As those who come to the PEN World Voices Festival know, Colum is also a great conversationalist, and he has talked with several writers in our pages. In PEN America 8: Making Histories, he talked with Arthur Japin*, Laila Lalami, Imma Monsó, and Michael Wallner about “inventing the past” and with David Grossman, Milton Hatoum, Anne Provoost, and Jeanette Winterson about “writing myth now.” Fear Itself includes not only “A Code for the Disappeared,” the piece adapted from Let the Great World Spin, but also Colum’s great conversation with Michael Ondaatje, in which Colum asked Ondaatje, “Do you have fun?”
In that conversation with Ondaatje Colum describes his job as a writer in a way that will likely resonate with those who love Let the Great World Spin:
My responsibility, I think—which I’ve learned from you and John Berger and other writers I love and admire—is to talk about the dark, anonymous corners of human experience and about the value of those dark, anonymous corners. And intersecting with those dark, anonymous corners you have these famous lives, these big desires, and big issues.Congratulations to a wonderful writer.
(Photo of Colum McCann and Michael Ondaatje by Beowulf Sheehan.)
* Speaking of Arthur Japin, his novel Director’s Cut, narrated by a filmmaker not unlike Federico Fellini and excerpted in Making Histories, will be published by Knopf in English in February.