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Hernan Diaz: ‘The Tintin books were problematic but they were also gorgeous and gripping’

One of my earliest memories involving reading is when I was about four or five years old.

As I was raised in Stockholm, it’s not unexpected that my earliest recollections of literature would involve Astrid Lindgren. The initial book I ever perused could have been “Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter.”

The book that I enjoyed the most during my childhood.

During my younger years, I was fixated on Tintin. Even at that time, it was evident to me that these books had issues (especially Prisoners of the Sun, which angered me), but they were also stunning and captivating. Their most enchanting aspect was that, despite being extremely straightforward and expected, they compelled me to read them repeatedly.

The book that had a profound impact on me during my teenage years.

At the age of 13, I encountered Jorge Luis Borges’s Fictions and was astounded by the idea that storytelling and reality could be manipulated. This book had a profound impact on my thoughts and emotions, and I continue to be influenced by it.

The authors who altered my perspective.

During my teenage years, Henry James greatly influenced my perspective on the English language. In my early adulthood, Theodor Adorno shifted my views on aesthetics. Later on, in my mid-20s, Samuel Beckett challenged my understanding of the novel. As I entered my 30s, George Eliot’s work made me rethink the ethical impact of storytelling. In my 40s, David Markson completely altered my perceptions of literature as a whole. And even now, Joy Williams continues to surprise and change my mind in unexpected ways.

The writers who inspired me to become an author.

I have always aspired to be a writer, making it difficult for me to pinpoint a specific time or influencer for this passion. However, I experienced a change when I realized that the true thrill of writing did not solely rely on the complexity of the storyline, but also in the utilization of language and structure. My early exposure to authors such as Franz Kafka and Julio Cortázar played a significant role in this transformation.

I returned to the author.

Unfortunately, my initial encounter with Virginia Woolf occurred at an inopportune moment. However, I have compensated for my previous apathy by fervently promoting her work since revisiting it, constantly regretful of my ignorant youth.

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I revisited the book.

I have revisited Moby-Dick numerous times since reading it for the first time at the age of 18. I can still vividly recall the bus ride, sitting on the left side, feeling both confused and delighted as I began the book.

The book I could never read again

I will never revisit any of the numerous books written by Jacques Derrida that I used to admire so dutifully for many years. The mere thought of the complicated and unattractive writing style is suffocating.

I came across the book at a later stage in my life.

I recently stumbled upon Helen Garner’s novel, The Children’s Bach, during a lengthy trip to Melbourne.

is “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho.

I am currently immersed in the novel “The Alchemist” written by Paulo Coelho.

I read Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin), a memoir by Sly Stone, and also completed the first chapter of The Female Man by Joanna Russ.

My comfort read
Pelham. Grenville. Wodehouse. Especially his books from the 1930s. They are so perfect that sometimes you don’t even notice how perfect they are. For absolute joy, alternate with some Max Beerbohm.

Source: theguardian.com