Interview with Daniel Borzutzky in The Conversant

Interview with Daniel Borzutzky in The Conversant


After publishing my Sixty Morning Talks interview collection, I have begun work on a more focused, single-press interview series, offering a comprehensive oral history (a cinéma vérité, in prose) of Nightboat Books’ diverse and ambitious output over its first decade of publication. For this newer project, it particularly interests me to track interpersonal and intertextual constellations that have helped to shape the work done by Nightboat’s authors, publishers and designers. Nightboat will publish this interview collection late next year. This interview focuses on Daniel Borzutzky’s books, The Book of Interfering Bodies and In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Economy. The interview was recorded March 24, 2015 and transcribed by Nicole Monforton.—Andy Fitch

Andy Fitch: As I read In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Economy, immediately following The Book of Interfering Bodies, recurrent motifs or scenes struck me. Both projects seem haunted by specific familial and historical traumas. The oppressive Pinochet regime repeats, but so do certain nightmare scenarios, furtive perspectives, glimpses through a crack in the wall. Both books appear likewise haunted by contemporary journalistic anecdotes. In both, we encounter a 90-year-old woman who shoots herself as her house gets foreclosed. From Bhanu Kapil’s Schizophrene, I here would borrow the principle of mutation to describe how Carcass Economy emerges in relation to its predecessor. Perhaps we could say something similar about how your “solo” projects emerge amid translation projects. And we might want to address the intercultural grafting that takes place when you present tragedies of twentieth-century Chile to a contemporary U.S. audience. But could we start with how mutation plays out across your texts, from translations to texts, across historical moments?

Daniel Borzutzky: I think your observation that the books are interlinked is perfectly correct. There’s a phrase in Interfering Bodies, in the poem called “The Book of Non-Writing,” which comes in capital letters: “FALSE CARCASS ECONOMY!” At some point, I read a review of the book, and it highlighted that phrase, which was capitalized in that manner. I had never thought about why I capitalized it. But I kept that phrase, and certainly carcasses and economies appear throughout Interfering Bodies, but then the actual title of the second book comes from that first book. Then the book that will be published next has this notion of the rotten carcass economy all through it. So if the carcass economy originally was about bodies and a sense of corpses and bodies mutilated and spread throughout the U.S., Europe, and South America, then that same focus on actual bodies and violence done to bodies comes into play in the new books. The notion of actual fiscal economies is also much more central to what I’m now thinking. Reference points throughout both books (namely Marguerite Duras, in particular her essay “The Death of the Young British Pilot”) remain central. There’s also a repetition of the title “The Smallest Woman in the World.” There’s a piece in Interfering Bodies called “The Smallest Woman in the World,” and there’s a piece in Carcass Economy called “The Smallest Woman in the World.” Both of them are written in response to, or in dialogue with Claire Lispector’s short story called “The Smallest Woman in the World.”

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