An Interview with Eurudice
by Alexander Laurence
Eurudice is the author of the ground-breaking novel, F/32
(Fiction Collective 1992), which most people would agree is the
most dangerous novel ever written by a women. She now teaches at
Brown University, where she continues to make films and write.
Her latest unpublished novel is called EHMH: an oceanic romance.
- Alexander Laurence:
- Could you talk about your exotic childhood?
- I grew up in Alexandria, Egypt. I was born on the island
of Lesbos. I'm Greek. I was actually born on the exact
spot where Sappho jumped off the cliff into the sea.
That's the same spot where the ashes of Orpheus,
according to the legend, were washed off after he was
killed and dismembered. It's a special place. I was born
unexpectedly and early. I lived with my mother's parents
and my own parents in Alexandria, not speaking Arabic,
reading a lot, not going to school, in a huge, huge
mansion with too many strangers and servants around. As a
result, I lived mostly in my fantasies. My father always
wanted me to be a writer. So from the age of 2 or 3, I
was introduced to philosophers and authors. The thing
about rewriting Beckett and Homer is definitely true. My
father still has the books in his library. I erased parts
of the books and rewrote, with my childish handwriting,
better versions of the plot. I didn't like anything mild.
When I was 9, we were kicked out of our house. Our
financial secretary killed himself and we found out that
we owed a lot of money because the national government
had confiscated the lands of the Greeks. We had to run
for our lives with our basic valuables to Greece
overnight. My whole family was scarred forever after
that. It took a long time for my mother to get over it.
My father had to get a job which he did, teaching at the
University. My grandparents, I think, are still stuck in
that era. My grandfather was a Coptic priest. He was the
top priest of the community. Very charismatic! So I come
from a religious family which may explain my fascination
with religion and sex. I find that church is very sexy,
and that sex is very religious and transcendent.
- Did you ever fit in with society?
- At the age of 9, I had to go to school and adjust to a
new country whose mores I could not understand. I
experienced a great fall. From then on I have, very
consciously, preferred being an outsider. Because even in
Egypt I have never belonged, but suddenly it hit me when
we arrived in Greece that my foreignness gave me freedom.
I wasn't expected to follow the familiar rules of the
locals. I could be treated as an exotic oddity. I could
be afforded freedom and fans: joys that would have been
- How did you start writing in English?
- When I was 14, I had already been a communist, been
arrested for my activities, been president of a school,
organized various strikes. As a result, I was a
celebrity. In my town, there was big signs on the wall
saying "EURUDICE I LOVE YOU!" So I felt that I
had it there, I've done everything I can, I better move
on. It was a means of rebellion to run away from home. So
I decided to go to Hollywood. Where else? In my little
school uniform and my school bag, and nothing else. I
didn't want my parents to know. I took the plane and
arrived in LA, not knowing anybody. Various adventures
later I met a women who I actually stayed with. She saved
my life. My parents had detectives looking for me, but I
was nowhere to be found in Greece. When I arrived my
English was terrible, but it was very good written
because I had taken it in school. But I didn't know how
to pronounce it. I didn't know any of the expressions. If
people said "You're off the wall." I would look
at the wall and understand it literally. That's how my
attachment to the English was born, because by taking
everything literally, I saw a new dimension to it that
others just took for granted. It also liberated me
writing in English, because when I wrote in Greek, every
word meant so much. I had a book of poems published in
Greece when I was 16. The word "heart" meant so
much. So did the word "love." There was a long
tradition that I felt that I should respect. As a result,
I was very cautious with the language. I was a
minimalist. I would write poetry and leave most of the
page blank. Suddenly, English liberated me. I could say
anything. I could change the language, abuse it, recreate
it. English is a very business-like, direct,
straightforward tongue. It fits writing fictions and it
also invites experimentation because it's so boring. It
doesn't have the inborn music and grace of other tongues.
It's important for me to write in English because it's
the Roman language of today. It's the imperialist
language of our times. American ideology informs and runs
the world. It's the only thing that Marx underestimated.
It's the power of this ideology to persuade everyone,
that they could be one of the chosen ones. By writing in
English, I am in fact infiltrating this world in writing
in the language that has the most effect. Whereas, if I
wrote in Greek, none of that would be possible. I like
being in the United States. I like to watch this land
recreate itself, or commit suicide, then jump out of its
ashes like a phoenix.
- You have a different relationship to the English language
that makes you have a certain distance.
- The word "cunt" for instance--I know very much
what it means--but it didn't exactly mean itself the way
it would in Greek. So that made writing F/32 much simpler
for me. Another reason I could write that book was being
an only child for so long, and spoiled, I never have
believed that there could be consequences to my actions.
I am still free from a real understanding of cause and
effect. I did it very innocently I think.
- When did you think that you would become a writer?
