Lars Norén

Lars Norén

Art as an Underwater Bomb

The unsurpassed Swedish playwright Lars Norén grew up in a home that felt “radically unsafe.” In this rare interview he traces his writing back to his childhood experiences: “They could've locked me in the basement at age 11 because I had so much material.”

The aspiration to fail is one of Norén’s driving forces when it comes to writing. He does not want to simply write the things he knows how to write but rather to seek out the unknown: "Failure, failure, failure. That's what it's all about. To find a way out of what I already know." Moreover, it is his conviction that art should not necessarily be understood immediately but rather detonated after a while — like an underwater bomb.

Norén’s youth was spent in Skåne, Sweden where his family managed a provincial hotel. Though it was full of classical music and great literature it was not a happy childhood and Norén ended up running away from home at the age of 15. When his mother died, he was admitted to a psychiatric clinic, where he underwent drug and electroconvulsive therapy for endogenous depression and schizophrenia. These experiences, combined with classical psychoanalysis through 18 years, formed his life and not least his writings in which he investigates his memories and how to deal with these: “Art is always an echo of something.”

However, Norén feels that art does not only deal with the artist’s personal memory but also reflects society and its wounds. He contemplates Auschwitz and not least Italian writer Primo Levi’s account of life in the concentration camp, considering it to be a crucial point of reference in his oeuvre.

Lars Norén (b. 1944) is a Swedish playwright, novelist and poet, regarded by many as the greatest Swedish playwright since August Strindberg. His plays often revolve around dysfunctional families and the people situated at the bottom of society. Among his many works are ‘Night is Mother to the Day’ (1982) and ‘7:3’ (1999). In 2003, Norén received the Swedish Academy Nordic Prize, known as the “little Nobel.”

Lars Norén was interviewed by Christian Lund in Stockholm in February 2015.

Camera: Kasper Kiertzner
Edited by: Kamilla Bruus
Produced by: Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015

Supported by Nordea-fonden

  • 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.

  • 8 Artists

    On Painting

    ”A painting must always move beyond its subject,” says British painter Michael Simpson, who sees the practice of painting as ”giving form to an idea.” Hear how he, David Hockney and 6 other painters work with the classical art form.

  • Mette Winckelmann

    Woman to Woman

    ”You must evaluate whether the system you’re part of could be effectuated differently.” Meet artist Mette Winckelmann, who believes that abstract painting communicates deeper than language, and explore her visual take on gender politics.

  • Chigozie Obioma

    Everything We Do is Preordained

    Award-winning Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma calls his debut novel ‘The Fishermen’ “an Igbo version of a tragedy.” Meet the author and hear about his modern day metaphor of “the paradox that is Nigeria.”

  • Ed Ruscha

    Words Have No Size

    The road to being an artist was “like blind leading the blind” says Ed Ruscha, who grew to be one of the most recognised American artists of the 20th century. Hear the story of West Coast Jazz, his break with abstract art and L.A. in the 1960s.

  • 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.

  • Adam Caruso

    Novelty is nonsense

    "The European city is one of the great human inventions!” Adam Caruso advocates building with a deep sense of history and tradition. Meet the architect behind the award-winning Tate Britain conversion and numerous Gagosian galleries.

  • Thomas Hirschhorn

    A World of Collage

    Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn juxtaposes pixelated images from the media. His works are not about technology, says the artist: “I try to give form to what I can’t accept: that someone else can decide for me what I should do, see or think.”

  • Jonathan Safran Foer

    On Donald Trump

    Jonathan Safran Foer, star of American literature, offers interesting views on America’s new president and the consequences Trump will have on American culture. "The place for literature may be even more important than before," he says.

  • Dorte Mandrup

    Where Place Meets Sculpture

    Rising from the landscape in a place rich with materiality and history sits architect Dorte Mandrup’s new Wadden Sea Centre. Meet the renowned architect and see a building were “everything comes together.”

  • 5 Artists

    on Making Sculptures

    “All sculpture that I’m interested in knows that death is the inevitable conclusion.” Award-winning artist Antony Gormley sees art as the expression and generation of hope. Hear how he and five other artists work with sculpture.

  • Karl Ove Knausgård

    Literature Should be Ruthless

    Karl Ove Knausgård has enchanted the literary world with ‘My Struggle’, a novel of more than 3000 pages about his own life. Watch the star author discuss literature, writing and how his autobiographical style is closely connected to fiction.