Interviewed by John Haggerty
Read Natalia Theodoridou’s fiction piece, The Emptiness Machine
John: I think we can safely blame this one on the poets. Why do they afflict us so?
Natalia: They do afflict us (there’s a poem by Greek poet Miltos Sachtouris, called, interestingly, “The Gifts,” that ends with these lines: “what’s he doing is he nailing our hearts? yes he’s nailing our hearts well then he must be a poet”), but I don’t think we should blame them for it, the poor things. What else can they do? Or I may be too much like my narrator, naive as they come.
If you had an emptiness machine with an on/off switch, would you turn it on? Would you turn it off?
Don’t we all have one already? I know I do; and (alas) it does not come with an on/off switch.
In this story, the narrator almost comes to a Buddhist-style understanding of emptiness but then can’t completely embrace it. Where are you personally on emptiness? What happens to us when, as writers, the “naming thing inside” loses its dominion?
Surrounding pain and painful experiences with a vast, uncrossable no man’s land can be safe and even helpful (perhaps this is why the Machine is a gift?). In the end, however, emptiness won’t do, because, along with everything else, it also eliminates the potential for dealing with the circumscribed thing so that it remains present as much as inaccessible.
As for the naming thing losing its grip… It’s scary, isn’t it? A hammer is what a hammer does, and if a writer doesn’t write, what is she? If subjectivity is defined in practice, is there a “she” at all when the practice dissolves?
You write in both Greek and English. I am always intrigued by bilingual writers. What do you find the main differences to be when writing in either language? Does one language lend itself more or less to certain kinds of subject matter?
For me, it’s usually the texture of the words rather than the subject matter that demands that a story be written in one language or the other. As for the differences, well… Quine’s ideas on meaning and the indeterminacy of translation have been so successfully pounded into me in my formal education that I do not consider languages similar enough to make pointing out their differences useful or meaningful in any way. In some respects, writing in Greek and writing in English involves radically different sets of processes and habits. To put it another way: if the language you speak partly constructs the subject you are while speaking it, then I am a different person when writing in Greek than I am when writing in English. So, I would say that I am the main difference.
You have also done a lot of work in theater. How does this inform your writing, or vice versa?
I have difficulty analysing my own work in ways that would make my answer to this question accurate as well as interesting. But I can say that there are areas in which I actively seek to blend the two, and that is my work with interactive fiction and digital performance. In my pieces with Adrift Performance Makers, I always try to explore the boundaries between audiencing, spectating, and co-creating, as well as the relationship between intertextuality and intersubjectivity when performing a work for oneself and/or with/for others. These are questions that were born out of my experiments with both fiction and theatre and ultimately enabled by the variety of new media practices that are available to us, and that, thankfully, continue to evolve constantly.