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Authors

 

Faruk Šehić Mića Vujičić Uršuľa Kovalyk
Rosa Liksom Petra Hůlová Monika Maron
Jan van Mersbergen Blaže Minevski Elena Ferrante
Szczepan Twardoch    

Faruk Šehić

Faruk Šehič

Faruk Šehić (1970), a Bosnian poet, novelist, journalist and short story writer, is regarded by literary critics as one of the most gifted young writers in the former Yugoslavia, a shining light of the so-called knocked-over generation. His short story collection Under Pressure (2004) won the Zoro Verlag prize, while his debut novel The Book of Una (2011) won the Meša Selimović prize for the best novel published in the former Yugoslavia, and the EU Prize for Literature. His books have already been translated into English, German, Bulgarian and Macedonian.

Interview with the author:

♦ Which literary character do you most identify with and why?

There is no ideal character for me to identify with. I reckon my type is a chameleon, complex and unconventional. I love detached characters who are able to resist totalitarianisms, negative religious influence or small-time morality, such as the protagonists in the works of Danilo Kiš. My favourite character is colonel Aureliano Buendias from One Hundred Years of Solitude by G. G. Márquez, or Captain Ahab.

♦ Please list three books your lead literary character(s) like to read.

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman.
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.
Mr. Cogito by Zbigniew Herbert.

♦ What would you never write about?

I will never write a book that celebrates any kind of hate speech, racism or neofascism.

♦ Name one book that has made a lasting impression on you.

Selected poems (Yugoslav edition) by Jorge Luis Borges.

♦ What is your strangest habit?

I wash my hands every time before I open my McBook Air.

 

Mića Vujičić

Mića Vjičić

Mića Vujičić (1979) is a journalist, columnist and literary critic and an emerging new voice in Serbian literature. In 2006, the novel A Rough start won him the Borislav Pekić scholarship and he is considered to be one of the most talented Serbian authors of his generation.

Interview with the author

♦ Which literary character do you most identify with and why?

With Nick Adams, a character in Hemingway’s short story collection In Our Time. Of course, I have never seen an Indian camp in my life, or played with a razor … But as a boy, at the beginning of the '90s, I saw my cousin sleeping with a military backpack on the bed. With a small, green bag that included basic hygiene products. He was afraid that he would be called up, so he had to be ready. If they came at night, they wouldn’t wait for him. (His backpack was packed a long time after the war was over). Why Nick? Because I feel Hemigway showed through Nick’s experience how life is slowly, cut after cut, carved onto our skin.

♦ Please list three books your lead literary character(s) like to read.

The main character of A Rough start, beaten football referee of lower league matches, reads Logarithm plates by O. Schlömilch and  J. Majcen (22nd edition, School textbook, Zagreb, 1973) and four capital editions by Prof. Dr. Engr. Boris Apsen, Repetition of elementary mathematics (first, second and third part, Tehnička knjiga, Zagreb, 1972) and Repetition of high mathematics (Tehnička knjiga, Zagreb, 1970).

♦ What would you never write about?

I would never write about a distant uncle, a well-known fashion designer living in New York. When A View to a Kill starring Roger Moore was shot in 1985, the producers announced that the names of all characters, including my uncle’s name, were invented. Back then, my uncle already had a well-known fashion line and his name was very similar to the name of Bond’s main enemy. So if Bond wasn’t brave enough to deal with him, I’m even less.

♦ Name one book that has made a lasting impression on you.

The Letters by Gustave Flaubert.

♦ What is your strangest habit?

I study local TV station programmes  in detail, especially the night programme. One of these stations broadcasts a travel documentary show that the producer shoots with a camera through a bus window, on ordinary tourist tours. Sometimes she turns the camera and captures a person sitting next to her and sleeping on his seat, all by accident. You can hear the noises on the bus. The driver sometimes curses when stuck in rush-hour traffic.

