With such strong and elegant themes presented, how do you feel “The Ministry of the Eye” was influenced by — or reflects — current society?
I was thinking a lot about totalitarian states, and how insidiously they turn people against one another, making them complicit with great evil. Obviously, the Nazis and such states were in my mind; among many other things, the pit is a concentration camp. But I was thinking about the war on terror, as well — especially the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.
What appealed to you most when writing “The Ministry of the Eye”? What compelled you to finish the story?
This is such a hard thing to sort out. The various betrayals were part of it — the way such states take the finest things in us, our love for others, our love for beauty, and turn them into razor blades to slash one another up with. But the language was also important. I hope there’s some beauty in the language to compensate for the ugliness in Gerst’s world.
With such a strong selection of characters, which one do you most identify with and why?
Oh, definitely Gerst. We’re about the same age, we’re both fathers and spouses, and we’re both involved, at whatever level and with whatever the cost, in making art, I can sympathize very much with the way he’s torn between various loyalties and responsibilities.
In the right circumstances, what would you do if you happened to work for the Ministry? Where would your place be?
Well, I’d like to think I would be courageous enough to stand up against it. But I fear I might not be so brave.
What might we be seeing from you in the near future?
I’ve got a collection of short fiction coming out in April — The End of the End of Everything. A novel, The Subterranean Season, will follow in the fall. No short fiction on the immediate horizon, but I have some things cooking.
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