Murray, KY – Richard Bausch says readers in England and France are buying his book Peace more than the US audience. He won this year's Dayton Literary Peace Prize for fiction for the novel. Kate Lochte has more about this author who'll read at Murray State Sunday, January 3rd.
KBL: The horrors of the World War II Allied Advance up the Apennines in the Italian campaign confront a soldier in Richard Bausch's novel Peace. The Dayton Prize website describes the work as "a meditation on the corrosiveness of violence, the human cost of war, and the redemptive power of mercy." I asked the author about the final challenge for his exhausted protagonist, a command to kill a would-be enemy collaborator:
RB: I wanted the reader to sense that the only salvation is to let him go. That human beings should be ready to let the Devil himself go to save themselves. That mercy and compassion are the only saving things. The things that make us superior to the bad angels and to all the other things, forgive the pompous sound of it, that make destruction in the world. And of course it can only count if it's in the middle of all kinds of terrible horror.
KBL: Mr. Bausch says he won't be reading from Peace when he comes to Murray, that he will likely read a new short story.
RB: It's called Eternity. It's an old couple sitting on a veranda overlooking Loch Foyle in Ireland and it comes out in their talk it's very objective you don't get inside either one of them, but it comes out in their talk that she's dying and they're planning to go upstairs after dinner and wine and take a lot of pills and go to sleep together.
KBL: In addition to Richard Bausch's published collections of short stories, several have made the pages of anthologies and national periodicals.
RB: I like to think of it as there are a lot of stories out there and I go for a walk. So it's generally just go take a little walk and make the path by taking it and set the words into motion and see where it leads. Then after it's done that then you have to try to be terribly smart about where it did lead and make it work. It's a lot closer to the cave than it will ever be to the drawing room. It's a primitive form of play only you're doing it with words.
KBL: Richard Bausch holds the Lillian and Morrie A. Moss Chair of Excellence at the University of Memphis. He says he doesn't teach writing, but the life of writing.
RB: Every single thing that anyone ever does that aims at excellence is marbled with failure all the time and it's the same with writing. Talking that way about it that way living shrewdly learning not to abuse your time..so I'm just trying to be good, to write memorably, understanding that that really doesn't guarantee me a thing - that probably the greatest likelihood will be that everything I do will disappear with me, but I will have raised my children in dignity and provided so that's all anybody has a right to ask for.
KBL: Reviewers mention Hemingway in discussing Richard Bausch's work. He says that he uses spare language like Hemingway.
RB: I'm just doing myself, just trying to be straight and clear. I don't really care that it be adorned particularly. I want it to be effective and I want it to uh make an image that's pure that doesn't have any language attached to it really. It's just the image itself, named and set forth.
KBL: Among other honors, Richard Bausch's work has brought him a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writer's Award and the Pen/Malamud Award for Excellence in the short story. For WKMS News, I'm Kate Lochte.
Murray State's Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing kicks off its Winter Residency guest Readings with Richard Bausch's 7:30 pm presentation in Murray State's Clara M. Eagle art gallery Sunday, January 3.