An Interview with Irina Feldman

My name is Pablo Llamas Aparicio and I am a first-year student of Translation at the UEM. On June 9, 2016, I had the privilege of interviewing Professor Irina Feldman, who teaches Spanish language and Latin American literature at Middlebury College, in Vermont, United States. I thought it could be interesting to know the opinion of someone who lives in a state that usually remains unnoticed for Europeans in comparison to some of the states where we get the idea that everything seems to happen. On top of that, being born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Ms. Feldman’s own intercultural experience only added spice to this amazing interview.

First, it seemed a good idea to me that Ms. Feldman introduced herself to my readers. She told me that she had moved to the U.S. when she was fifteen years old, short after the U.S.S.R. had dissolved, because her mother –a single mother- was not sure of whether it would be possible for them to live safely in Russia during the transition. After a period of time during which she was not precisely infatuated with the States, Ms. Feldman took her high education in Georgetown, Washington D.C. and graduated in Hispanic literature. After living a couple of years in South America, she got a job in Middlebury College. She explained me that her research focuses on left-winged movements in South America, as well as the authors of those movements, especially in the Andean area (Bolivia, Peru…).

My next question to her was about the origin of her interest on Hispanic literature, given that she was born in Russia and works in the United States. She confessed me that one major factor was the fact that she did not really like the English language when she moved to the U.S. or the country itself, for that matter. She also told me that she had had wonderful Spanish teachers when she was in high school and later at college. She had had really positive experiences with teachers and professors from Spain, so she started studying Peninsularists, that is studies on the Iberian Peninsula, and she was highly interested on Medieval Spain. However, once she got in contact with studies on Latin America, she finally made up her mind and started focusing her studies on Latin America.

Wanting to know more details about what made her like the Hispanic literature so much, I asked her whether Hispanic literature had traditionally had a big impact on the Russian culture, as well as the American. To that question, she answered that actually, it had a great impact on the Soviet culture, when she was young. In that time, the classics from the Golden Age of the Spanish literature, like Cervantes or Lope de Vega, were indeed very famous in Russia. She told me that her first contact with the Spanish literature came when she was young and lived in Russia. She would read all these classics that are so important for the history of Spanish culture and literature. She also told me about a Russian-made movie of El Quijote, saying that it was “a very impressive movie.” As for Latin American literature, she answered that both in Russia and the U.S. it was famous for “the Boom” of authors like Gabriel García Márquez or Mario Vargas Llosa. However, she expressed her disappointment on the newer generations of students in the U.S. due to their little knowledge on Hispanic literature, even in the case of her own students at the very beginning of their degrees.

Next, I thought it was time we spoke about current affairs. Laughing, Ms. Feldman said that she could already guess what I was going to ask her (and she happened to be right). First, given that only two days before, Hillary Clinton had become the first woman to be an official candidate to the U.S. presidential elections, I asked Ms. Feldman why she thought Clinton received so much supporting from the U.S. citizens. She explained that Vermont is a state that traditionally votes as much to the left as it can. So then, she asks, why does Hillary Clinton receive so much supporting? In her opinion, Hillary’s popularity has been supported by her relation with former president Bill Clinton. She thinks that Hillary’s stand on immigration is not progressive, but she receives so much supporting because people think of Hillary as a professional who knows what she is doing. However, according to Ms. Feldman, Hillary’s presidency would not mean the revolutionary change that a lot of people seem to ask for.

When asked about Donald Trump, she answered that it was completely the other way round: people think of Trump as an anti-establishment candidate. From what she told me, a lot of people seem to believe that because Trump is so rich, he will not accept bribes. People, Ms. Feldman says, are sick of the system, they think that the government does not represent the people, they think that the state is corrupted by the big money, and want someone who can change the game. She, however, thinks that these people are wrong. She can’t see the logic behind the bribes argument, and sees Trump as the main example of the decay of the political system in the U.S.


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