Jennifer Egan: “Strong people defend our democracy”

The cross : What is your diagnosis of the United States?

Jennifer Egan: I really feel better in my country since Donald Trump is no longer president and we have a sane person in the White House. Many of us experience this relief. It is very disturbing that so many people believe the election was stolen and find so much false information on the internet that supports this mistaken belief. I continue to hope that we have turned that page and that we, as a nation, have more reason to be optimistic.

I really hope that our democracy is not as threatened as some think. There is no doubt that Donald Trump is a criminal and if he could find an illegal way to get re-elected, he would. But there are also many people in this country who are trying to stop it, and successfully. Strong people are defending our democracy, including our president on the front line.

Joe Biden is a quiet, cold-blooded man, probably the only person who could appease the country. When Trump refused to leave, I was terrified, but Biden remained completely calm. Without raising his voice, he reassured us by saying ” It will be alright. In this country, we know how to deal with people who abuse. And he keeps his pre-election commitments. He signed the climate agreement, which is decisive for our country and for the world.

Yet the tensions are exacerbated?

I : Things have been very tumultuous in the United States and the general feeling is that we are very divided. But I think we’re not as divided as you think, and it’s the internet itself that creates a lot of this sense of divide. Social networks have a morbid need for commitment to be remunerated and anger is what creates it the fastest. So, all the platforms direct us towards this anger and create anguish.

Internet represents, according to you, a great danger…

I : Technologies cause a real disconnection with history and a distortion of perception of reality. We are so inundated with information that it gives the idea that this moment is really more serious than ever.

We are immersed in the present and everything seems to be happening at very high volume. When people tell me that things have never been so bad, I answer: “Are you crazy? And World War II, Hitler? If we take a step back, very extreme things have already happened! Imagine that during the Civil War, we received notifications push on our phones every time something happened, in every battle… just imagine what would have happened!

What is your vision for the future of the United States?

I : I have a very firm belief in action. Our country should invest in education. With funding through donations, everyone at their level can bring about changes that improve our societies. And I keep a strong faith in human beings and their ingenuity.

For the future of my country, I have three wishes. As a priority, he should reform the model of the Internet so that conflict is no longer profitable there and that those who sell frightening lies to millions of people stop earning fortunes.

My second wish is to have a real green revolution in the United States. To really decide to turn our backs on fossil fuels; to provide training and restore employment to people who have lost their jobs by developing green energies. And it really is a dream, but I would like us Americans to all be convinced that this is the right thing to do. It’s in all of our interests. Because my biggest concern is not even for the United States but for the planet. It’s really on this subject that worry makes me lose sleep.

My third wish is that we all start reading deeply, as an act of resistance. We should be able to drop our phones and start reading, we regain our freedom. It would make us smarter and bring us more happiness and peace than staring at our screens and feeling enraged, upset and terrified. Detaching yourself from the Internet allows you to regain perspective.

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His great book on America

The gingerbread house

Translated from the American by Sylvie Schneiter

Robert Laffont, 396 pages, €22

When the founder of a tech company buys a revolutionary algorithm from a scientist, the future of ordinary Americans changes. They massively agree to a brain sharing by externalizing their unconscious on an application. Entered the gingerbread house of the Internet which turns out to be a trap, what will become of them? This brilliant novel deals with strong subjects – the opiate crisis, interracial relationships… – with empathy and humanity. It echoes What have we done with our dreams? for which Jennifer Egan received the Pulitzer Prize in 2011.

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Jennifer Egan: “Strong people defend our democracy”