PEN World Voices: Americans seduce foreigners
A couple of interesting PEN World Festival events happened over the weekend: Salman Rushdie and Paul Auster were at Instituto Cervantes (along with Michael Ondaatje and Richard Ford) to drink bubbly and celebrate the progress of the festival, which ends today. Auster, after encouraging folk to drink and flirt, read a section from Lorca’s Poet in New York. Apparently the Brooklyn novelist once did his bit to improve intercontinental literary relations by trying to seduce Lorca’s niece (he failed). Rushdie also spoke, relating his own tale of world cultures colliding (Salman, you must have so many of these). Apparently a preteen Susan Sontag once threw a tea party for Thomas Mann so that she could cross-examine him about his place in the literary milieu of Germany. Poor Thomas Mann.
Yesterday, Auster popped up again, this time to chat with Enrique Vila-Matas, an author who is little known in the U.S. but has a large readership in his native Spain. Vila-Matas published a text titled “I Am Not Paul Auster,” after a conversation with his mother, a fan of Auster’s. Vila-Matas told his mother that his work was very much like that of the American. She disagreed. Auster said he thought he and Vila-Matas were very much alike. He noted that they even dressed the same: “Same sweaters, same shirts, same shoes,” he said, looking over at Vila-Matas. “I only have one other pair of shoes and they’re just like those.”