Reading with... Legna Rodríguez Iglesias

photo: Laura Rodríguez

Legna Rodríguez Iglesias was born in Camagüey, Cuba. Her work includes the poetry books Mi pareja calva y yo vamos a tener un hijo, Miami Century Fox and Transtucé; the story collection La mujer que compró el mundo; and the novel Mi novia preferida fue un bulldog francés, released in English as My Favorite Girlfriend Was a French Bulldog (McSweeney's, July 14, 2020, translated by Megan McDowell). Among her awards are the Centrifugados Prize for Younger Poets, the Paz Prize, the Casa de las Américas Prize in Theater and the Julio Cortázar Ibero-American Short Story Prize. Spinning Mill, a chapbook of her work, was recently published in English translation by CardBoard House Press (translated by Katerina Gonzalez Seligmann). She lives in Miami, where she writes a column for the online journal El Estornudo.

On your nightstand now:

I don't have a nightstand. I have a crib next to the bed with a baby inside. A flesh-and-blood learning book. A love book.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I can list a long list of favorite books that I read as a child. But I am going to simplify it to two unforgettable titles, which are already classics of children's literature:

Momo by Michael Ende
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Your top five authors:

I'm not sure if those authors must be alive or dead, so I will say five living authors, constantly changing:

José Kozer
Herta Müller
Elfriede Jelinek
Tana Oshima
J.M. Coetzee

And then five dead authors, who also change:

Georges Bataille
Thomas Bernhard
Samuel Beckett
William Faulkner
Yasunari Kawabata

Book you've faked reading:

The Magic Mountain, too fat for my 18 years old.

Book you're an evangelist for:

When you read Faulkner novels, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. novels and Carson McCullers novels, for example, you spend a lot of time thinking about those stories, not because of what they tell, but because they are written in such a way that characters could be yourself. Light in August, Breakfast of Champions and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, they could be enough to spend a good part of my life thinking about them. Then another good part of my life talking about them. Not interpreting them, but talking about all the rash, all the sputum, all the wonder they caused.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I remember the opposite, having stopped buying very good books from Cuban authors in ugly Cuban bookstores, for some horrible cover. I hope that thanks to the cover of my book, everyone buys it (joke).

Book you hid from your parents:

My books.

Book that changed your life:

Almost all, the moment I read them, they change it for me. Never forget the way my mind changed, my body, everything, while reading The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter or Light in August, for example. I became someone else and everyone knew it.

Favorite line from a book:

Sitting beside the road, watching the wagon mount the hill toward her, Lena thinks, 'I have come from Alabama: a fur piece. All the way from Alabama a-walking. A fur piece.' --from Light in August by Faulkner

Five books you'll never part with:

I hope to be able to keep with me each of the books of all the aforementioned authors--each and every one crossed the Caribbean Sea with me when I left Cuba. In each of my foreign moves they have accompanied me; they are my curse.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

I can think of many, but right now, due to its validity and currency, I would like to read Breakfast of Champions for the first time, by Kurt Vonnegut, another of my top authors.

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