- I tried not to be a writer for the longest time. My
father would talk to me about Shakespeare when I was 3. I
read all of the classics at an early age. I don't know
what I understood. Probably not much. After I left home,
it was part of my rebellion to not be a writer. I changed
my major a few times, at a bunch of universities, and
ended up studying fine arts. I ended up graduating at
Bard College. I found out that I could graduate a
semester early if I graduated in creative writing
instead. It was completely accidental. Then, to get a
Visa to stay in the country, I applied to a few college
with the help of my poetry instructor at Bard, Robert
Kelly, and I was accepted at the University of Boulder. I
was at Boulder for two years. However I was still
uncommitted to writing. I did write F/32 there. I wrote
everyday. It was some sort of therapy or disease, but in
theory I've always hated writing. I don't think it's as
potent as other mediums. I hate being alone and being at
the computer, writing hour after hour. I prefer something
that's more active like painting, or collaborative like
film. After Boulder, I dedicated myself to film, and
moved to India and made films. A few things happened at
this time. First, I got hepatitis twice and almost died.
At the same time, while I was in the desert, I got a
telex from Boulder that F/32 had won the Fiction
Collective 2 award for 1990. I had not submitted
anything. I had no idea that this was going to happen. It
turned out that they didn't have a winner for two years.
Ron Sukenick and Robert Steiner had found who had been on
my thesis committee and found a copy of F/32 and
submitted it to the judge Frederic Tuten, who loved it.
But I was shocked. I didn't think that the book was ready
for publication. I wanted to rewrite it forever after
because that's my excessive nature, and I thought that I
would be burned on the stake when people would read about
the cunt. F/32 has since become a cult book. Now there's
no going back.
- What is the difference between a man's view of love
versus a woman's?
- Traditionally, women are taught to value themselves
according to how much they are loved, to see themselves
as love objects. For them, love is a means of exchange,
if they are a commodity. Women need to be loved much
more. There is a stereotypical notion that women have
invented love, where I think that men have clearly
invented love and use it to keep women enslaved. Women
have potentially a bigger capacity to move through people
and love freely and not possessively. I think that men's
love is very possessive and involves ownership,
competition, and performance. I think that love is the
best thing that we have. Nothing is as fulfilling as this
incomprehensible ability to identify with the other and
become the other and enter the other. I think that men
and women are different when it comes to love.
- Since you moved to Providence, have you mellowed out and
become a part of the university?
- Yes, but the moment I leave town and travel a bit, I
regain my Fellini-esque freedom. Also having the books
published made it a big difference. It's necessary to
become a little mellow in the public life in order to
save some energy for writing. In fact, it happened to me
dealing with AIDS. It's only after AIDS became really
prevalent, like around 1985, when I started really
writing, because I just couldn't fuck as much as I used
to. I had to rechannel the energy somewhere. I'll take
sex over writing any day. I think they are very similar.
In writing as in sex, there's a certain undressing and
unselfconsciousness: a certain loss of identity in a
union with the world at large which is the divine. I feel
like when I write that I don't know who I am the same way
when I fuck I don't know who I am. I don't know who I am
with. That kind of overcoming of my borders and union
with the cosmic consciousness. I hate the vocabulary
that's available for this sort of thing. It's really
something that can't be put into words, that's
unspeakable. That's the beauty of it. That's why it's
much better than anything that I've experienced
consciously. It's a certain sublime expansion and flight.
- Do you think that books have the power to influence
people as described in your novels, F/32 and EHMH?
- Books have the power to influence the good people, the
people I want to influence, the chosen people. I have no
interest in the masses. I don't want to be adored by the
masses unless it's completely religious. I've always had
a dream where there's an icon of me, and young girls and
women in scarves will kneel and kiss my image. But that's
very different from what happens in America with the
adoration of the mob which is very fickle and greedy, and
will inevitably punish you and hurt you. The chosen
people, the ones who appreciate the beauty, I think can
be influenced by books because I have been influenced by
books and so have my friends. Of course, part of what I'm
doing by writing about that in F/32 is to get to a self-
fulfilling prophecy, to emphasize the fact that books are
- Are your characters exploring the redemptive powers of
violence? How do you feel about the subject of violence?
- I think that violence is cathartic and I think it has
been so since the time Medea killed her children, and
Clytemnestra killed her husband. There's something very
cleansing about it, and clarifying. It creates a density
and a lucidity that life, in its tepid dailyness does not
provide. Violence provides intensity, and I think that
balance in written or reproduced form is very sexy. Most
of my plots, are nothing more than my own sexual
fantasies, when you really get down to the basic common
denominator, where they all start from. I think that
there's something liberating in the fantasy of violence.
Actually, rape is the most common fantasy among women.
