Now Online: Our Interviews with Elena Ferrante, Hilary Mantel, and Lydia Davis



Before we commence with the dog and pony show for our brand spanking new Summer issue, you should know that the three interviews from our Spring issue are now available in full online.

ferrante ms

A page from the first draft of The Story of the Lost Child.

These include the first-ever in-person interview with Elena Ferrante, who discusses her Neopolitan Novels, her reticence as a public figure, and her approach to her readership:

I publish to be read. It’s the only thing that interests me about publication. So I employ all the strategies I know to capture the reader’s attention, stimulate curiosity, make the page as dense as possible and as easy as possible to turn. But once I have the reader’s attention I feel it is my right to pull it in whichever direction I choose. I don’t think the reader should be indulged as a consumer, because he isn’t one. Literature that indulges the tastes of the reader is a degraded literature. My goal is to disappoint the usual expectations and inspire new ones.

Hilary Mantel cr Alwan Ezzidin copy copy

Photo: Alwan Ezzidin

And Mona Simpson’s interview with Hilary Mantel, who talks about her Cromwell books, the difference between historians and novelists, and the difference between the early and contemporary stages of her career:

When I began writing I had a perfect belief that, although I might not know how to do many things, I did know how to write a novel. Other ­people might have disputed that, looking at my efforts, and no one was in a hurry to endorse my confidence, but I did know within myself that I could write a novel. The reason was I’d read so many that the pattern was internalized. I’ve always been an intensely ambitious individual and whatever I was going to do, I was not going to let go until I got where I thought I ought to be. It’s a question of, What will you sacrifice? What other things will you let go, to clear the space for your book? What develops later is something rather different, as you proceed from book to book, every book throwing up different demands, needing different techniques.


Davis in Paris, 1972.

Plus, in the Art of Fiction No. 227, Lydia Davis explores her approach to the short story, and to translations, and reflects on the influence her family life had on her process:

We also left each other notes when there was a family conflict. I guess it was my mother’s idea that we should put it in writing, or that we should ­articulate it, because I can see our different handwriting going back and ­forth over this problem, whatever it was. I thought it was kind of a terrible thing that we did that in my family. Because it made writing … oh, the text became full of emotion. I still have some of the notes that my mother left for me. In fact, we did a little dialogue … I suppose that was part of the family training—Let’s try to figure this out. Here’s how I feel, you tell me how you feel. It is a way to work out some emotional situations, and certainly that went on in our house. It’s just that when I come across those long messages from my mother it fills me with sadness. 

For the latest in our Writers at Work series, subscribe to The Paris Review now—and be sure to check out what’s coming next in our Summer issue, which includes interviews on the Art of Translation with Peter Cole plus Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.