“Part of the story is to see that as misanthropic and pessimistic as Tess is, what she truly wants to do is to serve, to give everything away, to flow like water downhill. I could pick apart much of it in terms of contradiction.”
Due to the pandemic, McNally Jackson arranged a virtual launch for To Remain Nameless. In conversation with Wayne Koestenbaum, whose new book of essays, Figure It Out, was released on Soft Skull May 4.
Jane Breakell chose TO REMAIN NAMELESS as her pick for May 2020:
It’s the language of crisis, tuned to the story it tells: After years of wandering the world and considering it home, after dedicating her life to a field centered on helping humans for humans’ sake while witnessing the world grow ever more violent, Tess in the maternity ward suspects that humans are the problem. “We should all drop dead,” she thinks, rubbing her pregnant friend’s back. “It would be the best thing that could happen.”
Here I am writing from Los Huingos Lodge, on the outskirts of Tarapoto, in northeastern Peru, the part of Peru where the Andes overlap with the Amazon. I can hear the tumble of the Shilcayo rapids at the edge of the grounds, and I’m presently being devoured by morning mosquitos.
I wrote the first sketches that would find their way into this book over ten years ago while housesitting for a Mexican painter on the coast of Oaxaca. Fresh in my mind were the years I spent in the Balkans as an itinerant journalist and aid worker. Also more recent seasons in Damascus, Beirut, and Istanbul.
I experienced the aftermath of the Bosnian war, and worked through the refugee crisis of 1999. I was holed up in Serbia, among people in whose name much killing had been done, when the US invaded Iraq. That war was at its height when I first sat down in Mexico to write.