Anne Germanacos Interview

An Interview with Anne Germanacos on Tribute

(More information on author news and purchasing here)


1. Tribute takes shape around the final illness, then death, of the narrator’s mother. It feels as if this was the occasion out of which the book arose; the book’s third section is the long, beautiful “Kaddish.” Can you talk about the act of writing in response to this essential loss?

Writing was a way of entering the loss as it was occurring, constantly and incrementally. (I can also say: Writing is a way of entering loss as it occurs, constantly and incrementally.)

My mother’s death was gradual. I watched her wax and wane, though her transformation, while inevitable, was far less predictable than the moon’s.

The imminent death—for it would occur, though it often seemed so far away!—was a target. Time lengthened and contracted in relation to what we had to know, despite our ignorance of its exact arrival.

The sense of an ending which was, really, only a pause, allowed a full flowering of feeling. Intensity of feeling rubbed a new relationship to language. I was still (just barely) writing in sentences, but no longer in paragraphs.

Something more animal had arrived.

2. This is, I’d say, a profoundly erotic book: we experience the narrator’s daily life and passions so vividly. How would you describe the role of the erotic in this work? How did the lives of the body and the mind work together in its creation?

As my mother was dying, she watched me watch her. Love played back and forth repeatedly, intensifying.

This primal eros overflowed into every area of my life. Writing was a way of tracking it, trapping it, then releasing it into flight.  

Once the writing knew itself and what it could do—language, like a character, insisted—life kept opening to admit more life, more emotion, more, against the white space of loss.

3. Tribute is written in a distinctive and powerful form: each chapter is made up of a series of single lines, sometimes sentence fragments, rarely more than a sentence or two. How did this form develop? Were there particular works or writers who influenced its creation?

I generally work in small, self-contained parts that contribute to a whole. Writing single lines and fragments is something new but perhaps not unexpected. The discovery of David Markson’s work was an inspiration and a relief. The knowledge of what he’d done stayed with me, a little underground, and re-surfaced as permission to continue when I found writing that arranged itself this way on the page.

In the crucible of imminent loss, everything comes to life. The erotic, in tandem with the sacred, reframes everything.

(Life can seem chronic, but toeing the edges, we know it’s acute.)

4. As we read we move across continents—New York to San Francisco and back, to Crete, to Cyprus, to Israel and Palestine. What role does travel—international experiences, encounters with international conflicts—play in this book?

Strangely, this feels like the most personal question. I prefer answering questions about the erotic or the death of my mother!

Travel allows what one thinks of as discrete parts to rub together. We watch what comes of the friction.

Moving time zone to time zone, continent to continent, and language to language, one gains a heightened awareness of the variety of rhythms.

Traveling, several tempi meet and fuse, sometimes combusting!
(One may travel for the shock value, though no shock lasts very long.)

I live between countries to mend a variety of splits and tears.
It clarifies things somewhat, to see them reflected in the world.

International conflicts are real. Internal conflicts are, as well.
They mimic and mirror, sometimes conflating.

And travel mends, often by sending the traveler back to the happy fact of her ordinariness.

5. Throughout Tribute the narrator conducts an intensive, intimate dialogue with her psychoanalyst. Can you talk about the relationship between psychoanalysis and literature? I wonder about the distinct and/or common endeavors of writing and therapy, or even about your experiences of psychoanalysis.

Both writing and therapy contain endlessness and ends. Edges, too.

Writing covets infinity. It may take a soul into ecstasy or turmoil.
Psychoanalysis is similarly greedy. Both are open-handed, and generative.

In each, you’re required to go all the way—within a form.
In both, you interpret, inventing as you go.

A book comes to life in the space between a writer and the world.

An analysis is created of the spoken words, gestures, imaginings and captive silences that pool between two people. This lively thing—a presence that succors and travels, listens and breathes heavily—is the creation of dozens of cohabited hours.

But not every analysis gives birth to a book.



