“Retreating to the metaverse, the greatest danger to humanity”: Mircea

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Natural candidate for Nobel Prize in Literature during the last decade, Mircea Cărtărescu (Bucharest, 1956) says “a modest person, without irrational dreams” as that distinction, believer in the “obsolete concept of inspiration” and poetry as the supreme art. On the pandemic, however, he is pessimistic and sees it as a “rehearsal of a more devastating, apocalyptic event”, in addition to launching an alert about a “greater danger” for humanity, rather than artificial intelligence: the withdrawal of the people to the metaverse.

On his way on his tour Spain, England and Italy, the writer opens a space for the interview with MILLENNIUM Thanks to the attentions of his editorial in Spanish, Impedimenta, in which he claims to be the same author in all genres and at all times, he does not identify with any school or movement and claims his Latin American colleagues as the only and legitimate heirs of European surrealism, augmented by a strong consciousness of social justice: Borges, Cortázar, Lezama Lima, Fuentes, García Márquez, Sabato and Bolaño.

You said that when you wrote Blinding had more of the feeling of creating a long poem than a short story, and when one reads The uprising there is the feeling of being in front of a novel rather than a poetic epic. In both cases, there is an aspiration of the author to achieve a summa, a total work, even in an unconscious way. What do you think?

I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about “literary genres.” I am the same writer in poetry, prose, essays, magazines, academic books, or newspaper articles. I write each text with the same passion and artistic commitment. While it is true that the art supreme for me (and perhaps not only art, but the way of being and source of knowledge) is clearly poetry. That is why I think that my literary work is a poetic work. It is indifferent to me if it is expressed in novels or in books of poems. I believe that all the great novelists in the history of literature were poets: who does not recognize in Balzac or Dostoyevsky great poets?

Romania underwent a radical transformation with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the overthrow of Nicolae Ceaușescu. How did that event affect your narrative, beyond the themes?

It didn’t affect me at all. My writing style has not undergone any change from my first book, published in 1980, at the epicenter of the most terrible dictatorship in Romania, until the last one. This is because beyond the theme or plot of each book, there are larger dimensions that define my style: synthetic, poetic and, on occasions, also prophetic. There is a search for what I consider “the truth of things.” The books I wrote prior to the revolution were mutilated by the censorship of the time, but no intervention could have altered them due to their fractal and holographic character. Even if you cut 50 pages out of one of those books, the rest would still have a meaning of its own.

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The narrator, that narrator to whom you see more power than Ulysses himself, returns in The uprising from time to time to the subject of Inspiration, with a capital letter. How does this process work in the case of Cărtărescu? How do the muses work with you?

From the beginning, The uprising It was a crazy book. Originally it was an epic poem of great length, with seven thousand Alexandrian verses grouped into twelve songs, all written in ancient Romanian, which even few Romanians can still understand. In addition, each and every one of those verses, each situation, each scene, contains allusions to Romanian writings that, obviously, no one from abroad was going to know. The book was an immense success in Romania, but for many years I considered it untranslatable. To get it translated into other languages, I first had to do it into Romanian. I rewrote it in prose, renouncing many literary allusions and other poetic ornamentation. Thus it became a strange baroque novel that had little to do with the original.

The problem with inspiration was part of that parody that we can see in The uprising. During the 18th century, and even the 19th, inspiration was considered the engine of all artistic endeavors: the muses, the Holy Spirit, or other heavenly powers in marble statues dictated their verses to poets. Edgar Allan Poe and later also Paul Valéry forever discredited this outdated concept. But still, I believe in inspiration. I never write without feeling inspired. In fact, no author I know is more dependent on inspiration than I am. When I write novels I always start with no apparent plan. I never know the theme, the development, the characters, or even the meaning of my books before I start writing. I just write. Page after page, without editing anything, without breaking pages or erasing words. I write as if I were in a trance in which my sentences are dictated to me by someone, or they already exist on the page, but are hidden behind a white film that I simply make disappear. Even my most monumental novels were written in a continuous process of inspiration, as if writing hundreds of poems. One on each page.

Do the characters come your way or do you invoke them and mark them an inexorable destiny, as in the case of Manoil, that kind of Romanian Aeneas?

