‘Fortune’: A novel that explores the power of money and could be TV’s new ‘Heir’ | Trust | Hernan Diaz | PHIL | Lima International Book Fair | LIGHTING

You can imagine writing Fortune, a book by the Argentinean writer Hernán Diaz, like someone sketching out plans for a magnificent New York skyscraper. A structure of concrete and steel beams, superimposed on four independent floors, but connected by different circumstances. The first, Commitment, is a novel within a novel, written in the style of Henry James, about the rise of Manhattan’s most powerful financier, blamed for the crash of ’29, the stock market’s most catastrophic crash. ; The second document is the autobiography of a “real” millionaire, written to disavow the lies that the author would unleash against him and his wife in this fiction. Added to these is an auto-novel by Ida, the tycoon’s secretary who helped him write his memoirs, who remembers the process as a mature writer. Finally, the erection of the roof of this wonderful literary building, the opening of the pages from the diary will allow us to connect in merit all the threads of a million dollar story.

Before his participation as one of the central guests of the Lima International Book Fair, Hernán Diaz sits at a Zoom screen. We found him in New York, the city where he has lived for two decades and where he works as a professor at Columbia University. And it was about this city and its buildings that we began the interview. Because if anything is clear, it’s that Fortune is written with an architectural ambition very typical of the Big Apple. For Diaz, the architectural metaphor allows us to imagine a story populated by different voices.

The idea was to create, strictly speaking, a habitable place, a building for each of these voices. There is something like a city pulse in the polyphonic structure of the novel, with these text neighbors, with completely different characteristics, such as the route of the city. With luck, I hope a similar phenomenon will occur in my novel as I travel around the neighborhood and notice how political and economic power is distributed across the urban network.“.

“Money is the god of consumer goods. And this is his great temple,” says one of the main characters of the novel, referring to the very tall financial building in which he works. It is interesting to observe how the symbols remain outside the power that invented them: skyscrapers are the new cathedrals in Manhattan, erected as a shrine to the capital.

Absolutely. In America, this union of money and religion goes back to the first Puritan colony. This idea that our destiny in this earthly world anticipates the destiny of our spiritual redemption. This gives money a transcendent, even mystical dimension. But money is definitely a fetish all over the world. If you go to any American capital, you will see that the cathedrals are in some way monuments of added value. Anyone who claims that religion and money were not always connected did not attend a single Catholic church in Latin America.

— Your main character, millionaire Andrew Bevel, is able to transform reality. How can capital distort the idea of ​​reality?

More or less directly, money mediates social relations. Perhaps love in its purest form is the only relationship immune to it. Its influence on our daily life is inversely proportional to our understanding of its operation. I confess that before writing this book, I had no clear understanding of how money works, and I’m not saying that I don’t have it now. But this discrepancy between his ultimate penetrability and the abstruseness that the discourse around him turns out to be was something that interested me in storytelling. Money creates a kind of gravitational pull: in large quantities, it is like a black hole. With sufficient mass, it has the ability to distort the surrounding reality. This is why great fortunes have stability, because, as Bevel’s character says, they are able to distort and level reality, correct and correct it in accordance with their interests. He is able to rewrite history and eliminate uncomfortable voices. This is what we see daily.

– In the novel it is interesting to observe how great fortunes depend on the narrative that justifies them …

That’s it. There is no great state that does not need to be surrounded by a certain self-legitimate discourse about its origins. These are always epic narratives based on the efforts and superhuman intelligence of those who managed to amass this fortune. Fiction is not an accidental or accidental phenomenon, but simply a discursive shell. They are an integral element of any luck and how we perceive reality.

– I believe that many Argentine journalists have asked you what porteno does when he writes in English. What does this language give you that Spanish does not?

Without arrogance and arrogance, I can tell you that for me the issue of nationality is not a problem that worries me. I have lived in so many countries: I spent most of my life in the United States and my childhood in Sweden. I stubbornly keep the porteño accent because that’s what I advocate and love. If we associate language with the theme of inhabited spaces, the first thing that comes to mind is Heidegger’s hackneyed phrase “language as the house of being.” If someone really asks me to identify my home, I will answer in English, not geographic location. I am not saying that English is better than Spanish. I just want to say that for writing fiction, only English has always worked for me.

— What are you looking for in this reinterpretation of genres and imitation of the styles that you develop in Fortuna? Do you distrust literature as a means of realistic interpretation?

Everything I write is a love letter to literature. I am not a cynical writer. Stories, sentence syntax are the touchstone of absolutely everything we have achieved as a species. Of course, the relationship between novel and reality is always opaque, full of interference and misunderstanding. The literature that interests me most is not concerned with clearing up these ambiguities and dissonances. On the contrary, I seek to strengthen them. Confusion is necessary in everyday life. We’re trying to figure out what the hell we are, what we are in this world. Examining confusion allows us to be more aware of our condition. As for realism, I think of it as a historical moment in the process of transformation of literary forms. I believe that literature is written with more literature. I do not trust some authors who write with their backs to tradition, as if no one has written before them, focusing only on their own experience.

– In addition to money as a topic, women are a defining figure in Fortune. And it is clear that you intend to return to them their leading role both in life and in fiction. Is the gender vision so clear in your novel as part of your author’s program?

This is no coincidence. At first I thought that I was going to write a novel about capital in the history of the United States, this absolutely male world of finance. This deliberate exclusion of women from the economic world has very serious political implications. In the United States, women could not open a bank account without a male guarantor until the late 1960s! I couldn’t afford to write about money without putting it at the center. Half of the planet’s population that was enslaved by the other half. And we should all talk about it all the time.

– I know that HBO is preparing a film adaptation of “Fortune” in the format of a series with actress Kate Winslet. How is the project progressing?

Everything happened thanks to Kate’s own interest and her energy. The project is gaining momentum, although everything is now on hold due to the writers’ strike. I just read in The New York Times that it’s possible that the actors will join the strike, bringing it to a complete halt. Maybe that will cut it all down. (Ed. note: The interview was taken before the announcement of the strike of actors, which is now in effect.)


  • At the invitation of FIL Lima, Hernán Diaz will present his book “Fortune” accompanied by writer J. J. Maldonado.
  • Its presentation will take place on Saturday, July 29 at 19:00 in the José Maria Arguedas Hall.



Author: Hernan Diaz

Publisher: Anagram

Pages: 440

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