Argentina-born author Hernan Diaz discusses new novel at Meriden Public Library
MERIDEN — Hernan Diaz, Argentina-born Pulitzer Prize finalist for fiction and PEN/Faulkner Award winner for his 2017 novel “In the Distance,” participated in an open virtual discussion with the Meriden Public Library as part of events for Hispanic Heritage Month.
Lauren Thompson, head of community services at the Meriden Public Library, said virtual events allow viewers to connect and ask questions of acclaimed authors that town libraries wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise.
“The only reason we could afford an author like (Diaz) is because it’s virtual,” Thompson said. “A lot of these authors are very, very expensive.”
Diaz was invited by the library to chat about his second novel, “Trust,” in partnership with the Library Speakers Consortium’s Author Talk Series, on Sept. 27.
Hosted by Brandon Adler, the Author Talk Series makes it accessible for tuning communities in from more than 200 library systems across 37 states to connect with bestselling and award-winning authors.
As “a big library-goer,” Diaz said he has been doing most of his work in libraries while writing his essays and short stories.
“It’s just so exciting,” Diaz added. “Just the mere thought of being at so many libraries simultaneously is dizzying. I love this project, and I am honored to be part of it.”
Published in 31 countries, “Trust,” was one of just 13 novels on the “longlist” for the 2022 Booker Prize and is a finalist for the Kirkus Prize. Earning a Ph.D. from NYU, Diaz serves as an associate director of the Hispanic Institute for Latin American and Iberian Cultures at Columbia University and the managing editor of the Spanish-language journal, Revista Hispánica Moderna.
Diaz explained that “Trust” is a bit “unusual” because after opening the novel the reader will be met with a table of contents, separating the book into four sections written from the perspective of a different character.
The first section titled “Bonds,” tells the story of the rise of the Wall Street tycoon, Benjamin Rask, and his relationship with his wife, Helen.
In the second and shortest section of the book titled “My Life,” Rask tells his perspective of events from the first section.
“This real-life tycoon is not pleased at all with how he’s been depicted in this novel,” Diaz explained. “He’s determined to set the record straight to what he thinks is the truth and therefore he presents his own version of the facts.”
Fast forward to the 1980s, the third section represents the story of Ida Partenza, who was the secretary and daughter of an Italian anarchist. Partenza reflects on her time working for the wealthy tycoon.
The fourth and final section of the novel reveals the personal diary of Helen, who turns out to be the main character of the novel all along.
“I didn’t set out to write a novel with this particular structure, it was more ‘straight-novel’ in my mind when I started,” Diaz said. “There are a few reasons that I hope to go beyond formal fancy or a gimmick. I felt this form was necessary intrinsically to the story and to what I’m trying to say in the book.”
The author said when we read any text, “we are entering into a certain kind of contract with the text,” and it’s through fictional works that people tend to excuse themselves from the truth.
His novel turns that idea on its head and with the reader’s perspective of the word “trust” as it acts as sort of a puzzle that’s not solved until the reader reads the novel in full.
“So what I was trying to do was to invite, gently, the reader to question the trust or lack thereof, that they place in certain texts because sometimes sort of the larger payload of truth is to be found in those texts,” Diaz said .
The novelist also explained he was drawn to the idea of writing about money in America after completing his first novel “In the Distance.”
“I didn’t know how I was drawn to the subject,” Diaz said. “I’m a student of American literature. I’m very invested in the American canon. I feel that everything that I write is in one way or another in conversation with that tradition. And while the money of course and capital has this outsize place in the way in which America imagines itself, it has always had a mystical, almost transcendental dimension.”
You can catch more virtual discussions with acclaimed authors at www.meridenlibrary.org.