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Home News by Category Interviews Full Text of 2006 Russian DFW Interview

Full Text of 2006 Russian DFW Interview

A new (for English readers) interview with David Foster Wallace has just surfaced! Ostap Karmodi interviewed David Foster Wallace in 2006 for Russian Radio Svoboda and Russian publication SHO magazine.
The New York Review of Books has an edited version, ‘A Frightening Time in America’: An Interview with David Foster Wallace, and now Karmodi has posted the full text here (the bold in the quote below is my emphasis, interesting stuff):
Ostap Karmodi – You can’t imagine what cynicism we have in Russia now. It’s certainly not less than in Western Europe.

DFW – Yes, but what’s strange to me, at least as to an amateur and someone who doesn’t know so much about Russia, is that so much of Russian cynicism is due to the terrible things that the government did to civilians for so many years. Now at least at some ways commercialism and capitalism has been unleashed.

OK – Backlash, as you've said.

DFW – Yes, something like a backlash. What’s strange to watch is how closely that backlash or explosion in places like Russia mirror developments in America that really were kind of slow and progressive over much of the 20th century with just capitalist and commercialist and consumerist values getting more and more pronounced and less and less balanced by values that people simply don’t really believe in anymore. No, that’s too simple. It’s not that people don’t believe in it anymore, it’s that they believe that no one else around them believes in them and it all is simply a display or a sales technique. So everyone is so afraid of being taken advantage of, that they feel they have to be extremely cynical and calculating all the time. It’s one reason it’s a very kind of sad, depressed, angry time in America right now. Certainly the worst I can remember.

OK – Is there any way out of it? Can you see any developments, albeit minor, that could lead to some good results in the future?

DFW – Speaking totally as an amateur, not any kind of government expert, I would say, sure, at least in America there's been a highly artificial situation for very many years that the American standard of living, the American degree of consumption of resources and exploitation of other countries has been extraordinary. America’s now starting to face certain economic realities that we’ve been shielded from for many years. The price of gasoline is slowly becoming closer to what it is in the rest of the world. The awareness that the entire Earth climate is affected by all nations, and that the United States as far and away the biggest carbon dioxide producer bears some special responsibility for possible environmental collapse later. Americans are slowly waking up out of a kind of dream, of special exemption and special privilege in the world. To use your term, this could result in some kind of volcano and America becoming some kind of nightmarish imperial force that takes resources from other countries, or it could result as I think it does in many countries in a kind of slow awakening to the fact that having and consuming and exhausting resources is actually not a very good set of values for living. America has got once again to find another time a way to live in consent with other countries. There could be a real renaissance of United Nations, not as idealistic enterprise but as many of the leading nations realizing that we have to work together and share and compromise, or else the entire planet will be in a very big problem. So which way it will go? I don’t know. And it’s one reason it’s a very frightening time in America, particularly with the people who’re in power right now – many of us are in a position of being more afraid of our own country and our own government right now, then we are of any supposed enemy somewhere else. For someone like me who grew up in the 60s at the height of the Cold War and whose consciousness was formed by the thought that we are the good guy and there’s one great looming dark enemy and that’s the Soviet Union, the idea of waking up to the fact that in this world very possibly we are the villain, we are dark force, to begin to see ourselves a little bit through the eyes of people in other countries. You can imagine how difficult that is for Americans to do. Nevertheless, with a lot of the people I know it’s very slowly starting to happen. 

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