Shirley Hazzard Interviews

shirley_hazzard.jpg    As she approaches her 80th birthday in January 2011, Shirley Hazzard has been interviewed by "The New Yorker" about "travel and transit", and by Richard Ford at the PEN World Voices Festival in May.

"The New Yorker":
When did you begin travelling?

When I was still just a girl. My father was in the diplomatic service, and we moved with his postings. I lived for some years in the Far East, for instance, and it was quite wonderful. The transition and shifting from one place to another meant that I had no education, really. Of course I went to school with I was little, but it was not possible through adolescence to keep an absolute continuity of things. I never went to university, for instance, and there were long gaps in any kind of organized studies.

Did you regret this lack of formal education?

I think that moving around contributed immensely to my life. I would never say that I suffered from it at all. It was quite the opposite. I am uneducated in a sense, but I did read all the time, and I knew very marvellous people. I may be wrong in saying this, but I haven't felt any great privation, because I read constantly and learned other languages. It was reading that was most important to me.

It sounds as though travelling and reading are closely related for you.

All the intellectual pleasure I had as a child came from reading. It was such a pleasure, this act of reading and discovering, and of course it whetted my appetite all the time. One travelled in the reading, as it were.

Richard Ford:

Hazzard said poetry was "the longest important thing in my life." Ford said he thinks writers now "feel challenged to be tough on the page." Hazzard said we are lucky to have "a very flexible language" but that it is nonetheless "a challenge to find another shade or tone."

Richard Ford: "Do you think places have spirits?"

Shirley Hazzard: "I don't know how to express that. A place is always changing... and yet the language gives us continuity. I wish I had a more romantic vision of place."

Richard Ford: "What is the hardest part of being a writer?"

Shirley Hazzard: "I like writing dialogue. I like to have an open ear for speech."

Richard Ford: "Is there something you don't like about writing?"

Shirley Hazzard: "No."

Shirley Hazzard: "Well, writing checks or something."

Richard Ford: "Literary theory has pretty well strangled itself."

Shirley Hazzard: "I don't feel we need to be instructed all the time. The more criticism the less spontaneous acceptance there is."

This interview was recorded and you can watch it here.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on August 4, 2010 12:17 PM.

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Reprint: Review of "The Banjo's" Poems by Anonymous is the next entry in this blog.

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