Some time ago, Bernardo Vega interviewed Dr. Silvio Torres-Saillant for La lupa sin trabas. I finally had a chance to translate excerpts from this interesting interview. Silvio Torres-Saillant holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from New York University. Presently a professor of English at Syracuse University, he held a two-year term as William P. Tolley Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Humanities. He was founder of the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute at the City College of New York.
Vega begins by describing Torres-Saillant, stating: “This controversial intellectual of our diaspora, professor at Syracuse University and author of El retorno de las yolas, Tigueraje intelectual, Desde la orilla, and Hacia una nacionalidad sin desalojos, speaks against the injustices and hypocrisies in the Dominican Republic.”
[. . .] When did you know that you would be a writer? I write books, but I am not a writer. I never will be. To be called writer, to me, means that one cultivates writing as an art and that one lives immersed in search the somewhat ineffable mystery of artistic creation. My writings do not seek that. They seek to participate in the public sphere using words and ideas to try to dismantle the lies that we inherited from our leaders in politics, the intelligentsia, school, religious institutions, and other pillars of the regime that socialized us. [. . .]
Which book would you have wanted to write? I would have liked to write Das Kapital, but with a less Eurocentric view, with more attention to the cultural specificities of peoples.
[. . .] What would you change if you could go back in time? I would have begun my studies of foreign languages in primary school instead of college. I would have also taken my children with me to all my political, academic, and community activities in order to decrease the distance between the public and domestic space in my life.
What does being a writer mean? It means being an artist of the word, as much as a painter is an artist of the brush, or the musician is an artist of the relationship between sounds and time. The thinker, the scholar in any given area of knowledge—the academic world, generally; whether in sciences, humanities, or the various disciplines that undertake the study of society—is not strictly a writer. This does not mean that there are not those who are outstanding in both areas.
Which authors have influenced you the most? Homer, Paulo de Tarso, Safo, Basho, Amílcar Cabral, Frantz Fanon, Samir Amín, Pedro Mir, Paulo Freire, Jacques Stephen Alexis, Edward Said, Luther Standing Bear, Kamau Brathwaite, Aimé Césaire, and Maxine Hong Kingston, among others.
What do you fear? I am afraid of fear; I fear becoming an accomplice of corruption and injustices for fear of my physical, economic, or social safety.
For original interview (in Spanish), see http://www.lalupa.com.do/2013/02/silvio-torres-saillant-los-libros-no-cambian-vidas/?fb_comment_id=fbc_131819066987950_171786_132482110254979#