“The beauty of literature resides partly in its uselessness.” | Hernan Diaz | Louisiana Channel



“I love to read and love to write literature that opens up the world.” Meet outstanding writer Hernan Diaz whose novels have been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, the Booker Prize, and the PEN/Faulkner Award.

“Literature is not there to teach us anything. The beauty of literature resides partly in its uselessness. In an instrumental society, where everything should serve a purpose, literature doesn’t, and it shouldn’t.”
In this personal and thoughtful interview, Hernan Diaz reflects upon his relationship with reading, writing, and language. Even though he is defending literature against instrumental use, he opposes the notion that stories are merely fiction while other categories of writing have a patent to hold the truth.

“I don’t write historical fiction. The problem is that there is an implied hierarchy there – a hierarchy by which history is closer to the truth than fiction. History seems to be anchored more robustly in truth than fiction. And yet, the work of historians of at least the last half-century has shown us repeatedly how history is an ideological device. At the same time, we have in the West a few millennia of fiction that I think has shown us with a great degree of accuracy and truthfulness what it means to be a human on planet Earth.”

Hernan Diaz, born in 1973 in Argentina, grew up in Sweden. He spoke Spanish at home, but Swedish was his first language interacting with the world. Since he has spent most of his life in the United States, English became his preferred language of writing. He holds a Ph.D. from New York University, is the associate director of the Hispanic Institute for Latin American and Iberian Cultures at Columbia University and serves as the managing editor of the Spanish-language journal Revista Hispánica Moderna. Furthermore, he is the author of a book about the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award, Hernan Diaz is the author of two novels translated into thirty-three languages. His first novel, In the Distance, from 2017, was the winner of the Saroyan International Prize, the Cabell Award, the Prix Page America, and the New American Voices Award, among other distinctions. It was also a Publishers Weekly Top 10 Book of the Year and one of Lit Hub’s 20 Best Novels of the Decade. His second novel, Trust, published in 2022, was longlisted for the Booker Prize and is currently longlisted for the Carnegie Medal and a finalist for the Kirkus Prize. Diaz has published stories and essays in – among others – The Paris Review, Granta, Playboy, The Yale Review, and McSweeney’s. A Guggenheim Fellow and Whiting Award winner, he has received fellowships from the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars, the Rockefeller Foundation, MacDowell, Yaddo, and the Ingmar Bergman Estate.

Hernan Diaz was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at the New York Public Library in August 2022.

Camera: Sebastian Lasaosa Rogers
Edited by: Signe Boe Pedersen
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2022

Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet, C.L. Davids Fond og Samling, and Fritz Hansen.

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