European Union Prize for Literature

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3 May 2018

Interview with Aleksandar Bečanović

On Monday 23rd April Gradska knjižara, Nova knjiga and EUPL invited you to meet with 2017 EUPL Montenegrin winner Aleksandar Bečanović. Aleksandar discussed his winning book Arcueil with Blasa Brkovic, another Montenegrin writer. At this occasion, EUPL interviewed the author to know more about his literary choices. 

In Montenegrin case, EUPL is of such great importance in promoting an exciting national literature.

Why “Arcueil”? What made you decide to write about this specific “affair” that happened in France?  

There is something incredibly intriguing about this ’affair’, because what is at stake here is not the ’historical’ truth about that day, i.e. the question what really happened in Marquis’ mansion at Arcueil, but the significance of the narrative that emerged from this ’minor’ event. What reverberates is not the truth about the affair, but the narrative, a particular narrative situation, an enigmatic storyline, a plot that have great or grave symbolical ’value’ especially today, in the wake of, for example. #MeToo movement and generally higher sensitivity about violence against women. In the end, even the most banal or obvious event depends on the way how we interpret facts or fantasies, how we make meaningful whole of them: a description is always a redescription, a testimony is always impregnated with fictional material...

Why have you decided to focus on the Marquis de Sade, what does he mean to you?

Even 200 years after his death, Marquis de Sade – with his problematic biography and his pornographical and philosophical literature – is still the most controversial figure of the European civilisation. He still have tremendous power to impose on us the most difficult and disturbing questions about the human condition. So, reading and writing about Marquis is, without a doubt, a dangerous and delicate task: we try to understand this elusive author, fearing that he already understood us better.

Did your work as a film critic influenced your writing of Arcueil?

In his novels de Sade insist on his notion of theatricality: sex is always presented as a piece of theatre, as a stylized and almost artificial happening, a physical activity accompanied with discursive activity. I think that Marquis’ magisterial obscene effect is purely formal one: he put sex on the scene, and then analyze implications of this mise-en-scène. As a film critic, I was predictably drawn to this dimension of de Sade’s writing.

Did you bring a part of yourself to the story? (in the analysis of the characters, their description, etc.)

Arcueil is written from different perspectives: the same story with different voices, the same puzzle with different fragments, the same narrative with different narrators. Nevertheless, in this structure I was much more interested in distance than in empathy: ambiguity instead of bias.

You write poetry, film critics, reviews and essays. Is there a specific topic that you would dream to write about, or a specific genre that you would dream to write in?

I am currently writing my two dream projects. I am working on the book about Hitchcock’s masterpiece Marnie, but it will take a while. My major thematical obsession is the fascinating figure of the lesbian vampire, and my next novel will feature just that kind of the decadent female protagonist.

If you were to be translated, what’s the language you would love to be translated into? Why?

French. For obvious reasons.

Have you had a chance to read books by other EUPL winners, especially those coming from your own country?

Of course! Two former winners, Andrej Nikolaidis and Ognjen Spahić, along with Balša Brković, are the best what Montenegro can offer to contemporary European literature. In Montenegrin case, EUPL is of such great importance in promoting an exciting national literature. 

20180423 Montenegro - Aleksandar Becanovic - Written interview.pdf