5Q Interview: Yamila Bêgné, 2018 IWP Resident

The Writing University conducts is a series of interviews with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the International Writing Program's fall residency. We sit down with the writers to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home.

Today we are speaking with Yamila Bêgné, a fiction writer from Argentina.

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1. Hello Yamila! Do you have a plan or project in mind for your time at the residency? 

Yes, I do. I've been working on a novel for almost two years, and I would love to be able to finish it during my time in the residency. Moreover, since I am also planning a collection of poems, I will try to write, or re-write, one poem every day during the residency.  

2. What does your daily practice look like for your writing? Do you have a certain time when you write? Any specific routine? 

I usually write in the mornings. For me, writing in the mornings, before anything else has a chance to happen, is the best way to connect with what I am working on: with its theme, but mainly with its rhythm, with the flow of the syntax.    

3. What are you currently reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure? 

A little bit of both. For the novel, and also for my future PhD thesis, I´ve been reading a lot about the occult, about astrology, astronomy and physics. For example, I recently read The order of time, by Carlo Rovelli: an incredible book about time in science and real life. In terms of literature, I´ve been reading many Argentinian authors. For example: La ilusión de los mamíferos, a recent, amazing, novel by Julián López, and Archivo Dickinson, a collection of poems/essays by María Negroni; and also the latest books by Mariana Travacio, Francisco Cascallares, Ezequiel Zaidenwerg (who has just published a very interesting American poets anthology). I find there are elements of research and elements of pleasure when reading anything: and that is the case here.  

4. What is something the readers and writers of Iowa City should know about you and/or your work? 

Maybe it is a commonplace to say that writing is more about form than about matter. But I started writing precisely because of that. I like to write thinking about language, thinking about what rhythm and the order of the sentence do to a theme, to a character, to a plot. Even though it gets difficult from time to time, while writing I like to ask myself: why this, why here, why now. In a way, I fell I´ve been writing to explore the different combinations of that equation. Maybe that is why many of my short stories (and now also the novel that I am working on) have a scientific matter to them: I guess I am trying to see how such matters could translate into a fictional language. What does fiction do to ideas, to concepts? And also: What do thinking and controlling do to one´s texts? And, again, also: How do we know when the time has come to let it go, and to see what happens in the paper? For me, these are key question when writing.     

5. Tell us a bit about where you are from -- what are some favorite details you would like to share about your home? 

Since we all share writing and reading as everyday practices and pleasures, I think I can tell you a little bit about the Argentinian literature scene and Argentinian writers. We have a very strong and widespread independent publishing houses movement. There are a lot of independent editors that struggle through economy and keep on publishing new and exciting authors. Just to name some of these publishing houses: Sigilo, Alto Pogo, Bajo la luna, Caja negra, Godot, Gog y Magog, Eterna Cadencia, Mar dulce, Corregidor, Nudista, Eme, Funesiana, Marciana, Caleta Olivia, Conejos, Fiordo, La bestia equilátera.  

In terms of writers, there are many Argentinian contemporary authors that have been widely published and translated, like César Aira, Marcelo Cohen, Selva Almada, Luis Sagasti, Hernán Ronsino, Ariana Harwicz, Julián López, Federico Falco, Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, etc. Our literature is always growing: we also read each other a lot, and that creates kind of a common ground for Argentinian current literature. Some of the new, amazing, voices are: Marcelo Carnero, Pablo Katchadjian, Sonia Budassi, Francisco Cascallares, Valentina Vidal, Carlos Ríos, Débora Mundani, Mariana Travacio, Martín Castagnet, Eduardo Muslip, Vera Giaconi, and so many others.  

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Thank you Yamila!

Yamila Begne & Dan Coman will be reading this Sunday, 4pm at Prairie Lights Bookstore. Link

Yamila BÊGNÉ (fiction writer; Argentina), a teacher of creative writing, is the author of three experimental story anthologies, most recently Los Límites del control  [Limits of Control] (2017) and a non-fiction writer. A recipient of a 2006 Letters and Illustration award from the Ministry of Culture in Buenos Aires, in 2017 she attended a CUNY residency on a Néstor Sánchez Grant. She participates courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires.