Something of quality
One of the highlights of the Cúirt International Festival of Literature is the appearance of Scandinavian writers Kjersti Skomsvold and Lars Iyer for a discussion on fiction writing. They speak to Declan Rooney about their literary exploits
Kjersti, have you been to Galway before or is your appearance at the Cúirt International Festival of Literature just the perfect excuse to visit here?
Kjersti: I have never been to Galway before, but I have heard it’s beautiful. I wouldn’t need an excuse to visit such a place, but coming to the festival is of course a wonderful opportunity.
Your debut novel ‘The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am’ was released in 2009. How long did you toy with the idea of writing a book before sitting down to do so?
Kjersti: I had an existential crisis, got really scared, and thought that the solution was to write a book. So I sat down to write almost immediately after having the idea to do so. I hadn’t written anything previous to this, and I’m glad I didn’t know how difficult it is to write something of quality, because then I probably never would have tried.
Having recently launched a successful literary career, what advice would you impart to budding writers with a good idea in their head?
Kjersti: Write it down. Good ideas often fade a bit on paper though, but if you work hard the idea might turn into a good book.
Similar to other Scandinavian writers like Camilla Lackberg and Arnaldur Indridason, your novel has been translated into several international languages. Can you explain the world’s obsession with Scandinavian literature?
Kjersti: Scandinavian crime seems to be especially popular, but unlike Lackberg and Indridason, I don’t write crime novels. The only comparison between a crime novel and my novel must be that I write about death. The question I get the most abroad is whether people in the Nordic countries are so extremely lonely as the main character in my book. The answer is yes. So maybe the world takes comfort in reading about people who are more miserable than themselves?
Lars, you recently listed characters from Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’ in your top ten frenemies. Has Beckett’s work had a major impact on you and what other Irish authors have influenced your work?
Lars: I have a quotation in my notebook – I’m not sure where it’s from – which runs as follows: ‘Our most basic daily gestures – our simplest, more normal gestures – are charged with our memory of the Bible without us really being aware of it’. I would say something similar regarding my basic literary gestures – and those of anyone for whom literary modernism is important – with respect to the work of Beckett and Joyce.
Your debut novel ‘Spurious’ appeared first as a blog. Is that the perfect medium for a writer to develop their own style?
Lars: I began blogging long after I’d renounced any kind of literary ambition. And I did so when I’d become tired of my philosophical ambition, too. I work as a lecturer in philosophy. I was tired of academic writing. I wanted anonymity – my blog was anonymous until I published my first novel. And I wanted to be part of a collective, linking to other blogs, and being linked to by them. I found the peak period of blogging – 2005-07 – a tremendously exciting time. The posts I developed into ‘Spurious’ were only one strand of a complex braid. I certainly couldn’t have written the novel were it not for the blog – were it not, indeed, for the fact that the parts which make it up were written almost ‘accidentally’, that is, without my planning to write a novel at all.
You appear at the Cúirt International Festival of Literature alongside Kjersti for a discussion about fiction writing. What should we expect from the evening?
Lars: I have yet to read Skomsvold’s book, though anything recommended by David Winters is bound to be worth reading. I often find myself talking about the legacy of literary modernism, about the future of the novel, and about a recent manifesto in which I claimed that literary fiction, in the English-speaking world, has ground to an end.
Lars Iyer appears at a Fiction Discussion alongside Kjersti Skomsvold at the Town Hall Theatre as part of the Cúirt International Festival of Literature on Wednesday 25 April at 6.30pm. For tickets, priced €8 and €6, visit www.tht.ie.