Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Yazmina Reza - The Writer's Autonomy and on Being Anti-Intellectual

From the Financial Times:

When it comes to staging her plays, Yasmina Reza, one of the world’s most successful playwrights, leaves nothing to chance. She vets the actors, dissects the directors and prods the producers. It’s a way of working that she first devised more than 20 years ago when she wrote her first play, Conversations After a Burial, and continues with her latest, God of Carnage .

“I was an actress, you see, I knew bad actors would have spoiled
what I’d written,” says Reza, a delicate-boned 48-year-old, with large expressive brown eyes. “I write for virtuosos, otherwise what’s the point?”


Reza is quick to dismiss any notion that she’s an intellectual. “I’m not entirely sure if it’s typical of French artists or not, this fervent desire to be intellectual,” she says. “But for me as a writer what I do is anti-intellectual. That is, I see the world and talk about it with a maximum of subjectivity, with all the strong contradictions, even bad faith, that involves.”

Reza believes her refusal to adopt intellectual positions has alienated her from many French critics, who have never praised her in quite the same way as their American, British and German counterparts.
“My relationship with the French critics is complicated,” she says. “Being successful doesn’t win you many friends over here. When you have a popular success, there’s automatically the suspicion that because what you’ve done is commercial it’s not very good. Another thing the French didn’t like very much was that as soon as I could, I took my plays around the world. They thought that it was me being disdainful of France, which is untrue. Though, it is true I was always more interested in what was going on in New York or London than in Paris.”

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