Alex Epstein was born in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in 1971 and moved to Israel when he was eight years old. He is the author of four collections of short stories and three novels; his work has been translated into English, French, Spanish, Russian, Greek, Dutch, Croatian, and Italian. In 2003 he was awarded Israel’s Prime Minister’s Prize for Literature. In 2007 he participated in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. In 2010 he was writer in residence at the University of Denver. He teaches creative writing in Tel Aviv.

Short Story Collections

Blue Has No South
(Clockroot Books, April 2010)

reviewed by Annie Clarkson

Lunar Savings Time
(Clockroot Books, April 2011)

Interview with Alex Epstein

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

Alex Epstein: I wrote Blue Has No South for 4 years. Some of the very short stories were written for long months, with dozens of versions, sometimes different from one another by a single word, and sometimes by a completely different idea or narrative.

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

AE: At the beginning no, I just wanted to see if I could find a different form for my art, much more focused and dense. To tell a story with few words as possible, a story that sometimes catches just one emotional movement between two people, and sometimes tries to grasp the whole world. After a while I started to think about the "absence of words" as of a material, and was able to aim for a collection of such micro fiction. There is still something deep that draws me toward this.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

AE: Some of the stories were published in magazines and collections in print and on the net before the book was published, so I was able to see how they "work" outside my manuscript and decide if they should be included. I guess that more than 30 stories were left out. Regarding the order, it was a sisyphic work of… intuition. To be honest, as a reader I would never read such a book from cover to cover, in the same way I would never read One Thousand Nights and One Nights from start to beginning. I hope that Blue Has No South is a book that invites you to find something new with every read.

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

AE: The thing that is told, but more importantly, that is not told, and just waits to be discovered in the white margins surrounding the words.

TSR: Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?

AE:  Not really, but from time to time I do try to imagine the reaction of my best critic, my wife. I am usually surprised: she sees potential in the draft's of stories that I consider doomed, and sees a lot of work in the stories I consider to be completed.

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?

AE: Which story you think you will remember in ten years?

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

AE: I am glad that people are reading my books… but I was never into the economy of selling/buying books. I always tell people to look for my stories on the net, or just take the book from the library. My publishers disagree…

TSR: What are you working on now?

AE:  I have just published another collection of short-short stories in Israel, Lunar Savings Time. During 2011 it will also be published in USA, by Clockroot Books. I am still writing very short fiction, but have no idea if there will be a third collection in this form. I am a very slow writer these days, so it's way early for me to tell.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

AE: Dutch Apocrypha, Zbigniew Herbert, Too Much Happiness, Alice Munro, Historias de cronopios y de famas, Julio Cortázar
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Find out what other authors, from Aimee Bender to Sana Krasikov, said about their collections, what the word "story" means to them, and how it feels to know that people are buying your books! More interviews >>>