My characters are part of me, but in the same way they are totally independent, like the beings that visit someone’s dreams: I cannot control them. Many of them have a reference in my real life, but others are completely the product of invention. None of them is the result of something preconceived. They appear out of nowhere. However, the characters of the women are special, since most are reminiscences of the few that I have loved, and therefore I usually surround them with tenderness and enigmas.

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Thirty years after the end of the dictatorship, you are the gambler’s favorite for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Does the current Cărtărescu speak with the 20th century Cărtărescu, perhaps in the way the characters in Transvestite illustrated by Edmond Baudoin?

It is a great honor to be considered worthy of the Nobel Prize. But I don’t think I’ll ever win it. I can live with that, like most writers. I am a modest person, happy with what I have and who does not have irrational dreams. I always tell myself: if Joyce, Proust, Woolf, Pound, Rilke, García Lorca and many other greats did not succeed, why should I? I consider all my work as an eternal interview that I do with myself during my life. In other words, I am not interested in being seen as a “conscience” of my time, but as a human being who tells his intimate, private, underground life, like Kafka, Musil, Joyce, Pynchon or Sabato. I hate representing something. I just want to be something. I only write for myself and for people who think like me. The whole world can be reflected in a drop of water. The human condition is reflected in a single human consciousness.

Will the ongoing pandemic involve a transformation like the world wars?

Not just the pandemic. Humanity is at a huge crossroads. We are in a time of crucial changes for the future of society. It is the first time since World War II that democracies no longer lead the world. China and Russia are challenging them with increasing courage. If China invades Taiwan, we could find ourselves in a war that would spell the end of civilization. New technologies could evolve to develop artificial intelligences that are impossible to control and that at some point will destroy humanity. Social networks are a battlefield for manipulators, full of fake news where practically only hatred and mistrust are spread among users. Climate change will terribly affect our descendants. We are increasingly aware of our uselessness in the face of the power of natural catastrophes (meteorites, volcanoes, supernovae …). Cultural and gender struggles, disputes between “conservatives” and “progressives” further delve into an already existing gap in society. The pandemic is just a rehearsal of something much stronger and more devastating than it seems inevitable in the not so distant future. The greatest danger is the loss of the meaning of life, that people withdraw to that virtual world that exists behind the screens, the so-called metaverse, and that we lose the sense of reality, human contact and the incredible gift that is ours. lives. Real. In a real universe. Yes, we are witnessing apocalyptic events and no one can say how many more we will encounter in the future.

In his work there are undeniable echoes of Jorge Luis Borges (“angel with mother-of-pearl wings”, he calls him), but also evocations of magical realism, such as the figure of the butterfly for his trilogy Blinding. What are your favorite writers in Spanish?

Both Cortázar and García Márquez, among many others. I love Latin American writers. They are the only and legitimate heirs of European surrealism, enhanced by a strong consciousness of social justice. The enormous palimpsest of Borges’s writings, the exciting fantasy of García Márquez, the baroque madness of Fuentes, the craftsmanship and temptations of Vargas Llosa, the dark underground world of Sabato, the playful and fantastic Cortázar, the paradoxical and dreamlike Lezama Lima , the underrealist Bolaño and a long etcetera are a majestic delight. They all make the kind of literature that I like best: imaginative, that hasn’t been blunted by commercial standards. Not long ago I visited Mexico and Colombia and fell deeply in love with the region. Not because it is exotic, on the contrary, because it reminded me of Romania. In fact, there are those who say that Romania is a Latin American country lost in Europe, with a similar propensity towards dictatorships, a large gap between rich and poor and a very imaginative literature.

Technology has transformed all human activities and literature is no exception. Do you think that the letters will at some point return to their tradition of movements, currents, manifestos …?

I consider myself quite skeptical about the future of quality literature. What I see right now is an accumulation of commercial books – generally American – that suffocate the bookstores, young people who have lost the habit of reading, people who are less and less intelligent, less complex. But this sad situation does not affect me: the revolution of 1989 could not change my way of writing and I doubt that any current change can. Retired in a log cabin or igloo surrounded by a frozen landscape, as long as I can hold a pen and even if I am the last person on the face of the Earth, I will continue to write my stories, even if they are just for me. I don’t identify with any school or movement because I don’t move, but the many ways of making literature come to visit and nurture me.

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“Retreating to the metaverse, the greatest danger to humanity”: Mircea