An Interview with Patricia Highsmith

From Gerald Peary:

“Call me Pat,” she says, shaking hands. She is determined to be cooperative, though burnt in the past by other (rare) interviews. “I only know it takes weeks to recover, as if one had been in a car accident,” she wrote in 1967. “I think J.D. Salinger is correct in granting no interviews, and in making no speeches.” Twenty years after, Highsmith has been coaxed to take part in the Toronto International Festival of Authors, to read publicly from her latest novel, Found in the Street, and even to appear on a panel with other writers concerning books made over into films.

This is a coup for the eight-year-old Toronto festival. No one can recall when Highsmith last left Europe to venture into the public arena in North America. Highsmith, however, sighs at the repeated press descriptions of her as a “recluse.” “It’s because I prefer to live in the country where it’s quiet.” Where exactly she won’t say, though it is in a two-street town in the Italian part of Switzerland, three-and-a-half hours from Zurich. “Woody Allen movies there are dubbed into Italian,” she says.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Highsmith grew up in New York City. She took a degree at Barnard College. Then came years of traveling about Europe. Today she lives in Switzerland alone. “I can’t write if someone else is in the house, not even the cleaning woman. I like to work for four or five hours a day. I aim for seven days a week. I have no television-I hate it. I listen to the BBC World Service starting at 2 in the morning until 4. I switch off the light and listen in bed.I don’t set the alarm to get up. I get up when I feel like it.”