Israel  Shenker  sent  me  his questions on June 10, 1971,
three weeks before coming  to  see  me  here  in  Montreux.  My
written  answers  were accurately reproduced in The New York
Times Book Review,  January  9,  1972.  Their  presentation
would  have  been  perfect  had they not been interspersed with
unnecessary embellishment (chitchat about living  writers,  for
instance).

     What  do  you do to prepare yourself for the ordeals of
life? 

     Shave every morning before bath and breakfast so as to  be
ready to fly far at short notice.

     What  are the literary virtues you seek to attain-- and
how? 

     Mustering the best words, with  every  available  lexical,
associative,  and rhythmic assistance, to express as closely as
possible what one wants to express.

     What are the literary  sins  for  which  you  could  be
answerable some day-- and bow would you defend yourself? 

     Of  having spared in my books too many political fools and
intellectual frauds among my acquaintances. Of having been  too
fastidious in choosing my targets.

     What  is  your  position  in  the world of letters?
Jolly good view from up here.

     What problems are posed for you  by  the  existence  of
ego? 

     A   linguistic   problem:  the  singular  act  of  mimetic
evolution to which we owe the fact that  in  Russian  the  word
ego means "his," "him."

     What  struggles  these  days for pride of place in your
mind? 

     Meadows. A meadow with Scarce Heath butterflies  in  North
Russia,  another  with  Grinnell's Blue in Southern California.
That sort of thing.

     What are your  views  about  man's  upward  climb  from
slime? 

     A truly remarkable performance. Pity, though, that some of
the slime still sticks to drugged brains.

     What should we think about death? 

     "Leave  me alone, says dreary Death" (bogus inscription on
empty tomb).

     What kinds of power do you  favor,  and  which  do  you
oppose? 

     To  play  safe, I prefer to accept only one type of power:
the power of art over trash, the  triumph  of  magic  over  the
brute.

     What are the large issues that you can't get interested
in, and what are you most concerned with? 

     The  larger the issue the less it interests me. Some of my
best concerns are microscopic patches of color.

     What can (should?) we do about elusive truth? 

     One  can  (and  should)   engage   a   specially   trained
proofreader  to  make  sure that misprints and omissions do not
disfigure the elusive truth of an interview  that  a  newspaper
takes  the  trouble  to  conduct  with  an author who is rather
particular about the precise reproduction of his phrase.

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