Finding the perfect book for your summer getaway isn’t easy. Whether it’s a beach read or simply something to pass the travel time, it’s tempting to settle for a mind-numbing novel and spend your getaway reading trash. Books by the acclaimed Italian author Giuseppe Cafiero, the creator of a genre called ‘bio-fiction’, may just be the answer.
Female First (FF): You are the creator of a literary genre that you have dubbed ‘bio-fiction’, which mixes fact and fiction about a subject’s life into a fresh narrative. As a writer, what do you hope to uncover or highlight through this approach which could not be achieved through a straight biography?
Giuseppe Cafiero (GC) I’ve always wanted to discover the hidden side of some characters. A hidden side that can be highlighted by playing on ambiguity, or on a reality that can be false and a falsehood that can be true.
FF: You hold the great Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges as the author that has most influenced your work. What is it about his writing that provides such satisfaction?
GC: The reality is never what appears. Reality is subjective; reality is changeable; reality is controversial. Only by questioning the function of a certain reality is possible to discover different and all equally real realities.
FF: Meta-fiction is seen as a complex and challenging field of literature. Which novels would you recommend to readers looking for a gentle introduction to meta-fiction, and why?
GC: Fictions, Universal History of Infamy and History of Eternity by Jorge Luis Borges. The Judge & his Executioner and The promise by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, and Ulysses by James Joyce.
In all these books it's possible to find a fictitious reality and a real falsehood.
FF: What is it about Gustave Flaubert that makes him a compelling subject for the bio-fiction treatment? And likewise for Mário De Sá-Carneiro?
GC: Flaubert's subtle irony that becomes irresistible when it is glimpsed through ambiguity. This also happens for Sa-Carneiro when irony is replaced by tragedy.
FF: Your novels show a great deal of knowledge of the writing and lives of the figures you focus on. How do you go about writing a work of biofiction in terms of background research, and how long does it typically take?
GC: I start from the love for an author and the profound knowledge of the life and work of this author. There is always an ambiguous, strange, incoherent event in the life of an author. So I rewrite the life of this author through this event. The research is long and tiring. Writing engages a lot of time between second thoughts and corrections.
FF: Which other great writers or artists do you plan to give the ‘bio-fiction’ treatment in the future, and what makes these figures so compelling to you for this treatment?
GC: At the moment I am very interested in (the American horror fiction author) Howard Phillips Lovecraft. But I would need a lot of time and the right publisher.
FF: Your novels consistently deal with the idea of ‘ambiguity’. What do you mean by the term and what is the intellectual fascination with this concept?
GC: It’s the subtle game of pretending and not pretending on the reality of certain events so that ambiguity becomes the only means of trying to understand this reality.
FF: What are the main artistic challenges of writing metafiction, and in presenting this to the reading public in a way they will readily understand?
GC: Make it clear that this is a subtle literary game and explain why this game is subtle literature.
FF: Metafiction and post-modernist fiction could be said to have reached their commercial peak in the 1960s. Do you think these genres may be heading for another popular renaissance, especially given that the world has now entered a new era of ‘post-truth’?
GC: It’s not metaphysics and a postmodernist narrative, it’s a new way of narrating if there is the certainty that no reality is real and neither fiction is false.
Gustave Flaubert: The Ambiguity Of Imagination, and Mário De Sá-Carneiro: The Ambiguity Of A Suicide, both by Giuseppe Cafiero, are available on Amazon UK. For more information visit www.giuseppecafiero.com.