Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter
Over the past month, we’ve introduced you to to Stuart Nadler, Shani Boianjiu, Ben Lerner, and Francesca Segal. Today we introduce you to Sami Rohr Prize finalist Asaf Schurr, author of the metafictional novel Motti, which was translated into English by Todd Hasak-Lowy. Haaretz wrote of Motti: “Those who don’t read Asaf Schurr’s new book are simply losing out.” We agree. Below, Asaf writes about writing a book as it needs to be written, the importance of music while he writes, and some of his favorite books:
What are some of the most challenging things about writing fiction?
Getting yourself to actually do it. Then, making sure you don’t write the same book over and over again. Then, overcoming the urge to take the easiest and fastest way out. Then, wrapping it up and getting your personality back in one piece.
What or who has been your inspiration for writing fiction?
Who is your intended audience?
People who can read. And are actually willing. Maybe a better answer would be “People who are willing to make the effort to read kindly and frankly.”
Are you working on anything new right now?
What are you reading now?
Noga Albalach’s The Push (the first book by a young and talented Hebrew author, to the best of my knowledge not yet translated to other languages), Saramago’s Cain (despite my ambivalence), Robert Crease’s The Great Equations. And I’ve got a new Hebrew translation of Flannery O’Connor’s Everything That Rises Must Converge waiting for me.
Top 5 Favorite Books
- Patricia McKillip’s Riddle Master trilogy
- Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain
- John Irving’s Cider House Rules
- Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum
- and for some odd reason, Robert Heinlein’s The Cat Who Walks Through Walls
When did you decide to be a writer? Where were you?
I’m not certain there actually was a moment of such an explicit decision. Though publishing a second book must have given me a clue.
What is the mountaintop for you — how do you define success?
Being adored for the right reasons, by the right people (and for whatever reasons by all the rest). More specifically and perhaps frankly, it’s writing a book as it needs to be written, making it take the form it actually needs and being the object it actually aims to be — as opposed to writing something in order just to please myself or others. Being able to do that without being idiosyncratic is definitely a success (also, not starving).
Finding the right music is very important. (For a while it was A Whisper in the Noise. Lately, it’s mostly Joanna Newsom.) I’m rather reluctant to talk about the rest, which by itself is probably part of the answer.
What do you want readers to get out of your book?
At the risk of sounding terribly pretentious, I wish to make people better, myself included. Not to educate, but to somehow get us back to something that’s linguistically, emotionally and ethically fundamental and important. Staring each other in the true face, so to speak.
Asaf Schurr was born in Jerusalem in 1976 and has a BA in philosophy and theater from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. At present he is a translator and writes literary reviews for the Hebrew press. Schurr has received the Bernstein Prize (2007), the Minister of Culture Prize (2007) for Amram, and the Prime Minister’s Prize for Motti (2008).
Originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Naomi is the executive director of Jewish Book Council. She graduated from Emory University with degrees in English and Art History and, in addition, studied at University College London. Prior to her role as executive director, Naomi served as the founding editor of the JBC website and blog and managing editor of Jewish Book World. In addition, she has overseen JBC’s digital initiatives, and also developed the JBC’s Visiting Scribe series and Unpacking the Book: Jewish Writers in Conversation.