The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Alex Kovacs

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Alex Kovacs

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Summary: Sue was slightly unnerved by the prospect of interviewing an author whose protagonist interviews himself (after allowing a suitable time lapse between preparing the questions and answering them) in The Currency of Paper, but the opportunity to chat to Alex Kovacs was not one to miss.
Date: 29 November 2013
Interviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee

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Sue was slightly unnerved by the prospect of interviewing an author whose protagonist interviews himself (after allowing a suitable time lapse between preparing the questions and answering them) in The Currency of Paper, but the opportunity to chat to Alex Kovacs was not one to miss.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Alex Kovacs: Misfits, oddballs, outsiders, eccentrics. Basically the sorts of persons I feel some sense of kinship with.

  • BB: What inspired you to write The Currency of Paper?

AK: I had graduated from university and was finding that the prospects I faced in both the job market and in life seemed so extraordinarily bleak that I felt a great anger about the insanity of it all. The book essentially emerged from the sense of injustice fostered by that experience and also from the enormous depression that I felt about it all as well. I was determined to write a book which would attempt to lift me out of that depression, by essentially being as life-affirming and comic a text as I could produce. Aside from various chapters of darkness, which I felt were utterly necessary for the book, it is essentially a comedy.

  • BB: Maximilian planned out the rest of his life in the course of a day. How did you plan your book? How long did it take you to write it?

AK: It took nearly four years to write the first draft which I felt was of a suitable quality to show to agents and publishers. After that came a lengthy period of rewriting. From very early on in the process of writing I had the entire structure of the book planned out roughly, but I kept tweaking that structure, hundreds of times, re-arranging the chronology, adding and subtracting chapters, crossing things out. Nevertheless it seemed very important, somehow, to have the entire thing planned out precisely.

  • BB: Maximilian had some neat tricks up his capacious sleeve. Ever been tempted to do anything like this yourself?

AK: I think a large part of the point of the many artistic and socialistic actions described in the book is that they are, in many cases, essentially impossible to achieve without a great deal of money and time. I've never been in a position to do most of these things and don't really expect to be. There is then also the fact that Maximilian is a far more talented person than I am. Even If I were to stop talking to people for decades, as he does, and focus purely on making art, I doubt that I would manage to be as productive as he is.

  • BB: Does capitalism have a future? If not what's the alternative?

AK: Capitalism is going to flourish for centuries, at least until the species manages to become more enlightened, which I do believe will happen one day in the very far future, as long as we don't annihilate ourselves first, which is far from impossible.

Progress is made by human beings. We do in fact manage to improve ourselves gradually. In Europe slavery has now been abolished for hundreds of years and women have the vote. So perhaps in centuries to come we will finally realize, in a similarly widespread way, as an entire culture, that there are alternatives to Capitalism and that we must instigate them.

The alternative is one or another form of social organization most commonly referred to as “Socialism”, which could never be a one-word solution to all ills, but might be a good starting point at least.

  • BB: I found London to be a more likeable character in the book than Maximilian. How do you feel about the city?

AK: I love the city, almost in defiance of its many cruelties and insanities, which are evident on a daily basis. I have found it to be a frequently inspiring place to live, with its endless abundance of people and locations.

  • BB: Where and how do you write?

AK: Originally by hand, in public places: cafes, pubs and libraries. Everything is then typed up afterwards and worked on many times.

  • BB: What question would you have asked yourself, given the opportunity?

AK: Why do people seem to prefer reading J.R.R. Tolkien rather than Donald Barthelme?

  • BB: You've got one wish. What's it to be?

AK: To have infinite wishes.

  • BB: What's next for Alex Kovacs?

AK: I might go and live in Peru for a while.

  • BB: Keep writing though, Alex. Thanks for chatting to us.

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