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Book Beat – CUNY Podcasts
She’s one of Mexico’s most celebrated writers–a novelist, poet and playwright–and a distinguished lecturer at CUNY’s Macaulay Honors College. Now comes the English translation of Carmen Boullosa’s 18th novel, The Book of Anna. It’s the book she imagines Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina wrote before she committed suicide: an opium-infused feminist fairy tale set against the birth of the Russian Revolution and discovered, still in manuscript form, in the attic of Karenin Palace. “It’s obvious that Tolstoy had problems with women, and I thought if she had had her book [published] her life would have been different,” Boullosa says. “He gave her the book and then he takes it away from her so I wanted to give her the book back.”
We found Boullosa quarantining in her home in Mexico City and had a free-wheeling conversation over Zoom about the book, about writing in these disconnected times and why she really doesn’t like “American Dirt.”
About Carmen Boullosa
About “The Book of Anna”
A conversation between Carmen and her translator, Samantha Schnee
Opening Clip: Carmen Boullosa
In reality I work very professionally to be a madwoman processed by her characters — not in possession, yes in a way, but mainly possessed by the story, the characters, the atmosphere. It’s a delight of a profession to be a writer.
Welcome to CUNY Book Beat. I’m Rick Firstman. Carmen Boullosa is one of Mexico’s most celebrated and prolific writers–and one of CUNY’s literary treasures. She’s the author of 18 novels, 15 collections of poetry, four plays and even a screenplay. Earlier this year, Forbes Mexico named her one of the country’s most vital creative forces. Many of her works have been translated into English and other languages and the newest is “The Book of Anna,” in which Boullosa imagines the opium-induced manuscript Anna Karenina wrote just before her death in Tolstoy’s epic novel. Carmen Boullosa is a distinguished lecturer at Macaulay Honors College and co-host of CUNY TVs Nueva York, a Spanish language show about Latino culture in the city. She joined me from her home in Mexico City, where she has been hunkered down since the pandemic kept her from returning to New York, as she had planned back in March. We talked about her new book, about the writer’s life and about quarantining in Mexico City in the time of Coronavirus. Here’s our conversation.
Carmen, thank you very much for coming on the podcast. You’re down in Mexico City where you grew up.
That’s it. It’s my city. In fact, I have to say this, but this is my, my, my city. I was born in this city. My father was born in this city. The family of my father were born in this city in the early 18th century. And so we’ll be here forever. My mother’s family is from Tabasco, but she arrived to the city when she was seven years old. So it was also her city. All my brothers and sisters were born here. My children were born here. And I arrived to New York City in 2001.
So you went down there expecting to be coming back in March and having a book tour. And so what happened?
Well, we have been here since mid December, since the semester finished where I was teaching that semester at McCauley Honors College.