The OF Blog: Part II of the June 2008 Fantasymundo Interview with Andrzej Sapkowski

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Part II of the June 2008 Fantasymundo Interview with Andrzej Sapkowski

Here is the second part of the interview (first part, with a link to the original interview in Spanish, is here). It is a rough translation in a few places, but I hope it will be of interest to many. In this part, Sapkowski talks about the Geralt novels as well as a newer trilogy of his which soon will be released in Spain.

Fantasymundo: In your stories it is habitual that you take the part of the losers and the defenseless. Does this owe to a certain social justice? From this, it is not common to encounter a Fantasy so demoralizing and terrible – in its message – as yours. Were you conscious of this, you a natural demythisizer, when you wrote the books of Geralt of Rivia? Can one assume an analogy with Raymond Chandler?

Andrzej Sapkowski: Of course, you’ve nailed it. Geralt has much in common with Philip Marlowe, he is a cynic. No one will deny that all writers, we are doubters of our previous readings, nor that we are intelligent and we have a blank check to do what we want. We make ourselves more intelligent when we speak than the rest, when we want a woman or we hate another person. I am the result of my readings of Alexandre Dumas, Henryk Sienkiewicz [Polish Nobel Prize in Literature winner, author of Quo Vadis?], Raymond Chandler, Roger Zelazny, Jack Vance, Jules Verne, Arturo Pérez-Reverte…They have created me as a writer.

That is what is passing now with me: there are many people that “use” me as a writer and in which I influenced. There are things that are implanted in the brain of someone when s/he writes. I am now in others and it is normal, same that Chandler is himself in me. I do not believe that Chandler would be offended by this, since only I am transferring to the book the same cynicism that he used, but in place of the dark streets of San Francisco, to the malodorous streets of some place which never has existed and never will exist. It is absolutely the same and the people like it, of course. Don’t forget that, when I began 13 years ago, all the world in Poland was absolutely sick of superhero stories and they wanted a story of a man which was not omnipotent. I receive many letters and emails questioning why Geralt is so weak, but I know that they want it so.

Fantasymundo: Do you believe that time could convert the world of Geralt de Rivia into one of the great “sagas” of fantasy literature?

Andrzej Sapkowski: To say that the saga of Geralt de Rivia is going to end up being one of the great ones of Fantasy would be immodest on my part. Of course, I have done what I have been able to do. In Poland I have placed the first stone, certainly, and now there are many authors that are “learning” to do the same. Perhaps after my death, which could be near, some critics will place me on that list [[of the best of Fantasy], like David Pringle did in his 100 Best Books of Fantasy, where all are Anglo-Saxons, save Patrick Süskind and his Perfume and Michael Ende and The Neverending Story. Many critics have said to my face: “We don’t like Eskimos writing about zebras.” And now they are the zebras. Time will tell.

Fantasymundo: In your native land, Poland, they have already done various cinemagraphic adaptations of your work. Are you content with the results? [Sapkowski alludes to the comic adaption by Parowki and Polch, from which the film imitated the aesthetic. In its time, the film had two versions, one for exhibition halls, of more than two hours’ duration, and the other in the television format, episodic].

Andrzej Sapkowski: No. The question is very simple and the response is equally simple: the problem is that the films have made themselves based on something which must seen in the comic, which is not more than a reelaboration of my stories. There is no doubt that those who made them did not read my books, well, apart from leaving out many of its aspects, I encountered nothing, not a single frase that is mine. It is impossible to take pride of something like that.

Fantasymundo: Do you hope that Hollymood will do a better-received adaptation of your books?

Andrzej Sapkowski: All is possible, because if they have seen adaptations of the short stories of Lem, all is possible. Lem hoped that they would make a film of Solaris, and one was made, that of Tarkowsky (1972), and it was very boring. Then Lem waited and hoped to see if Hollywood would decide to make another version, and one was made and it was fucking more boring (directed by Steven Soderbergh, in 2002, with George Clooney as the protagonist). Well, perhaps it had to be so because the novel also is fucking boring.

Fantasymundo: Seeing the “triangle” which Geralt-Yennefer-Ciri form, I could not avoid seeing in them the sketch of the “traditional Western family.” Had you already a preconception of a pseudofamilial development for these characters or did the idea emerge little by little?

Andrzej Sapkowski: The first thing I did was to fight against the stereotype. To present the typical hero who seeks a reward, who saves the world, the World Trade Center, Tel Aviv, who has all the women which he wants. I have altered the myth, this is a hero which says “Don’t fuck with me, don’t bother me anymore.” To place this hero in front of different situations, such as with a woman which also departs from the stereotypes, could be very harsh, but also very interesting. Cherchez la fêmme!

Fantasymundo: The action scenes, over all the ones in which a “sword” appears, they feel very realistic and very plastic; above all in the fencing classes that Ciri takes or the duels of Geralt with his “monsters.” Curious, is fencing practice among your hobbies? And if it is not so, from where did you get the resources for creating images so realistic in the movements or thrusts?

