Photos from 3 of 4 days of Louisiana Literature 2011 are here. Full report will come shortly.
Autumn has kicked in and what better way to celebrate it literati style than to go to a couple of literary festivals. A couple of weeks ago I was cordially invited by one of the organisers of Vild Med Ord to the literature festival in Aarhus for the mere fact that I am a literature blogger in Denmark. Major props their way, it’s about time someone gives me something for blogging about literature 🙂
Joking aside, its nice to know that someone is thinking outside the box, widening the field etc., when it comes to these kinds of events – Denmark is such a small community that it easily can end up being the same three established people having an opinion about literature. Not to say anything negative about that, because those three also have experience and expertise within literary critique. Anyways, I skip-jumpingly accepted to come on Sunday, not even thinking about the fact that it is on the other side of the country. So now I must find a way of getting to the festival without tearing myself a new one. It should be manageable. So far, buses are my first option, DSB is in the very bottom position… And then ahead of me will lie eight hours of book readings, debates, book browsing etc. with appearances by the likes of Cia Rinne, Anne Lise Marstrand-Jørgensen, Carsten Jensen and Rune T. Kidde to mention a few who will attend VMO on Sunday. I have not yet fully decided if I will go but the program sounds really good. Warm-ups have been going on since the 26th of August, but the actual festival starts tomorrow.
Another literature festival starting tomorrow and also ending on September 4th is Louisiana Literature, hosted by Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. And mamma mia, boy oh boy, have they got a spread of names for us! For a mere 150 DKK (and of course, plus the train ticket costs x4) you get to see and hear readings and interviews with Junot Diaz (Oscar Wao mentioned here), Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie (The thing around your neck review here), Gyrðir Elíasson (winner of the Nordic Council’s Literature Award 2011), Merete Pryds Helle (mentioned here) and so on and so on. I am planning on live-tweeting and blogging my way through the weekend, you are welcome to follow me on Twitter if you cannot be there yourself or if you for some other reason want to know what my tweets are about – I pass no judgement as to what reason you could have to stalk my tweets :).
Recommendation: The museum has also arranged sound excursions for its visitors; that is, you listen to a work on an mp3-player while either walking around or going to a specific location on the museum grounds. For example, there is one reading in the toilet facilities at the museum read by Gary Shteyngart, or what about a stroll through a specific collection at the museum while listening to a reading by Pejk Malinovski (who incidentally is the producer of the sound excursions). I would very much recommend this. On the Louisiana web page they have one work by Inger Christensen read by Maja Lee Langvad og Kristina Nya Glaffey called the “Food Alphabet” in an update version. It is amazing, do listen to it (either press the link here below, or go to Louisiana Literature web page and download it here – just look in the right hand corner mid-page).
Just to set your anticipation up a bit if you trust my judgement: I am in love with it! The reading is so good, sounds are well-rounded, recording excellent, and I think it will be an even greater experience listening to it while sitting in the museum café 🙂
Here’s hoping for yet another great week(end).
UPDATE: And the weekend just got much better. Litteratursiden.dk was kind enough to give me tickets for the festival in return for a post on their site – big thanks and do check them out here – so now I don’t have to worry about the cost. I wonder if Turidbloggar will want to come with me to play photographer?!
A friend and I went to yesterday’s International Author’s Stage to experience Beate Grimsrud, the Norwegian, now Swedish-based, author of works like “En dåre fri” (roughly translated to ‘A fool free’) and “At smyge forbi en økse” (again roughly ‘To edge past an axe’).
As far as the Scandinavian literary scene is concerned Grimsrud has been very much talked about – she is one of the, lately many, author’s who have been highlighted for their use of autobiographical material to a level of extremely concreteness.
She has been awarded several prizes for her authorship and recently she was nominated by Norway AND Sweden for the Nordic Council Literature Prize of 2011. Something she noted at the event yesterday was not the advantage some would claim. But, nonetheless, impressive. And in Sweden her style has even become a term in its own: Grimsrudsk (Grimsrudian) – narrative with detours, sudden associations to other subjects etc.
She started by reciting from “At smyge forbi en økse”, which, I’ll admit, was muy impressivo. Either she has done this a lot or her works sit so embedded in her she can just pick pieces to recount in front of an audience.
Even though Anette Dina Sørensen (the interviewer) did most of the talking (she whipped up quite an analysis of Grimsrud’s authorship, kudos, both relating to queer theory, psychiatry, and autobiographical matter) what Grimsrud had to say was very much to the point.
Her project is to open up or break down the barriers and categories we are so quick to set up and upholding – leaving us constrained versions of humanity. Men, women, mentally fit or sick, child, adult.
When she read from “En dåre fri” people in the audience were nodding, laughing, sighing and acknowledging the narrative vivaciously – the experience was fascinating. When she read from her works the atmosphere in the room was like the audience became part of a single entity whose shared reciprocity enlivened the story Grimsrud told. Much in the spirit of what she argued about books: that they don’t really exist before they have an audience/readership.
She told Sørensen how writing for her was like a sprinter at a marathon – she poured all into a book, writing with fervor and when she thought she had given all she could she realized that she had 40 km left to run! OK, she said it much better, with the calm air of a writer, or maybe you should have been there to hear it.
Then they talked about the character of Eli, how Grimsrud used the ambiguous name so it would relate to men and women, and Eli’s schizophrenia that resulted in hearing voices, 4 male voices to be specific.
One little tidbit: did you know that “En dåre fri” in Norwegian is not the same as its Swedish counterpart? And that the Danish translator has meshed these two into the Danish translation? This is fascinating to me.
