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Literary Exploration: An Interview with Ben Stoltzfus, author of Transgression

Stoltzfus 1

Ben Stoltzfus is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature, Creative Writing, and French at the University of California, Riverside. He is a novelist, translator, literary critic, and inter-arts scholar. He has published many articles on twentieth-century French, English, and American writers, twelve monographs of literary criticism on Chennevière, Robbe-Grillet, Gide, Lacan, and others, as well as books on Hemingway, Magritte, D.H. Lawrence, and Jasper Johns. An award-winning writer, he has received a fair share: Fulbright, Camargo, Gradiva, Humanities, Creative Arts, and MLA. He has published six novels and two collections of short stories. Romoland, a pictonovel, written in collaboration with Judith Palmer, the artist, was published in 2017. The collection Falling and Other Stories was published in 2018. The novel Dumpster for God’s Sake was published in 2019. Alliecats, text by Ben Stoltzfus, illustrations by Allie Kirschner, his granddaughter, is a collection of fifty-three graphic tales and word-puns about cats beginning with the prefix cat: catalog, catsup, catwalk, etc., published in 2019. The Silver Award novel, Transgression: Hitler, Mirka, Mireille and Me, was published in 2022. 2022 also saw the publication of D.H. Lawrence’s Final Fictions: A Lacanian Perspective. Stoltzfus lives in Riverside, California, with his artist wife, Judith Palmer.

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Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

Transgression as a title was obvious from the very beginning. The subtitle, Hitler, Mirka, Mireille and Me, took time, but eventually it too fell into place.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

What made me want to write Transgression? I wanted to capture the feeling of liberation the narrator experiences when he is no longer subject to the tyranny of moral precepts that are destructive—destructive in the sense that they paralyze thought, action, and the sense of well-being—and to show how difficult and labyrinthine it is to accomplish.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

When I taught French at the Loomis School in Windsor, CT, I was also the soccer coach. I was an All-America player at Amherst for two consecutive years—1947 and l948. I was on the ski team at Amherst and, in 1954, I coached the Middlebury College women’s ski team.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

Malbrook s’en va en guerre, jamais ne reviendra”—a French children’s ditty.

“Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream…life is but a dream.”

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

How to survive by freeing yourself from the paralyzing effects of dogma.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

I’m working on two books: Baja: The Puma Drinks the New Moon (my text and haiku, Judith Palmer’s photo etchings and pen and ink drawings) and Big JP: The Nine Lives of Judith Palmer, a biographical memoir of my artist wife, her nine lives, and how she became an artist.

You can buy the book here.
Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

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