Andrzej Sapkowski: In reality, I know nothing about fencing. The only thing I know I know due to books. I preoccupied myself with making it seem realistic. You can know much about fencing and not have an idea how to write it; so that, including without knowing anything, if you use the words and the adjectives correctly, if you make dynamic scenes, all the world will say, “Wow, this guy is a Fencing Master!” (mischievous laughter)

Fantasymundo: You are the creator of enormously credible characters. Tell me, as “the father,” do you have some preference for one of your “literary children?” Someone is based on some real-life model?

Andrzej Sapkowski: No, not a single one of them is based on real people. I am very strict with this and I want you to believe that all came from my imagination. I have never intended to make a caricature of someone, nor to laugh at someone, nor to demonstrate that I dislike someone. My readers don’t give a shit who I hate, I cannot hate anyone when I write, although of truth yes, I dislike people, but never would I be so arrogant as to show this to my readers.

Fantasymundo: My favorite character is Emiel Regis. With him, you confirmed an idea which I had reading your works: your writing is a “point of encounter as much for the fans of Fantasy as the “black novel,” like The Terror. Did Regis arise from the rich Slavic mythology of vampires?

Andrzej Sapkowski: Actually, all is to the contrary. Regis does not exactly limit itself to any of the existing vampire legends, for that it is so interesting. Of course, until when the famous Polish professor Maria Janion has written an enormous book on vampires in literature, she uses Emiel Regis as an example [Maria Janion is a reputable cultural anthropologist; the book which Sapkowski references is from 2003 and has been translated into English as The Vampire. A Symbolic Biography]. Emiel was a particular manner of demonstrating my personal vision of Fantasy. Besides, he is not the typical vampire bloodsucker, according to the dictates of the Canon (we have to refer ourselves to the damn canonization of the Fantasy), but inside the Canon always there is the space to be original, if you have talent. And if not, well you can go crap in some wooded place.

Fantasymundo: Judging by the apocalyptic tone which presides over your books, I have the impression that you are, in truth, about a clash of civilizations. Can one understand The Saga of Geralt de Rivia as an elegy?

Andrzej Sapkowski: Absolutely. Perhaps my case is not so extreme as that of Tolkien. He suffered a hecatomb from his youth, and he spoke of pollution and poisoned rivers; I now am 60 years old, many of the living things which I have known have disappeared, animals, plants, insects, crustaceans…from what there was when I was 10 years old, already not remaining, it is a disaster. And all that has occurred in the course of one man’s lifetime. What can happen here in 50 years? Perhaps all will disappear and the world will be reduced to ashes. Thinking of it terrifies me.

Fantasymundo: If Geralt de Rivia had been born now, in 2008, instead of 1995, would it have been different? Had your world reflected the instability of the real one?

Andrzej Sapkowski: Who knows? No one! Possibly, it would be a distinctly different story. And I would suppose I’d have to replant the traumas and its connotations.

Fantasymundo: Besides the Geralt de Rivia novels, you have also published a trilogy of historical novels known as The Narrentrum Cycle. Tell us, what exactly is this trilogy and what can we expect from it?

Andrzej Sapkowski: It is a Historical Fantasy, a very atypical form of Fantasy, distant from the worlds of Never More, of elves and dragons. It is Reality with some element of Fantasy. Centered in the religious struggle of Jan Hus, without which I had not been able to conceive our recent history. It is very far from the Peninsula, but if you can consider how all is related, you will understand that without Hus there wouldn’t be a Luther and without him, imagine the history of Europe: there wouldn’t have been the Spanish in Flanders, there wouldn’t be Rocroi…Europe would have been completely different! It is about, therefore, a people massacred and persecuted whose sacrifice changed Europe.

Fantasymundo: Permit us to do a rapid round of questions. Tell me the first thing that comes to mind when we say…

- Lech Kaczynski: Makes me vomit.
- Geralt de Rivia: Too personal. The character of my life.
- Donald Tusk: Ambivalent. His best and only virtue is that he’s not Kaczynski
- Cat: God
- Codringher y Fenn: Jurists. Ambivalent, arrogant, money.
- Tolkien: A master
- Triss Merigold: Pretty and red-haired, but insecure
- Space Opera: Opera in space. The tenor persecuted the soprano and the baritone annoys
- Rydszard Kapuscinsky: A great, great, great, master
- Wiedzym: A lot of money (laughter from all around)

Fantasymundo: Without anything more, it only remains for us to depart. It has been an immense please and, of course, we hope to see you again soon in Spain. Thanks for paying attention to Fantasymundo!

Andrzej Sapkowski: It has been a great pleasure, thank you.


Dark Wolf said...

Thanks Larry for the opportunity given to read this interview :)

I'm waiting for "The Last Wish" to arrive, my order being shipped already.

Larry said...

No problem! It was good practice for me, plus I thought many would like to see how Sapkowski is like in interviews ;)

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