I have yet to read one of Grimsrud’s works, but I have a feeling that won’t take long – my fingers are already itching to use non-existing moneys on “En dåre fri”. We’ll see how long the struggle will be.
Have you read anything of Grimsrud? I would love to hear what you think about her books, authorship, themes.
I had some good news today.
Sara Stridsberg is out with a new book called ‘Darling River’, published in Sweden in early 2010 and just translated to Danish pending appearance on August 20th. I, however, (sorry Danish publishers and bookstores) will shoot my future career in the foot and buy it in Swedish and on the internet! My fingers were tingling just by the thought of this book as I was reading an interview with the author in Weekendavisen’s book section. And at one point Stridsberg explains her writing process and I knew just what she meant, only with me it’s in regard to my reading process.
When I am writing on a novel I always have the feeling of being away in a dream for a couple of years and afterwards I almost can’t remember it.
The thing with dreams is (as Mr. DiCaprio says in the movie Inception, which I went to see the other day btw) you are just there in the middle of the dream, all of a sudden. And as with dreams, literature, for me, behaves in a similar fashion. I couldn’t tell you how it started, I can’t remember every detail, there is often just the feeling afterwards of having felt something, which in reality is really blurry, and I really have to concentrate if I want to recollect details. But the bigger picture is so much more colorful and vibrant.
I read Sara Stridsberg’s ‘Drömfakulteten’ about two years ago, which is a “literary fantasy based upon Valerie Solanas” – the girl who shot Warhol – and I was blown away by the style in particular, but also the very gripping story that interlaced the pages. There is the factual person Valerie Solanas, and then there is Stridsberg’s fictional Valerie Solanas. What’s so great is that factual Solanas may have been the stepping stone for the fictional one, but neither is in the others’ debt. Imagine a spoon and a bowl of water; you dunk the spoon in, making ripples in the water, and take a very little percentage of water out, drinking it and leaving the water disturbed, touched. With reading I feel like, on it’s own, the pages with signs on them are meaningless and still, but as soon as I read a page it is in my head, occupies my thoughts and forms my consciousness. Stridsberg has translated the SCUM-manifesto, written by Solanas, before writing ‘Drömfakulteten’, so it is a really interesting process to figure out how Stridsberg has read in between and on the lines to create her ”fictional” Solanas. The novel is raw and shifts between the past, present and thoughts of Solanas’, who carries herself with a sense of self-rightiousness of a radical political activist. At the same time it is also a very vulnerable and lonely novel. There is so much unresolved emotional baggage that dart out of the story and the pain is most explicit when Solanas is conversing with Silkboy, her companion and ally. It is a dark universe that sucks you in, and questions of sexuality, wronged and wrong are recurrent in the novel, forming a foundation for the pained individual.
If you read Danish and are interested in Stridsberg’s authorship, I would recommend this interview, which is to be found in Weekendavisen’s no. 32 – August 13 2010. And I would definitely recommend ‘Drömfakulteten’ (of course, if you like stream-of-consciousness styled literature, Valerie Solanas, sexual politics, the tormented individual, take your pick!)
I can’t wait to receive my copy of Darling River, but if anyone has read it out there, feel free to make your impression known here 🙂
Herbjørg Wassmo is an interesting lady. She says stuff like: ‘God bless birth control, study loans and the washing machine.’ And she laughs with a charming tickle in her voice, the kind that makes you laugh whether you want it or not. But the most interesting thing about her is her presence. She is the kind of woman you would have anxiety attacks approaching (I did). It’s not due to the fact that she is famous, but because of the ‘can’t-put-my-finger-on-it’ blend of experienced elder and rebellious child.
The dialogue between her and Anette Dina Sørensen, apart from a few cross-linguistic hiccups, was affable. And as an extra titbit the actor Karin Bang Heinemeier read passages from Wassmo’s latest book. She talked about children, being a child and emphasized quite a few times the importance of individuality. How the family quite often was the first assault an individual had to relate itself to, assault both as a physical and psychological entity.
She also stressed how important it was for a mother to be able to step out of the glorified role of Motherhood, and escape the pedestal she was placed on. Accepting your mother, sister, aunt as an individual first and foremost would only be of gain to yourself and to them. And through the passages that were read to us, I got a sense of just how much the individual meant to her. How does a person, a writer, describe another person, or for that matter herself? Is it possible even to capture Individuality when you are mediating thoughts, actions and feelings of someone you have conjured up?
This makes me think about Roland Barthes’ claim that the author is dead, that she/he is of no importance to the work, the key to it is language and the one with the key is the reader.
I imagine Wassmo can concur with this. At one point Anette Sørensen talks about a passage in the book where the pastor and one of the leading women (both married to other people) are in the church, and Sørensen reads it as they are having sex. Wassmo (with a chuckle that makes the whole house smile) says that this is entirely up to her, she has not explicitly written this but laid heavy emphasis on the passion which doesn’t necessarily leads to the physical act of sex. And then says, that when the book is out there, it is out of her hands. She has no ownership of it.
It is interesting though, because she has not completely given her writing up to others without feeling that the work reflects her, and so that it is part of her. With the exception of this one (so she said) she has always felt angst when releasing a book. What would people think, say? And so maybe this latest book is like catharsis for her.
I would recommend reading something of Wassmo, and as one man in the audience said, ‘if you know Norwegian, do yourself a favor and read it in its mother tongue so you get the scent of local dialects too.’