I’ve spent the last few weeks working with fellow Buenos Aires resident Peter Robertson to produce the latest issue of The International Literary Quarterly. I think the highlight of this issue is an interview with Gao Xingjian, whose novel Soul Mountain I’ve also been slowly reading this year.

As I’m walking around Buenos Aires, thinking about the city’s history and my own writing, these words by Gao Xingjian stay with me:

… when artists die what is left behind, literature, is the history of human beings, is the interaction between the individual and the condition of history, that trace of history left behind, that is literature. It is the witness, it is the evidence of the individual’s interaction, connection, with history, and that is the trace, that is much more important and significant than the official discourse, the official history.

That is the meaning of literature, the meaning of the writer. That is, the writer, in spite of his or her insignificance, has left that trace that reflects the relationship between the individual and the condition of being alive. That trace itself is timeless, that is the meaning of literature. And that is far more important than the official history of political discourse. That is the real meaning of literature.