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Redux: Merely a Mask


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Every week, the editors of The Paris Review lift the paywall on a selection of interviews, stories, poems, and more from the magazine’s archive. You can have these unlocked pieces delivered straight to your inbox every Sunday by signing up for the Redux newsletter.

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Louise Erdrich.

This week at The Paris Review, we’re thinking about masks, concealment, and hiding. Read on for Louise Erdrich’s Art of Fiction interview, Charles Baudelaire’s poem “The Mask,” Donald Keene’s essay on Yukio Mishima’s Confessions of a Mask, and Flavia Gandolfo’s photography portfolio “Masks.”

If you enjoy these free interviews, stories, poems, and works of criticism, why not subscribe to The Paris Review and The New York Review of Books and read both magazines’ entire archives?

 

Louise Erdrich, The Art of Fiction No. 208
Issue no. 195 (Winter 2010)

I suppose one develops a number of personas and hides them away, then they pop up during writing. The exertion of control comes later. I take great pleasure in writing when I get a real voice going and I’m able to follow the voice and the character. It’s like being in a trance state.

 

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Photo: Flavia Gandolfo.

 

The Mask
By Charles Baudelaire, translated by Richard Howard
Issue no. 82 (Winter 1981)

What blasphemy of art is this! Upon
a body made to offer every bliss
appear … two heads! A monster? No—

one is merely a mask, a grinning cheat
that smile, illumined with exquisite care.
Look there: contorted in her misery,
the actual head, the woman’s countenance
lost in the shadow of the lying mask …

 

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Photo: Flavia Gandolfo.

 

Mishima in 1958
By Donald Keene
Issue no. 134 (Spring 1995)

We seem to have moved on then to a more general discussion of literature, though the notes are again unclear: “I gained liberation through literature, though I never sought it. Proust is spiritual, but I am physiological. Literature enabled me to free myself from many complexes and from tension. I became interested in all aspects of human life and I shed my adherence to self. In this I think I am unlike most Western writers. I have come to think that I am not dissimilar to other people, though when I wrote Confessions of a Mask I thought I was … ”

 

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Photo: Flavia Gandolfo.

 

Masks
By Flavia Gandolfo
Issue no. 133 (Winter 1994)

 

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Michael Neff
Algonkian Producer
New York Pitch Director
Author, Development Exec, Editor

We are the makers of novels, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

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