 

Uršuľa Kovalyk

Uršula Kovalyk

Uršuľa Kovalyk (1969) focuses on her characters’ inner lives, as that is the only area where they can truly unfold. Their true, authentic self is transposed from the real factual world into a world of dreams, visions, and fantasies, which enable her characters to question reality and make it more bearable. The situations, frequently on the verge of dream and reality, are often dangerous and threatening for Kovalyk’s characters, but the closeness of death provides a breakthrough that brings depressed, apathetic, or resigned women to life. Her debut was a collection of short stories Faithless Women Do Not Lay Eggs (2002), which was followed by a collection of prose works, Travesty show (2004).

From the interview with the author

♦ Do you see Slovak writing as having a clear identity of its own, and if so, how would you describe it?

I don’t really think about Slovak writing. To me it doesn’t have a clear identity. Every Slovak writer has his or her own very distinct identity. I’ll tell you though what I think Slovak writing is missing, and that’s slang.  Slovak slang in literature is still in its infancy and I personally don’t like reading things written in a Slovak that no one actually speaks.

♦ Who are some of your favorite writers – Slovak and international, past and present?

There are a lot. It would be a very long list and I would feel bad for leaving someone out. Because I once worked in a bookstore I read too much and wrote a lot less. Now it’s more the other way around. I love reading Latin American writers. Their books are so colorful, fragrant even. I love Agatha Christie, and Muriel Barbery’s novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog has really stuck in my memory too. Right now I’m reading a book of short stories by Kenzaburo Oe.

♦ Have you ever written or do you think you will ever write a novel or do you prefer short stories and the theater?

My last book, The Secondhand Woman (Žena zo sekáča, 2008), was a novel, though I love writing short stories. It can be much more powerful writing, when you have to really pin a name on something without being able to use a lot of words. Besides that, I don’t have much free time and a novel is a long process. I can’t say that I prefer one form over the other though.

(source: Česká pozice, Magical elements: an interview with Uršula Kovalyk)

 

Rosa Liksom

Rosa Liksom

Rosa Liksom (1958) is a renowned contemporary Finnish author who recently won the prestigious finlandia prize for her novel Compartment No. 6 – the work was selected as the best Finnish novel of 2011. Early on, Liksom established herself as a short story writer with brutally honest and often dark stories which immediately won her praise from literary critics and public recognition. So far, Liksom has written eight short story collections, three novels and several children’s books. She is also a visual artist.

 

Petra Hůlová

Petra Hulova

Petra Hůlová (1979)  became an overnight sensation when All This Belongs to Me was originally published in Czech in 2002 and awarded the prestigious magnesia litera prize for the discovery of the year – she has since established herself as one of the most exciting young novelists in Europe today.

In 2004, Hůlová published her long – awaited second book, Through Frosted Glass. In her epic novel Cirkus Les Mémoires, which appeared in 2005,  Hůlová demonstrates decisevly that she is no longer merely a talent; she is a world class. Her fourth novel, Plastic-furnished, Three-bedroom, came out in 2006. The book was turned into a play and in 2007 the novel was awarded the Jiří Orten prize for literature. In 2008, Hůlová has published her grand novel Taiga Station, which was awarded the Josef Škvorecký prize. Her most recent novel, Guardians of the Civic Good, was published in 2010.

Interview with the author

♦ Which literary character do you most identify with and why?

Some characters from my own books.

♦ Please list three books your lead literary character(s) like to read.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.
The Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.
Lust by Elfriede Jelinek.

♦ What would you never write about?

So I mention it neither here:).

♦ Name one book that has made a lasting impression on you.

Professor Andersen´s Night by Dag Solstad.

♦ What is your strangest habit?

Since it´s a habit I am not able to perceive it as anything strange anymore.

 

Monika Maron

Monika Maron

Monika Maron (1941) was born in Berlin. Raised in the German Democratic Republic, she emigrated to West Germany in 1988. Maron has received various awards and prizes for her works (e.g. kleist prize, 1992; Friedrich-Hölderlin prize, 2003; deutscher nationalpreis, 2009; Lessing prize 2011). Her work has been translated into English, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Croatian, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. She regularly publishes her socio-political views in newspapers and magazines, such as Zeit and Der Spiegel. She is regarded as one of the German classics.

