Interview With Anna Lanyon

Reader Logo by Paul Burman

Following the launch of Fire & Song ( see our review on Tuesday ), I caught up with Anna on behalf of The View From Here.

This being your third book, how did the process of writing Fire & Song differ to either Malinche’s Conquest or The New World of Martin Cortés?

I found this a very difficult book to write. I am never a confident writer and suffer from a constant sense of failure. In this case I also felt overwhelmed by the abundance of riches I found in the primary sources. I began by translating Luis de Carvajal’s writings and his trial transcripts from the sixteenth-century Spanish in which they were written, but I could not resist the lure of his sisters’ manuscripts and so I ended up with a mountain of wonderful material that I then had to shape into a meaningful narrative.

Fire & Song, The Story of Luis de Carvajal

Fire & Song, The Story of Luis de Carvajal
by Anna Lanyon
Publisher: Allen &Unwin
Review: Paul Burman

I am a greater fan of fiction than non-fiction. That said, I have to acknowledge that it was an old friend – Anna Lanyon – who, many years ago, persuaded me that non-fiction could be as powerful and creative a literature as the best literary fiction. She passionately argued the point over a few meals and bottles of wine, and gave me a copy of Richard Rodriguez’s Days of Obligation, An Argument with my Mexican Father in order to try and prove it. However, she well and truly clinched the argument in 1999 when I read her first book, Malinche’s Conquest (Allen & Unwin).

Following Anna’s extensive travels in Mexico and Spain, Malinche’s Conquest does more than scratch beneath the folklore and vilification of the woman who, as Hernan Cortés’ Amerindian translator, concubine and mother to his son, played a central role in the Spanish Conquest of 1521. What the reader is presented with is a series of vibrant stories, based on painstaking research, that illuminate the woman Malinche was and the many conflicts she experienced. As an historian, translator, story-teller extraordinaire and inveterate traveller, Anna Lanyon takes us on a tour of modern Mexico, but it’s a tour in which she helps us peer beyond the shadows. Through her considerable knowledge and the clarity of her interpretation of innumerable documents, she shows us the colours that shaped that world half a millennium previously. Inevitably, along the way, greater truths are revealed about the world in which we currently live and the decisions we make.


Reader Logo by John Siddique

You know those days when a word just keeps popping up? Well a while back I had four incidences of hearing antimacassars on the same day, and just this morning ‘darshan’ has popped up three times in three very different places. If you don’t know the word, it means something like ‘gazing at the face of god.’ I know it from the Hindu idea of spending time looking at the higher and allowing yourself to be filled by that loving interaction.

The reason I bring this up in a piece on a literary site is that I find I often use books in this way. Some books, especially poetry books it seems have a connection to something much larger than one’s small self encoded into their texts. ee cummings’ poetry can have me sitting for an hours just gazing at a single poem ‘somewhere i have never travelled gladly beyond…’ So too Neruda, Galway Kinnell, Dorothy Molloy, Walt Whitman, Sharon Olds. It would be lovely to know of your experiences of this kind of transportation, and which writers you feel do this for you.

Unity & Fragmentation

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by Elizabeth Baines

In a recent article on the short story Guardian writer Chris Power made this statement:

...novels that seek to contain multitudes, to embody a particular society at a particular time, seem doomed to fall short. The short story, by contrast, acknowledges the vastness and diversity of life by the very act of focusing on one small moment or aspect of it. The story is small precisely because life is so big.

This set me thinking about our current attitudes to both short stories and novels.

Countdown to Last Issue

Due to financial problems issue 34 will be one of our last issues, with our final issue 36 out in June.  After that we will still have everything you love here on-line for free, but after 3 years and over a 1000 pages it's time to retire the magazine - thankyou to everyone who was part of it and shelled out pennies for it.

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