Eduardo Berti, born in Buenos Aires in 1964, is the author of a vast body of work that includes novels, stories, music writing, and various unclassifiable books. He has translated authors such as Gustave Flaubert, Jane Austen, and Marguerite Yourcenar into Spanish, and is the editor of a Spanish edition of Henry James’s Complete Stories. A member of the OuLiPo since 2014, he lives in Bordeaux.
His new book, An Ideal Presence, is translated by Daniel Levin Becker and published by Fern Books. He will be reading from An Ideal Presence, and in conversation with Daniel Levin Becker, in our City Lights LIVE! virtual events series on Monday, December 13th, 2021!
Where are you writing to us from?
From Bordeaux, a city in the south of France where I’ve lived for almost nine years, after Buenos Aires (where I was born), Paris (for almost a decade), and Madrid, besides some short stays in other places. I love traveling and I think I’ve found here, in Bordeaux, one of my places in the world.
What’s kept you sane during the pandemic?
Reading, writing, music, my family, and a small (and sometimes sunny) garden.
What books are you reading right now? Which books do you return to?
I’m reading and rereading the novels of Romain Gary and a contemporary French writer named Tanguy Viel. I always return to Italo Calvino, Nabokov, and Borges, to name a few.
Which writers, artists, and others influence your work in general, and this book, specifically?
I’m often influenced not only by writers but by artists from other disciplines, and by people and things in general. In the case of An Ideal Presence, nothing was stronger than my direct experience among the caregivers. But there was a book whose structure inspired mine: William March’s Company K. This book, published in 1933, gives voice to all the members of a military unit—the author’s former comrades from World War I, even those who died in combat. I took the general form of March’s book and used it to depict a completely opposite universe: a fundamentally female unit that’s the opposite of a killing machine.
If you opened a bookstore, where would it be located, what would it be called, and what would your bestseller be?
I would love to open a small traveling bookstore where I could invite friends and people I love or admire to curate the books exposed in the shop window. Not only recent books, but also some beloved books they proposed. A name? Well, I hesitate between Portable Magic and A Moveable Feast.