Video interview with the author
(dailymotion.com, June 15th, 2009)

 

Jan van Mersbergen

Jan van Mersbergen

Jan van Mersbergen (1971) is one of the most exciting new Dutch authors. His debut novel in 2001, The Grass-Eater, was nominated as the best book debut of the year. His novel Tomorrow Pamplona (2007) was also well received, and the novel To the Other Side of the Night (2011) received the BNG nieuwe literatuurprijs award and all three major national awards nominations: libris literatuurprijs, AKO literatuurprijs and gouden uil. For his latest novel, The last escape (2014), he received the bordewijk prize for best Dutch novel of 2014 and was nominated for the AKO literatuurprijs. His works have been translated into seven languages.

Interview with the author

♦ Which literary character do you most identify with and why?

Nick Adams, the Hemingway character with a war trauma. I don't identify with the trauma, I identify with his way of dealing with the trauma: he's fishing.

♦ Please list three books your lead literary character(s) like to read.

The main character of The Last Escape likes to read Legend of a suicide by David Vann, Tinkers by Paul Harding and Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin.

♦ What would you never write about?

My mother.

♦ Name one book that has made a lasting impression on you.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

♦ What is your strangest habit?

All my habits are perfectly normal, so I always put on my left shoe first and when playing football I constantly talk to the opponent strikers.

 

Szczepan Twardoch

Szczepan Twardoch

Szczepan Twardoch (1979) is a revelation of Polish prose, half-Silesian, half-Pole. He is extremely prolific: by his thirties he has already written ten books. He was shortlisted for the gdynia literary award and the Józef Mackiewicz literary award. He received a Silver Award of the Jerzy Żuławski award in 2008. In 2012, he received prestigious Polish award Polityka’s passport for the novel Morphine (2012), which was also a winner of the prestigious peoples’ choice nike award and shortlisted for the gdynia literary award and the Central Europe literary award angelus.

 

Blaže Minevski

Blaže Minevski

Blaže Minevski (1961) is a writer, an author of fiction and drama. He has received all the major Macedonian literary awards, including the Stale Popov novel-of-the-year award in 2008. He won several awards at the National Festival of Macedonian Professional Theatre Companies and the national award for play of the year for Dumb Language (2000). His short stories have been included in all anthologies of Macedonia short stories published in Macedonia in the last twenty years and have been translated into English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Romanian, Slovene, Croatian, Turkish and Serbian.

Interview with the author

♦ Which literary character do you most identify with and why?

In the middle of the 19th century, Marko Cepenkov, the greatest collector of Macedonian folk art, recorded an ancient Macedonian story entitled Siljan the Stork. The story is about a boy who falls under a bad spell which turns him into a stork, but then becomes a human again with a lot of effort and a bit of magic water. I believe that this literary figure is crucial for Macedonian literature. Why? Because every literature must start with something new, primary and deep. In our folk tales, the dead are never dead enough to be dead forever, and donkeys were flying around like helicopters before helicopters were invented. In the  Latin American novel One Hundred Year of Solitude Mequiades, the alchemist, is actually from Macedonia. Márquez was probably aware of the alchemical essence of Macedonia, which is also the essence of Macedonian literature. Therefore, I identify with our Siljan the Stork, because he knows what it feels like to be a stork and how to become human again.

♦ Please name three books your main literary character(s) like to read.

My favourite literary character, Siljan the Stork, who was transformed into a stork because he was lazy and did not listen to his parents, would like reading The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

♦ What would you never write about?

I believe that it is clear from everything that has been said, in the name of Siljan the Stork, as it were, that I could never write about what can be said in a newspaper, a pub or on a politicial podium. Every author has readers he or she deserves, and vice versa. My reader is a strange reader. Perhaps my reader is a bit old-fashioned, reading aloud like in the Middle Ages, when people did not know how to read "on the inside". Everyone read aloud. My theory of reading is the theory of the "heart beat". According to Juno-Ruar Bjerkvol, an authority on the subject, the heart beat is always in subtle harmony with the semantic content of words and their emotional charge. The reader always creates the work to their own taste following the rhythm of their heart, in accordance with the creative rhythm of the artist and their own knowledge of the world. Naturally, I always imagine the best reader in the world. The reader who co-creates the sense of what has been written; the reader who laughs where I do, who hides tears in the same places as me. Such a reader is worth writing for. While random passers-by sometimes also accidentally enter this magical space of life, the hope that the real reader will one day find the way to the writer gives writing true meaning. While writing is a job, reading is therapy. Therefore, I could never write about something I would not want to read myself.

