Liliana Heker, "Strategies Against Sleeping" (trans. Miranda France)


It’s December 18. Liliana Heker, author of Please Talk to Me, gets control of the radio.

How would you describe your story?

LILIANA HEKER: I don’t think fiction can be described or synthesized. It’s the text as a whole that speaks and stands for itself.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

LH: I wrote this short story in the late ‘90s, but the idea came up to me in 1978, during a car trip from Segovia to Madrid. I was dead tired and just about to fall asleep when the driver—Fernando Quiñones, a notable poet—told me: “Please talk to me, I’m falling asleep.” Having to talk to someone out of obligation and feeling so sleepy was a kind of torture; I thought someday I would write something based on that situation. Many times I have come up with an idea for a short story and I ended up writing it many years later.

What kind of research went into this story?

LH: I didn’t need to do any research. I just observe the people around me and observe myself. That’s where the material for almost all of my fictions comes from.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing can't?

LH: A short story can show all the intensity, horror, or beauty that underlies even in the most imperceptible situations. As Julio Cortázar said, “The novel wins by points, the short story by knockout.”

Where should people go to learn more about you and your work?

LH: Two of my books have been translated into English. The novel The End of the Story (El fin de la historia), published by Biblioasis in Canada, and Please Talk to Me, a selection of short stories from Yale University Press.

What's the best gift you've ever been given?

LH: My first typewriter, a portable Olympia that my father gave me when I was 18 years old, a few months before he died.

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Michael Hingston