Andre Vltchek’s political novel “Point of No Return” is the first book released by the new progressive publishing house Mainstay Press.
Mainstay will attempt to fill a void in the realm of fiction focused on progressive social change. Thefirst Mainstay book is Andre Vltchek’s novel “Point of No Return”, to be followed shortly by Tony Christini’s anti-war novel, “Homefront”.
Palecek: Who are you, anyway?
An outrooted Euro/American writer, political analyst and filmmaker, presently based in Asia; a dissident (no matter where I live)….
Palecek: How long have you been thinking about starting your own press – releasing a political novel?
Probably since I was nine! I tried all sorts of presses in the past; and have been running for several years an alternative web-based political magazine WCN (World Confrontation Now); also a small political publishing house in Thailand called 3A’s. But The Mainstay is different – it is going to survive as it has no right to fail! And of course it is going to change the world.
Palecek: Why now? What made you say, let’s do it? Was there anyone in the room who heard you say that, who can verify that?
I had been contacted by two great and enthusiastic blokes in the U.S.: Tony Christini and Mike Palecek. After exchanging initial ideas, it became obvious that we just have to do it. In the room? Of course: in hundreds of rooms all over the world, as I have been bragging about and promoting The Mainstay for months.
Palecek: Why fiction, for Christ’s sake? Why not a reality show or a NASCAR sponsorship?
Fiction is what I enjoy writing. No matter what I do in this world, I consider myself to be a novelist. I still believe that the novel is the most effective and beautiful weapon invented by human beings.
Palecek: Why Tom Clancy on every small-town library shelf for the past hundred years, but no Tony Christini or Andre Vltchek, until now? Or — what about a leftist political novel that just doesn’t work? Why does yours work?
You see, I think that Tony and I were, until now, gathering our strength, intellectually exercising, learning about the world. While doing that we wrote…. But now is finally the time to release our hopes, our poisons, or bitterness and our zeal. Time to join the fight. Readers; thanks for waiting! Why do our novels work? Simply because they tell the truth.
Palecek: What have you had to do to turn yourself into “a press”? How does one do that, exactly?
Tony did most of logistical work. I feel very embarrassed to admit it. I am sticking to the ideological front; hope that will change and I will be able help more, practically!
Palecek: What are the chances Mainstay will be around in one year, two, longer? How will you measure success?
Mainstay will be around forever! Success? If we help to create egalitarian and rational society in the U.S. and elsewhere. And if hundreds of young and talented people will get inspired and begin writing good political novels, instead of the usual diet of crap about their unhappy childhood and problems with masturbation techniques.
Palecek: Does anyone read? Why should anyone write?
People read. They cannot avoid it. If nothing else, they read phone bills, advertisements, eviction notices. Most of the people read much more than that. They are dying for good books, but as the market is overflowing with junk, many find it difficult to navigate in what is on offer.
Even in the US: most of the people are very thoughtfull; but the political and economical establishment developed advanced techniques how to fool them and how to keep them away from the critical fiction, non-fiction, even films.
Palecek: Who are your literary heroes besides Tom Clancy?
You are laughing….
All those guys who didn’t just write, but also lived their stories…. Andre Malroux (before his downfall), Hemingway, Exupery…. but lately people like Saramago…. And I still think that Native Son of Richard Wright shocked me more than any other novel….
Palecek: What can a novel put out by a teeny-weeny press from someone’s kitchen possibly do in the face of the gigantic power of the Bush government?
Don’t you know that the greatest things on earth have always come from someone’s kitchen? And that goes for the sciences, as well as writing…. And revolution!
Palecek: Are you taking any sort of personal risk in doing this? Safety-wise? Do you even know the answer to that question? Maybe it’s a dumb question? Really, this isn’t a third-world country, the United States of America.
Look, I am presently based in Jakarta. Just to get out of the house I am risking being poisoned by pollution…. I can get poisoned by “drinking water” here or can be blown up by some zealot who hates me for being an atheist and leftist. To participate in launching a progressive press seems to be one of the safest things I have done in the last ten years!
Palecek: If Clinton were still president, the same atmosphere as those times were in place basically – would you have the same incentive to write?
Of course! I see no difference in the general direction of our political establishment. The only difference is that the present administration is much more vulgar and openly hostile to reason and sanity…. And Bush doesn’t play sax…
Palecek: Anything else you would like to add?
Just the usual you expect me to say: Read us, support us, we will really do our best to bring you alternative views and ideas!
“If anyone else omits the truth, it can be considered a strategic maneuver,” barked Jaroslav Seifert – poet and laureate of the Nobel Price for literature – at his colleagues at the Union of Czech writers not long after his country had been invaded by Soviet tanks. “But if the writer omits the truth – he is a liar!”
