Antonio Lobo Antunes: Let me be very clear. For me geography does not exist! I strongly object to the whole concept of “foreign literature”...and speaking of national identity: that is how dictatorships get started! In literature there is no periphery and no center; there are only writers. The problem is not geographic but rather numeric. In the 19th century there were at least thirty literary geniuses in Russia, Germany, France, England and the United States. Today we are lucky if there are five writers of that caliber in the whole world...Where does one find good literature today? Mostly in third world countries, because adversity, isolation, combat provide good working conditions. It is harder to be a good writer in a so-called “civilized” country, in the so-called “democracies.”
Rail: Memory and creative imagination are key concepts in your work. How are they related?
Antunes: Imagination is fermented memory. It is the way we arrange our memories. My father was a neuropathologist and one of my brothers is a neurosurgeon. They have spent years with people (I hate the word patients!) who due to brain damage have lost their memories. These people no longer have any imagination. I mean to say that as authors we don’t invent anything, we just remember...Antunes: I love poetry (I would write it if only I knew how) but let me ask you, can poetry be translated?