“No Bookkeeper Is as False and Fraudulent as Collective Memory” — Jerzy Kosinski

Jerzy Kosinski talks to The Paris Review (1972). Read our review of his weird novel Steps. From the interview—

INTERVIEWER

You say that literature demands more involvement and more effort from the reader than the visual media. Is this why your last two novels have been so spare?

KOSINSKI

Yes. I do trust the reader. I think he is perfectly capable of filling in the blank spaces, of supplying what I purposefully withdrew. Steps attempts to involve the reader through nonuse of the clear and discernible plot. From the first sentence of the book, “I was traveling further south,” when the reader starts traveling down the page, he is promised nothing, since there is no obvious plot to seduce him. He has to make the same decisions my protagonist is making: Will he continue? Is he interested in the next incident?

INTERVIEWER

Your intent, then, is subversive. You want to involve, to implicate the reader via his own imagination.

KOSINSKI

I guess I do. Once he is implicated he is an accomplice, he is provoked, he is involved, he is purged. That’s why my novels don’t provide easy moral guidelines. Does life? The reader must ask himself questions about what is good or what is evil about my characters. Was it his curiosity that dragged him into the midst of my story? Was it recognition of his complicity? For me this is the ultimate purpose of literature.

INTERVIEWER

Do you want to be remembered as . . .

KOSINSKI

No bookkeeper is as false and fraudulent as collective memory. It’s best to be forgotten.

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