A. A. Attanasio on names, life & art.

There is always an ancestral shadow that comes with one's name. In my case, the shadow stretches back to Greece. As you indicate, the origin of my name is the Greek word for death, thanatos, preceded by the alpha-negative: a-thanatos, without-death, immortal. No doubt, a religious name, referring to humanity's oldest act of imagination – the immortality of the soul. Perhaps the soul is immortal. Perhaps not. The dead do not return to proclaim the truth of existence beyond our bodies. Yet, their absence is no proof for nihilism, either. This is the immemorial conflict of life and art.

As the old adage goes, the real difference between life and art is that one can't do anything about life. And around this existential truth, we learn to make our life an art.

You ask if the “religious-mystical” aspect of my writing is intentional. Yes. Art opens the way into the dream kingdom – the realm of the unreal, of the sacred nothing. Pure potential is nothing. The future is nothing. The past is nothing. Every alternative to the present is nothing. The imagination, because it de-realizes the present and enters the mysterious domain of pure potential, is nothing. Yet, out of that nothing, we ransom all the meaning in our lives.