The Secret Life of a Poem
An inspiring conversation with the award-winning English novelist Alan Hollinghurst – noted for his novel ‘The Line of Beauty’ – about being a sort of puppet master to his characters and being characterized as “a gay writer.”
“I read poetry obsessively all through my adolescence.” Hollinghurst went to boarding school in an old gothic house in the countryside where the lady of the house was a friend of the Victorian poet Alfred Tennyson. Tennyson thus came to influence Hollinghurst’s writing a great deal, poetry being the first thing he wrote. In time, however, he turned to novel writing: “The lovely thing about being a novelist is that you’re in charge and you can sort of just put in whatever you like, and I think I have a tendency to indulge my own enthusiasm.” Hollinghurst enjoys playing with narrative and with what one expects – and having the authority to decide his characters’ fate: “I quite enjoy exercising my power to be sort of cruel and restrictive to my characters … and to bring them to horrible ends.”
On writing about homosexuality, the English novelist comments that he initially was able to investigate a relatively unexplored area of fiction: “I know when I started I felt that there was this opportunity to write about a whole area of subject matter, which hadn’t really been looked at in literary fiction.” Moreover, he felt that there was also a political point in doing so, especially as he started out in the mid-1980s, when the AIDS epidemic broke out, and the social and political change during Margaret Thatcher’s government seemed to allow a more hostile attitude towards homosexuals: “There was all the more point in being upfront and out there about all these things.”
Alan Hollinghurst (b. 1954) is a British novelist, poet and short story writer, whose works often evolve around (homo)sexual themes. Hollinghurst is the author of the novels ‘The Swimming Pool Library’ (1988), ‘The Folding Star’ (1994), ‘The Spell’ (1998), ‘The Line of Beauty’ (2004) and ‘The Stranger’s Child’ (2011). He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 1989 Somerset Maugham Award, the 1994 James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the 2004 Man Booker Prize (for ‘The Line of Beauty’). He lives in London, England.
Alan Hollinghurst was interviewed by Martin Krasnik at the Louisiana Literature festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark in August 2012. During the interview Hollinghurst discusses his novel ‘The Stranger’s Child’ (2011).
Edited by: Kamilla Bruus
Produced by: Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2016
Supported by Nordea-fonden