest University. Do you like the idea or would you like to stay away from academics?

JF. I am honoured to have been so popular. Of course I like the idea, above all I try to be European. Academics are obviously very useful and I would hate to deny their potential importance – like you and this letter.

If a student came and asked you how your personal life was woven into your novels, what part reality played in your plots, would you tell him the truth?

JF. I should try to tell him the truth, but I’m not sure that I could. Knowing who you are and what your faults are is the great problem for all of us writers.

LV. How much of your life have you actually put in your books? What has really happened to you out of what you have written? Which novel is most autobiographical, if any?

JF. I have tried to fit all my life in. I suppose the most autobiographical book changes in everything I write. I have already mentioned Mantissa. I think most writers must use the realities that life has brought them.

LV. Is literature confession, imagination, game?

JF. I think literature is half imagination and half game. One’s feeling alter, sometimes very greatly, from one creation to the next.

LV. Is love interest (which Woolf so much hated but could not do without) crucial? You treat it with irony, but your reader usually does not. Do you welcome emotionally involved readers?

JF. I wouldn’t say that I rely totally on love interest, although I do very much like emotionally involved readers.

LV. What is your most ardent wish?

JF. To be understood and to teach. I suppose in a way to sell the ethical aspect of my work.




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