Almost 40 years after Seifert’s memorable speech, literature in general and the novel in particular are struggling and failing to maintain the status of the “conscience of humanity.” While the gap between rich and poor nations is growing, while the majority of men, women and children of this planet are living in misery, the novel is failing to address the issues of utmost importance. The cynical postcolonial arrangement of the world, the insane guidance of religions and market fundamentalism, brutal wars – all these topics rarely appear on the pages of works of fiction.
Mainstay Press – the new publishing house founded by novelists Tony Christini, Mike Palecek and Andre Vltchek – will attempt to reverse this trend by making available to the public, works of political fiction and non-fiction, addressing the most essential issues today’s world is facing. It will provide novelists in the United States and all over the world with the opportunity to join the struggle for social justice and true, participatory democracy. Mainstay Press will urge and accompany established as well as young and talented novelists on a return to the realm of thinkers and politically engaged writers.
Christini: To what extent do the attacks of 9-11 factor into your novel – Point of No Return?
9-11 was a shock to all of us. Time to reflect, to re-think our position in the world as well as the position of the United States. I added the 9-11 chapter and some references to 9-11 to the Point of No Return after initially drafting the novel; I just had to; it seemed to be relevant – no way out of it. Without it, my novel didn’t seem to be complete.
Christini: ou have written that you hope your novel “gets people thinking.” About what, in particular?
About the state of the world in which we are all living. Politicians and economists are blurring the whole picture. Sometimes it seems that the course of development can’t be changed. In reality it can be…. And the global picture is very simple. A small group of historically aggressive nations is still ruling the world. The economic system which it promotes has nothing to do with humanism; with solidarity, compassion, willingness to share. We have billions of people rotting in gutters all over the world. Hundreds of millions of people dying from curable or at least controllable diseases. The rich world is still plundering the rest of the planet; stealing raw materials, employing people for a pittance…. If poor nations resist, the rich world stages coups or something worse…. And it is all legitimized through the United Nations which were sidelined, made truly impotent…. It is so obvious, as Chomsky likes to say.
Christini: How is religion treated in Point of No Return? Why does one of the characters in the novel ask, “What color is God?” How is religion an issue today?
Religion teaches submission. It has always been the best ally of the status quo. Almost any oppressive government or movement in the past and present has chosen religion as its pillar. It helps to decompose reason…. You see, religions feel they don’t have to prove anything. “You just have to believe,” they say. Can any decent society be based on that?
Christini: How is America, or “America in the world,” portrayed in Point of No Return?
In my novel I try to show America as I know it…. From Manhattan. It’s my America; it’s where I spent so many years and it’s where I learned so much: good and bad.
My feelings towards America – towards the United States – are very complex, almost schizophrenic. I am shocked by its performance in the world arena, by its compassionless social policies. I can’t live there, anymore, as it is becoming too controlled, too uniformed. I am not kidding, I really feel more free in some god-forsaken place in South America than in New York….
On the other hand, there are so many things which I miss and admire there. I feel that I am living in exile, but America is still my home; maybe my imaginary home. I miss the stories and storytellers, I miss the music: jazz and blues, even Tejano music from Texas. I miss activism and the enthusiasm of American people; their natural gift to push the limits.
But it is so confusing…. On one hand, Americans live in denial, consuming stupid propaganda, advertisements, brainless films…. On the other hand, nowhere else have I met so many people that I can trust. I can still trust a person’s word or handshake there.
Christini: To what extent did you write Point of No Return with any conscious purposes in mind?
I got angry; very angry. I spent years circling the globe, observing the immorality of our global arrangement. And it felt that nobody cares; nobody wanted to see. A novel seemed to be the best medium to express my anger and frustration – to describe what I believe has to be described. Why have you as an international correspondent chosen to write a novel – a political novel in particular?
I have always felt that I am a writer. Being a journalist was important; very important, but secondary. Apart from paying my bills, journalism was the best way to get stories for my future books.
In your own experience, or in light of the experience of the war correspondent in your novel, to what extent do you think journalists should become involved in the stories they cover, if at all? To what extent, if any, might they be involved inevitably?
I don’t believe that journalism should be “impartial”. In the past, there were two schools of thought concerning journalism. Americans believed that reporters should be as “objective” as possible. Europeans on the other hand had a wide array of publications – from left to right – covering issues from the perspective of their political leaning. I find the second approach much more honest.
We can never achieve “absolute objectivity” anyway. And in today’s world, we know that big business controls almost all major publications, so what kind of objectivity are we talking about?
Journalism is political. I believe it should be political. And it is political anyway, no matter what we say. So let’s have it all in the open; let’s take positions, instead of hiding behind this false “objectivity”. And about getting involved? I think that a good journalist should be also a good writer and thinker. As such, if he encounters something outrageous, something of great importance which can’t be solved through the reporting, he should forget about being a journalist: he or she should fight, get involved….
Now available, Andre Vltchek’s novel ‘POINT OF NO RETURN':