In conversation with Katie Kitamura — outtakes

November 19, 2012

Outtakes from the interview I did with Katie Kitamura.

wmc: When I mentioned falling asleep during films, you were flabbergasted. I am not proud of it, it’s true, but it only gives me incentive to watch a film again. I think this is how I watched La Dolce Vita and Farewell, My Concubine; by the time I watched both films in one sitting one night, I was astonished at the familiarity and newness of their entirety. But haven’t you ever fallen asleep during a slow film?

KK: My version of falling asleep during films is the fact that increasingly my brain seems to operate like a sieve. I forget both what I’ve read and what I’ve seen. I assume this is part of getting older and will eventually be capped by total senility.

wmc: I met a Korean multimedia artist recently who describes her relationship to rice in the most ecstatic of terms—her body nearly floats in the air as she talks about it. What is your relationship to rice?

KK: Good. I have a good relationship to rice.

wmc: This ecstasy of hers arose from a trauma she’d experienced in her childhood. As she told me about her work, which incorporates millions of grains of rice, I realized, not for the first time, that ecstasy and trauma were inextricably linked. To relive trauma is to relive its attendant ecstasy, and vice versa. What would Carine say about this?

KK: Theoretically, I understand the bind between trauma and ecstasy. But I’m inclined to approach this with some caution. I don’t personally know what that relationship means, nor the experience or aftermath of trauma—and there are people out there who do.

wmc: Why do you read works in translation?

KK: I like the potential awkwardness of translation, the sense of the language being in some way secondhand, or operating at a remove. Translation also acts on our ideas about authorship—the works belong as much to the translator as the “author,” and that’s interesting to me.

wmc: I see this especially in César Aira’s The Seamstress and the Wind. Have you read it yet?

KK: I have. And it reminded me of the risks you can take in fiction—a kind of manual, I thought, on how to be brave.

wmc: I’m terrified that what’s growing inside of Carine is a monster baby like in Seamstress.

KK: Jesus, so am I.


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