Robert Pirsig interviewRobert Pirsig, author of the best selling philosophical autobiography, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, gave what he claims is his last interview with the Guardian, to promote the republication of his second book, Lila, originally published in 1992.
When [Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance] came out, in 1974, edited down from 800,000 words, and having been turned down by 121 publishers, it seemed immediately to catch the need of the time. George Steiner in the New Yorker likened it to Moby Dick. Robert Redford tried to buy the film rights (Pirsig refused). It has since taken on a life of its own, and though parts feel dated, its quest for meaning still seems urgent. For Pirsig, however, it has become a tragic book in some ways. At the heart of it was his relationship with his son, Chris, then 12, who himself, unsettled by his father's mania, seemed close to a breakdown. In 1979, aged 22, Chris was stabbed and killed by a mugger as he came out of the Zen Centre in San Francisco. Subsequent copies of the book have carried a moving afterword by Pirsig. "I think about him, have dreams about him, miss him still," he says now. "He wasn't a perfect kid, he did a lot of things wrong, but he was my son ..."Link (Thanks, Paul!)
I ask what Chris thought of the book, and Pirsig's face strains a little.
"He didn't like it. He said, 'Dad, I had a good time on that trip. It was all false.'"