On September 8, 1971, Paul Sufrin came here to  conduct  a
radio  interview  for  Swiss  Broadcast,  European &
Overseas Service. I do not know when, or  if,  our  rather  odd
colloquy was used. Here are a few samples.

     You've  been quoted as saying that in a first-rate work
of fiction, the real clash isn't between  the  characters,  but
between the author and the world. Would you explain this? 

     I  believe I said "between the author and the reader," not
"the world," which would be  a  meaningless  formula,  since  a
creative  artist makes his own world or worlds. He clashes with
readerdom because he is his own ideal reader  and  those  other
readers are so very often mere lip-moving ghosts and amnesiacs.
On  the  other  hand,  a  good  reader  is bound to make fierce
efforts when wrestling  wdth  a  difficult  author,  but  those
efforts  can  be  most  rewarding  after  the  bright  dust has
settled.

     What is your particular clash? 

     Well, that's the clash I am generally faced with.

     In many of  your  writings,  you  have  conceived  what
{consider  to  be an Alice-in-Wonderland world of unreality and
illusion. What is the connection with your real  struggle  with
the world?

     Alice  in  Wonderland is a specific book by a definite
author with  its  own  quaintness,  its  own  quirks,  its  own
quiddity.  If read very carefully, it will be seen to imply, by
humorous juxtaposition, the presence  of  a  quite  solid,  and
rather  sentimental,  world,  behind  the  semi-detached dream.
Moreover, Lewis Carroll liked little girls. I don't.

     The mixture of unreality and illusion may have led some
people to consider you mystifying  and  your  writing  full  of
puzzles.  What  is  your  answer to people who say you are just
plain obscure? 

     To stick to the crossword puzzle in their Sunday paper.

     Do you make a point  of  puzzling  people  and  playing
games with readers? 

     What a bore that would be!

     The  past  figures prominently in some of your writing.
What concern do you have for the present and the future? 

     My conception of the texture of  time  somewhat  resembles
its  image  in Part Four of Ada. The present is only the
top of the past, and the future does not exist.

     What have you found to be the  disadvantages  of  being
able to write in so many languages? 

     The inability to keep up with their ever-changing slang.

     What are the advantages? 

     The ability to render an exact nuance by shifting from the
language I am now using to a brief burst of French or to a soft
rustle of Russian.

     What  do  you  think of critic George Steiner's linking
you with Samuel Beckett and Jorge  Luis  Borges  as  the  three
figures of probable genius in contemporary fiction? 

     That  playwright  and  that essayist are regarded nowadays
with such religious fervor that in the triptych you mention,  I
would  feel like a robber between two Christs. Quite a cheerful
robber, though.

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