Books: What were you reading during the holidays?
Puchner: This is embarrassing. The last few days she had been sick and had been reading “Greek Zorba” by Nikos Kazantzakis. The place where I sublet had a copy. I’m glad I read it, but it was a mixed experience. It’s this existentialist cli de coeur, but it almost seems like a cliché now. I was also struck by how misogynistic it was. There are almost no female characters.
Books: Isn’t that typical reading for you?
Puchner: No, it was kind of whimsical reading.
Books: what do you usually pick up?
Puchner: I didn’t read much sci-fi or fantasy when I was a kid, but I belatedly became interested in it. I’ve read everything from “Harry Potter” to Philip Pullman to Neil Stephenson. Last year I read Stevenson’s Termination Shock. This takes into account changes in the environment.
Books: Would you like to read more in English or German?
Puchner: I read mostly in English, but occasionally in German or French.
Books: Are there any German authors you would like to see become more famous?
Puchner: I was a fan of the Nobel Prize-winning Austrian author Elfriede Jelinek. She is not well known here because it is very difficult to translate. I think her best book is “Lust”. This is a poignant novel about abuse, in which she deconstructs the casual and not-so-casual violence of language.
Books: When did you become a serious reader?
Puchner: pretty late. As a child and during her teenage years, she read favorite books, including The Lord of the Rings, which she read twice when she was 12. at University. I was behind in development in many other ways as well.
Books: Were there any books or authors that inspired your change?
Puchner: There were a few reading experiences I could point to. I studied philosophy in college and turned to literature in graduate school. I realized that literature promises access to the ideas of different peoples. I was reading his early 20th century writers such as Kafka, especially his short fiction like “The Silence of the Siren.” Then I read Joyce’s “Ulysses” in this part of Greece, on Mount Athos. Mount Athos is closed to the world and has only monasteries. It looks like Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose”. Reading “Ulysses” was a very intense reading experience. It was also Lent and there was very little food to eat. I noticed that a lot of the novels had to do with food.
Books: Do you have any tips for readers who want to expand their reading?
Puchner: There is an excellent website called Words Without Borders, which translates contemporary poetry and short stories from around the world. If you’re interested in great texts from around the world, an anthology of world literature is a great place to start.
Books: How many books did you read for books?
Puchner: huge amount. This is the accumulation of decades of reading and research, followed by a lot of history, scholarship in these obscure fields, old travelogues and epics. It was an interesting range.
Books: are you a fast reader?
Puchner: I’m pretty fast, but sometimes I think it’s not good. Speed reading is necessary when doing academic work. It is necessary to look for something important. I’m good at doing it fast, but it’s gotten into the habit of reading everything fast. Note to self: As a New Year’s resolution, maybe I should read more slowly.
The interview has been edited and condensed. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @GlobeBiblio.Amy Sutherland is the author of ‘Rescue Penny Jane’ these days and you can contact her email@example.com.