Linn Ullmann

Linn Ullmann

At That Point it Became Possible

“Subterfuge is very liberating. It helps you be as truthful as you can.” Award-winning writer Linn Ullmann discusses memory and autobiography on the occasion of her latest novel, which treats the relationship between herself and her famous parents.

The ninth child of legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman and only child of actress Liv Ullmann, author Linn Ullmann grew up surrounded by artists between New York, USA, Oslo, Norway and her father’s house in Fårö, Sweden. At the age of 87, her father had the idea to write a book together with his daughter. Young Linn would ask the questions and he would answer. The book never materialised, but the transcripts of six tender conversations between father and daughter form the backbone of Ullmann’s novel and the point from which the plot unfolds. Dramatically composed through multiple viewpoints, the novel changes between narrators and temporalities. Like an event experienced differently by each person present, it is an exploration of perspectives that starts with the telling line: “it all depends on where you stand.”

The least interesting thing to Ullmann in writing ‘The Troubled’, she explains in this interview, was her parents’ fame. She was interested in three artists, three human beings. The personal character of the subject matter, the fact that her parents were known and loved by many people, did however become an obstacle for Ullmann while working on the book. It was “like playing at the shoreline and fearing people’s reactions,” she describes. In the end the only way to proceed was to let go of the considerations of truth: “I tap into my own experiences, but in order to do that I had to recreate us as if we didn’t exist other than in that novel. I recreated us as fictional characters,” says the author and muses over the nature of autobiography: “What does it mean to write autobiographically? How trustworthy is our memory? It is both rich and creative, but also totally untrustworthy.” In the end, she believes, all of her work treats the same questions and themes: “I think a recurring theme is that my characters are imperfect. They are vulnerable and restless. But they keep fighting. That blend of being eager to fight and vulnerable is what I write about.”

Linn Ullmann (b. 1966) is a Norwegian author, journalist and literary critic. She published her first novel, ’Before You Sleep’ in 1998 and has since published 5 critically acclaimed international bestsellers. She has received several prizes for her work, among others the Gold Pen and the Norwegian Reader’s Prize. Her latest novel, ’De Urolige’, published in 2016 has been nominated for the Critic’s Award and the Nordic Council’s Literary Award.

Linn Ullmann was interviewed by Annette Dina Sørensen in connection to the Louisiana Literature festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark in 2016.

Camera: Klaus Elmer
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2016

Supported by Nordea-fonden

  • Jørgen Leth & Alex Da Corte

    The Perfect Monster

    Watch the celebrated Danish poet and film director, Jørgen Leth (b. 1937), and a sparkling star on the art scene, Alex Da Corte (b. 1980), talk about the latter’s shot-for-shot remake of – and homage to – Leth’s iconic film ‘The Perfect Human’.

  • Riad Sattouf

    Advice to Young Cartoonists

    Watch the acclaimed cartoonist Riad Sattouf draw while sharing his advice for colleagues: “Be careful with advice, it’s not always good. Find your own way of expressing yourself, everything is acceptable, there’s no one good way to draw or not draw.”

  • Jean-Marc Bustamante

    The Notion of Landscape

    “I think art is not very useful, it’s a question of what you feel.” Watch the acclaimed French artist and photographer Jean-Marc Bustamante, who merges photography and painting, and whose starting point is always the concept of landscape.

  • John Giorno

    A Visit to the Poet

    “Poetry never dies. You can’t kill poetry.” We called on John Giorno – one of the most influential figures in contemporary performance poetry – in his legendary home on the Bowery in New York, to talk about the innate freedom and possibilities of poetry.

  • John Giorno

    Inside William Burroughs' Bunker

    Step inside ‘The Bunker’ in New York, the windowless former apartment of legendary writer William S. Burroughs, and let yourself be guided around – from Burroughs’ typewriter to his shooting target – by its current resident, iconic poet John Giorno.

  • Marina Abramović & Ulay

    A Living Door of the Museum

    Standing naked in the main entrance of a museum, facing each other while the audience passes sideways through the small space. Legendary performance artists Marina Abramović and Ulay share the story behind their poetic work ‘Imponderabilia’.

  • Wang Shu

    Architecture is a Job for God

    The Chinese architect Wang Shu’s buildings – a crossover between traditional Chinese culture and large-scale modern architecture – have earned him prestigious awards. “Democracy means a really diverse society,” says the architect in this inspiring interview.

  • Margrethe Odgaard

    Colour Diary of New York

    Becoming more aware of your surroundings can “open a new dimension inside as well as outside yourself.” Meet award-winning Danish designer Margrethe Odgaard who has trained herself to register the world through colours.

  • Nick Cave

    The World is my Skin

    Have you ever wished that you could put on a suit which would open up the imagination and take you to the world of your dreams? In this video artist Nick Cave presents his wearable sculptures, the 'Soundsuits', made from discarded everyday materials.

  • Gerhard Richter

    In Art We Find Beauty and Comfort

    “I don’t really believe art has power. But it does have value. Those who take an interest in it find solace in art. It gives them huge comfort.” Gerhard Richter, one of the greatest painters of our time, discusses beauty in the era of the internet.

  • Colson Whitehead

    I Have to Know the Destination

    “I became a writer once I realised no one liked my stuff.” Watch Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey’s favourite author, Pulitzer Prize-winning Colson Whitehead, on how rejections of his first stab at a novel made him realize that he wanted to pursue writing.

  • 11 Artists

    First Encounter with Art

    “That was the beginning of my film and photography career – my first image ended up under the Russian soldier’s boot.” Watch Jonas Mekas, Laurie Anderson, Paul Auster, Gerhard Richter and 7 other acclaimed artists on how they began their career.