Robert Majzels

Episode 26: Ryan Stearne interviews Robert Majzels

Oct 14, 2021


In this interview, Robert Majzels discusses his latest novel, Kharlamov’s Ankle: A Utopian Fantasy. Majzels speaks to the breadth of social, cultural, political, and philosophical considerations that inspire his work to confront and deconstruct narrative hierarchies, while using experimental form. Stearne and Majzels hold a fascinating discussion on the trappings of “genre,” the challenge of embracing experimental writing, grounding characters in textured, corporeal rawness, and how spheres of scholarly and creative influence surround Majzels work – from Post-structuralist thought, to the poetry in conversational digression, music, and the energy that drives social justice.


Robert Majzels is a true polymath of the written word. He is a poet, a Governor General Award-winning translator, a playwright, a former professor in the University of Calgary’s creative writing program, and the author of five novels, including his most recent book Kharlamov’s Ankle: A Utopian Fantasy (The Elephants, 2019).

Ryan Stearne is an MA student, a creative writer, and a research assistant for the TIA House project at the University of Calgary.

Show notes

2:18 – Robert Majzels’s book Kharlamov’s Ankle: A Utopian Fantasy and inspiration from the 1972 Summit Series and Valeri Kharlamov

6:19 – Sharing radical writing practices with authors like Larissa Lai

8:50 – Discussion of Kharlamov’s Ankle, and hope within a contentious political space

11:50 – Fragility of movements: the labour of protesters, campaigners, and social justice movements. The importance of grassroots and community work.

13:12 – Community work of the Black Panthers

14:20 – Climate crisis, and the ongoing work of folks like David Suzuki

15:06 – Diogenes, the navigation of cynicism, and writing as an act of resistance: is writing enough?

16:00 – Jewish tradition of the Talmud and writing philosophy

17:49 – Herman Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener and Moby-Dick

20:17 – Discussion of Kharlamov’s Ankle and rejecting classifications of genre

21:49 – Modernist French poet Stéphane Mallarmé

22:40 – Hierarchies within genre, structures of language, and arbitrary distinctions created by narrative

28:25 – Language and tone of Canadian literature, with reference to Margaret Atwood

29:20 – Kharlamov’s Ankle discussion continued

36:00 – Lao Tzu’s parables, Friedrich Nietzche’s aphorisms, and Maurice Blanchot

36:20 – Post-structuralist thinking, continental philosophy, Talmudic philosophy

37:06 – Contrasts between Plato, Cynics, and Daoists

40:55 – Creative writing departments and the trappings of structural standards

43:22 – Other inspiration, from Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari to Maurice Blanchot

45:07 – Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable

50:12 – Jean-Luc Godard films: Breathless

53:25 – The powerful way social media fuels movements like Black Lives Matter or Occupy Wall Street

TIA House recognizes the generous support of the Canada Research Chairs program and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. We also appreciate the support of the Faculty of Arts and the Department of English at the University of Calgary, where our offices are housed, as well as the guidance of Marc Stoeckle at the Taylor Family Digital Library.

TIA House is run by Larissa Lai, Paul Meunier, Mahmoud Ababneh, Marc Lynch, Rebecca Geleyn, Joshua Whitehead, Shuyin Yu, Ryan Stearne, Aruna Srivastava,  and Marj Rugunda. .

Our Intro/Outro music is Monarch of the Streets by Loyalty Freak Music, accessed from the Free Music Archive.

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