There many studies about it. It's my understanding that
it's not because women want to be raped at all, but it
provides them with a freedom from responsibility. Once
someone puts you down on the ground, once you have no
choice, then you don't have to worry about the image you
project: you don't have to worry about being an easy lay
or a slut. You can just completely wallow in the
physicality of it all, and get rid of all religious,
moral, linguistic lessons, and baggage that you have been
carrying without having any choice at the beginning.
After all, without fantasies, sex is just plumbing. You
need the fantasy to get wet. There's a big difference
between someone saying in the right tone of voice
"Look into my eyes, now!" And someone saying
"Let's have a quickie!" The latter statement
has a sexy word, but it's the language and it's use that
makes us get really turned on or open us to pain as well
as pleasure. I think that the distance and the separation
between pain and pleasure is really tiny. They can
overlap very easily. Pleasure, at its best, at its
highest and greatest, cannot help but spill over into the
realm of pain. It's like in the Parliament in Europe
where you have the Right, and the various parties in the
center, and the Left, and that's the end. In the circle,
the Right and the Left actually meet. It's very easy for
them to lapse into one another. I think the same thing
happens with pleasure and pain: that there's a great
separation in the center, but when you have the extremes,
the extreme of pleasure definitely joins in the extreme
of pain. And there's nothing more beautiful than reality.
There's nothing more sexy than the truth of the blood. In
our world that is run by reproductions and the
make-believe, a world of the image rather then the
substance, then any sort of substantive reality such as
the body inside and out, inevitably affords great
pleasure, relief, and orgasm.
- What major issues do you think that you have resolved
with writing F/32?
- I saw F/32 as some sort of parable or fable of a women
who is both alienated from her sexuality and from her
brain, her civilized self. When Ela becomes sexual, she
feels she's no longer her identity, her thinking self;
that the body takes over and becomes uncontrollable. She
feels that not because it's true, but through the mind
that the excitement stems. But because the whole
Judeo-Christian tradition that makes it necessary to
separate, that has created a dichotomy between the mind
and body, or spirit and flesh. The whole book in a way is
an attempt to unite those two and make them understand
each other, and by the end, the vagina goes back on top
of the dress in a public way, re-attaching itself to Ela.
A lot of that book, of what men have said, is based on
autobiographical experience. I use reality in particular
only when reality is really outrageous and unbelievable.
I wrote this book years ago, and then Lorena Bobbitt
castrated her husband. There's a penis that the policeman
picks up, a loose penis on the highway. This is like a
passage from F/32 as far as I'm concerned. So realism
more or less includes everything.
- How do you feel some of the gender issues can be solved?
- I think that for both sexes, we should all have both a
penis and a vagina, and be able to penetrate each other
both ways at once. And then, whoever gets pregnant, just
gets pregnant, either one of the genders. It would have
been a simpler world, plus it would have doubled our
species capacity to procreate and survive. So I don't see
why that was not done.
- How do you separate writing from speech, or reality from
- There's something inauthentic about the illusion of
realism. I don't respect that. I don't like to pretend
that what I'm writing is not written. I know very much
that the word "love" is not love., or that the
word "Eurudice" is not Eurudice. I also think
that my work is very Greek; that you can see the
mythology there; that every character becomes a god or a
myth somehow. I have an interest in reusing the ancients,
in redoing what the ancients did. It's one of the reasons
that I'm not using my last name. But I'm not an American.
I come from a very different background. I have an ease
as a result of taking material and literature that
already exists, and incorporating them because where I
come from all literature is considered public domain more
or less. The peasants recite literature during fiestas.
There's never a question of who wrote this or that, or
who's the originator. Also it's nice to know that you're
being a little bad girl.
- What is sex for you?
- Sex for me is a rebellion. It's not foremost a rebellion.
It's foremost the great pleasure. The greatest pleasure
which is a way of becoming the other and becoming God. It
is a way of no longer being my small petty self, the way
that we are all small petty selves. And I understand love
as sex. I cannot conceive of love, romantic love, outside
of sex, free of sex. I feel that it is only during sex,
or something that takes the place of sex, that we can
overcome our socialization and the limits imposed by
society bent on perpetuating its own artificial stability
and values. Nevertheless, I think that it is almost
impossible and very difficult to write about sex because
the moment you write about it, it is somehow no longer
rebellious or dangerous. Society has an incredible
capacity to incorporate, and thus disarm, all kinds of
linguistic endeavors. So, if I write this book about the
cunt and everybody likes it, and everybody loves it, it's
been taught in schools, students write their thesis on
it-- which has already happened many times--somehow I
realize that I have failed in my effort to destabilize. I
have to try again and again. I think that the rebellion
is in the act of the writing, the way it is in the act of
sex, rather than the idea of it or the product of it,
because one can never avoid escape completely being named
and situated by those around.