A great big Thank you to Thad Carhart for taking time of his busy schedule to be able to answer a few questions!
- What was it that made you pursuing a degree in Anthropology? and then turn it into books? – I initially decided to study anthropology because of my interest in language and linguistics. Soon, however, I became interested in social and cultural anthropology, and studied the multiple myths and stories that native peoples of the American southwest generate, transmit, and periodically renew. This fascination with the importance of story-telling, along with my enjoyment of the history of the American West, gave me a strong motivation to use that experience in creating my own narrative using themes of cultural overlap as a thread.
- What is your current state of mind? – It’s fair to say that my current state of mind is one of “watchful waiting”. Since my new book, ACROSS THE ENDLESS RIVER, has just been published in the U.S., I feel like a parent with a newborn, and some of those same emotions cycle through my system: pride, relief, concern, anticipation, and an abiding affection for my characters and their story that is close to love.
- What or who is the greatest love of your life? – It’s the pat answer, of course, but in my case I’m lucky enough that it’s true: my wife.
- What is your motto if you have one? – Carpe diem — Seize the day.
- Who inspired you most in your pursuit of writing? – A friend and very fine writer, Alberto Manguel, encouraged me at the outset when I was first writing about my experiences in Paris. Those accounts eventually became the heart of my first book, THE PIANO SHOP ON THE LEFT BANK, and Alberto showed me the importance of multiple re-writes, careful research, and unflagging persistence.
- Who are your favourite authors? And why? – I’ve always loved Marguerite Yourcenar’s work. Her “Mémoires d’Hadrien” is one of the finest pieces of historical fiction I know, a complete and compelling recreation of the world of the Roman Empire as seen through the eyes of one of its chief actors. I recently reread Anna Karenina in the new English translation, and it opened my eyes all over again to Tolstoy’s genius. The sense of place he creates, and the underlying mood of his characters that he suggests with an economy of means, is enthralling. I learn more about the writer’s craft from ten good pages of his than I do from many other entire books. It also reminded me how dependent we are on our translators for sensitive and resonant versions of many of the greatest books.
- If you were to die and come back as anything you would like what would it be? – I don’t subscribe to the notion of literal reincarnation — it troubles me to think that any one of us might reappear as a cockroach! But if I had to make another lap under another form, I’d want to have wings. And no flightless birds, please. A stormy petrel, say, soaring for weeks at a time over the limitless ocean (but a seafood diet would definitely get old fast…)
- What is it about the topics that you talk about in your books that intrigued you to write about them? – The whole idea of living at the intersection of languages and cultures has always fascinated me, probably because I moved a lot as a child, and had lived in both France and Japan by the time I was a teenager. We all have to figure out for ourselves how we’ll fit in to the world we grow into as children, but when that involves different languages and social codes form the one’s we initially knew, then things become more complicated… and, potentially, more interesting. How do you figure out the code of appropriate behavior? What compromises are you willing to make? Can you combine aspects of two or more worlds and make sense of your way forward? What path, between two languages and cultures, can you fashion for yourself? These are all questions that continue to interest me, and that have an increasing resonance in today’s world.
- What do you consider your greatest achievement? – Like most writers, I think, I feel as if my greatest achievement is the last thing I’ve written, in my case, my new novel ACROSS THE ENDLESS RIVER. It will of course have a life of its own, but right at the moment of publication, it’s difficult to let go. But I’ve already started my next book, and I expect that to be my next “greatest achievement.”
- Is there one period among your education as an anthropologist and now that you see as your favourite and why? – My time as a student when I studied the tribal peoples of the North American Great Plains was a favorite, both for the richness and variety of the tribal lore, but also for the opportunity to visit the American West. It is one of the world’s great landscapes, and one of the saddest in many ways, now that the great herds and the nomadic peoples who followed them are almost gone. But its power continues to inspire me, and I was very happy to research the parts of ACROSS THE ENDLESS RIVER the dealt with the American frontier in the 1820s.