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This week at The Paris Review, we’re thinking about distance, travel, and all the vacations we’re not taking this summer. Read on for Janet Malcolm’s Art of Nonfiction interview, Alejandro Zambra’s short story “Long Distance,” and Kenneth Koch’s poem “To the French Language.”
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Janet Malcolm, The Art of Nonfiction No. 4
Issue no. 196 (Spring 2011)
Well, the most obvious attraction of quotation is that it gives you a little vacation from writing—the other person is doing the work. All you have to do is type.
By Alejandro Zambra
Issue no. 210 (Fall 2014)
Juan Emilio was short, redheaded, dandified. He dressed with awkward elegance, as if his clothes were always new, as if his clothes wanted to say in a loud and energetic voice, I don’t have anything to do with this body, I’m never going to get used to this body. We made a reading list that I thought might interest him. He was enthusiastic. I liked Juan Emilio, but the warmth I felt toward him was tempered by an ambiguous, guilty feeling. What kind of person could allow himself, when he was of working age, such a long European vacation? What had he done all that time, besides take his grandchildren to all the ice-cream parlors in Paris?
To the French Language
By Kenneth Koch
Issue no. 158 (Spring–Summer 2001)
I needed to find you and, once having found you, to keep you
You who could make me a physical Larousse
Of everyday living, you who would present me to Gilberte
And Anna and Sonia, you by whom I could be a surrealist
And a dadaist and almost a fake of Racine and of Molière. I was hiding
The heavenly dolor you planted in my heart:
That I would never completely have you.
I wanted to take you with me on long vacations
Always giving you so many kisses, ma française—
Across rocky mountains, valleys, and lakes
And I wanted it to be as if
Nous faisions ce voyage pour I’étemité
Et non pas uniquement pour la brève duree d’une année boursiere en France …
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