ILAN STAVANS: Why did you become a writer?
FELIPE ALFAU: I am not a professional writer. Only by necessity have I ever received payment for my work. Dalkey Archive Press offered money for my two novels but I refused to accept it. For my poems I received $500 because I needed to pay the monthly payment here, in the retirement home. The truth is, I was never interested in writing, nor did I ever dream of making a living at my craft. I hate full-time authors. I hate intellectuals that make a living from abstractions and evasions. The art of writing has turned into an excess. Today, literature is a waste. It should be abolished, at least in the form we know: as a money-making endeavor.
IS: How do you think writers should support themselves?
FA: I am not sure, but certainly not by selling their books as jewelry.
IS: Yet I know you first submitted “Locos” to a New York publisher for financial reasons. You wrote it in English because you needed money.
FA: Who doesn’t? And when I got a job, a stable job, I took the manuscript back. It was scheduled for publication under the title “Madrilenos.” I changed my mind and asked the editor to return the text.
IS: Had it been accepted?
FA: Yes. It was already in galley form.
IS: And you took it back?
FA: I didn’t need the money anymore. I had a wife and a daughter, and enough to support them.