♦ Name one book that made a lasting impression on you.

All the books that I have read twice, some even three times, have made a lasting impression on me. However, this time I will say One Hundred Years of Solitude because it has been one hundred years since the publication of the General Theory of Relativity by Albert Einstein and a hundred years since Macedonia was divided in World War I. This is not only due to the hundred years of Balkan solitude, but Macedonian alchemists, who are mentioned on the first page of the novel. If alchemy was linked with Macedonia over fifty years ago, why not believe that it can save the country now, when everyone is encouraging us to follow the advice of Lucifer and change our name, so that we could have a better life as nameless vagabonds. In the meantime, we may learn to fly on a carpet or at least fall from the sky like Itar Pejo, one of the most famous characters in Macedonian fairy tales. Therefore, One Hundred Years of Solitude, because of one hundred years of Macedonian existence alchemy.

♦ What is your strangest habit?

My strangest habit is that I copy any electronic piece of information on paper to make sure that it is real. Perhaps this is because of my intimate fear that writing and books could disappear at any moment, that they have almost disappeared, as it were. Electronic letters are virtual signs of light, entering us aggressively, piercing through eyes like spears with glimmering explosions. Printed letters are passive, attractive and soft. When we read a printed book, it is us who enter it, rather than vice versa; we penetrate the lines, cast light on the letters with our gaze, and collect them inside like fireflies.

 

Elena Ferrante

Elena Ferrante is an Italian author of ten remarkable, lucid, austerely honest novels, who was born in or near Naples. She seems to have been married once; she may have lived in Greece; she appears to be a mother. Or so we think. In our self-promoting age, Ferrante is an outlier, an author who wishes to remain totally private. Her novels are intensely, violently personal, and because of this, they seem to dangle bristling key chains of confession before the unsuspecting reader. She is one of Italy’s best-known, least-known contemporary writers. Yet, as the last in her acclaimed series of novels about two friends in Naples was published in English, Elena Ferrante’s reputation is soaring, with Zadie Smith, James Wood and Jhumpa Lahiri numbering among her fans.

From interviews with the author

♦ Can we assume, then, that you see Elena Ferrante as a somewhat mysterious person, without a home, without a family, who exists inside your head?

No, Elena Ferrante is the author of several novels. There is nothing mysterious about her, given how she manifests herself – perhaps even too much – in her own writing, the place where her creative life transpires in absolute fullness. What I mean is that the author is the sum of the expressive strategies that shape an invented world, a concrete world that is populated with people and events. The rest is ordinary private life.

(source: theguardian.com, Elena Ferrante: 'Anonimyty lets me concentrate exclusively on my writing.', February 19th, 2016).

♦ How did you start writing novels? What book of yours do you consider a breakthrough in your own writing and why?

I discovered as a girl that I liked telling stories. I did it orally and with some success. Around age 13 I started to write stories, but writing didn’t become a permanent habit until I was in my 20s. Troubling Love was important. I felt that I’d found the right tone. The Days of Abandonment confirmed that for me, after much struggle, and gave me confidence. Today I think My Brilliant Friend was my most arduous yet most successful book. Writing it was like having the chance to live my life over again. But I still think that the most daring, the most risk-taking book is The Lost Daughter. If I hadn’t gone through that, with great anxiety, I wouldn’t have written My Brilliant Friend.

(source: nytimes.com, 'Writing Has Always Been a Great Struggle For Me', December 9th, 2014)

♦ Do you write down your dreams?

The rare times that I seem to remember them, yes. I’ve done it since I was a girl. It’s an exercise that I would recommend to everyone. To subject a dream experience to the logic of the waking state is an extreme test of writing. You can never reproduce a dream exactly. It’s a losing battle. But putting into words the truth of a gesture, a feeling, a flow of events, without domesticating it, is also an operation that’s not as simple as you might think.

(source: theparisreview.org, Elena Ferrante, Art of Fiction No. 228)

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