This winter Rescue Press will consider book-length prose submissions for our Open Prose Series, which publishes one work a year of nonfiction, fiction, or sui generis prose. The series aims to support singular prose works and the wider discussion of contemporary literary prose; the first book in the series, Anne Germanacos's Tribute, will be released in spring 2014 (see below). We invite you to submit a manuscript to our open reading period between January 1 and January 31, 2014. All submissions will be reviewed by series editors Hilary Plum and Zach Savich, who will work with the editors of Rescue Press to select a manuscript for publication. We expect to make a decision by April 2014. Please send submissions to rescueopenprose [at] gmail [dot] com along with a biographical note and a brief statement about your work. Manuscripts should be sent as .pdf, .doc, .docx, or .rtf attachments. Participants have the option to submit a reading fee via this Paypal link; donations of any amount are appreciated and go toward publishing the selected manuscript. There are no restrictions on who may submit.


2671 Anne Germanacos LO RES copyTribute by Anne Germanacos forthcoming, spring 2014

In her masterful second book, Anne Germanacos gets right down to the elemental: the single line. Tribute is a work of prose—novel, essay, experiment in narrative?—created from distinct lines, a work of continual shape-shift and exhilarating motion. Tribute chronicles the daily life of a woman whose mother is dying and who begins to see a psychoanalyst, a woman who lives among lovers, sisters, and children, across continents and their conflicts (New York, San Francisco, Crete, Cyprus, Israel/Palestine). The book that results offers us both her story—forcefully sensual, vibrantly lived—and, through its bold form, her complex relationship to story.

Germanacos's restless relationship to form is born of that most essential restlessness: desire. In Tribute she documents desire's manifold incarnations, the body's and the mind's; she pays beautiful tribute to the force of desire and to those who have been bold enough to try to comprehend it—gentle echoes remind us of H.D. and her Freud. In the tradition of Clarice Lispector, David Markson, and Marguerite Duras, Tribute takes us deep into the borderlands where fiction and nonfiction meet. The first book in Rescue Press's new series of innovative prose, this is a work of profound ambition and rare urgency.

Anne Germanacos is the author of the short-story collection In the Time of the Girls (BOA Editions, 2010). Together with her husband, Nick Germanacos, she ran the Ithaka Cultural Studies Program on the islands of Kalymnos and Crete. She now runs the Germanacos Foundation in San Francisco.

To request a review copy, please email rescuepress [at] gmail [dot] com.

Read an excerpt in the Kenyon Review Online!

Advance praise for Tribute:

"What can language do to resolve grief, to forge or release intimacy? In Tribute, Anne Germanacos responds to these mysteries by scouring and saving lit moments, phrases, and scraps. Far from being an act of withholding or willful sketchiness, Tribute is a passionate erasure back to bone. Reading, one experiences the need to stop and look up-as if encountering in a poem a particularly deft use of space which isolates and frames a moment for lavishing. It could take years to read this book, or an afternoon—either would be right—depending on your capacity for the flash-wisdom of aphorism and the pace at which you take your shots of insight." —Lia Purpura

"Anne Germanacos writes with wit and passion: she is a modern metaphysical poet. Her one-line fragments, discrete and connected, probe the desires and terrors of her embodied existence. Her words move us inward to our own most vital and painful zones. A rigorous, resonant voice." —Avivah Zornberg

"Anne Germanacos's Tribute is like nothing I have ever read before. A novel in poetic form, prose poetry, or her own invented style, this is an amazing, original and captivating read. Taking off from HD's (the poet Hilda Doolittle) Tribute to Freud Germanacos deals with the narrator's experience of psychoanalysis, her dying mother, love, sexuality, dreams and much more. Like the mystical-spiritual HD, presenting analysis and the other topics in this poetic form seems just right. Each evocative, impressionistic line can be unpacked by the reader in a variety of ways, making for a uniquely rich experience." —Louis Breger

"A kaleidoscope that can well hold a reader securely while containing a soul." —Robert Wallerstein

"A master of silence and the subtle pass, Germanacos builds her absorbing and seductive narratives from a thousand fragments. Her paradoxes—intimate, edgy, and luminous—tease us through a maze of reflections on mothers and daughters, Freud, sex and desire, and politics. 'What is it that writing does to a life?' Tribute is her answer: it gives it meaning." —Askold Melnyczuk