Magazine article World Literature Today

Literature as Delayed Dialogue: A Conversation with Kike

Magazine article World Literature Today

Literature as Delayed Dialogue: A Conversation with Kike

Article excerpt

The Argentine author Enrique Ferrari, known in Buenos Aires as Kike (kee-Kay), has become more visible in the past two years. He writes by day, works cleaning the subway at night, and revises his work during breaks. A family man, father of three, martial arts aficionado, and longtime acolyte of Charles Bukowski, Karl Marx, and North American crime writers, he is mostly known for his crime fiction and his rise as an autodidact laborer. Though skeptical, he uses his newfound platform to discuss his work and his views on literature. I was able to sit down with him at his home to talk about his works in progress, literatures of interest and influence, his relentless use of the epigraph, his self-perception and the public's perception of him as a writer, and the separation of his day-or night-job, which seems very distinct from his trade as a writer.

Paul Holzman: I believe it was in an interview with Crónica TV where they asked you if today you would rather be Coehlo or Bukowski. You refrained from selecting either one but did note you would not want to be another Coehlo. You also mentioned that you do not want to be simply read but rather be in dialogue with your readers.

Kike: Literature is a delayed dialogue. It is like correspondence before the Internet-an old letter. You write today and around ten days later it arrives on the other side of the world to a friend who reads it. It takes a week for them to answer you, and twenty days later the letter arrives, responding to something that is not happening to you anymore. Literature functions a bit like this. What I want to say, to find the clearest example for both of us, is this: I wrote Operación Bukowski (Operation Bukowski) living in the United States in 2002. It was published in 2004. And you, being an American, read that novel this year in Argentina. That is a delayed dialogue. The text traveled 10,000 kilometers there, then 10,000 kilometers here, and returned to travel around over there. Moreover, you read it in a language that is not yours twelve or thirteen years after it was written.

Holzman: Not to mention that the novel begins in a neighborhood that I know better than Los Angeles itself-Almagro.

Kike: And I've never been to Los Angeles. So, you probably complete a part of the text that I could not complete because I am unaware of all of that. There is one more thing Id like to mention in respect to this matter. Bukowski is a writer who has been fundamental to my initiation as a writer and my early formation. I mean, I even have him tattooed right here [points to his arm].

But in a way, I tried to pay a general homage to North American literature. It is a very important literature for me and, to my understanding, for the rest of Argentine writers from the mid-nineteenth century until today. It seems unthinkable for me to imagine the best authors of our country without Faulkner, McCullers, Chandler, Hammett, and the gang of crime and detective fiction. And the same goes for other authors who also interested me greatly. Without Mailer, without Auster, Cheever, Salinger. It is very difficult to think about Argentine literature, it seems to me, without listening to the North American literature of the twentieth century.

Holzman: Speaking of Bukowski, what enchants me about Bukowski is what really drew my attention to what you do. You are a very popular person, in the sense that, you are well informed and committed to your civil responsibilities. You are an activist in your city, aware of what is happening to the average person. You also write for Metrodelegados (Metrodelegates). I believe Bukowski was also a popular writer in this sense, working in the postal service until he was fifty. So, in regard to the things that influence us in the popular world and your being an activist, how do you find the balance between the "low culture," if you will, that one resists, and the popular that is necessary?

Kike: The thing that I believe is most important, above all, or that will define the text, is its quality. …

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