True Even Though It Did Not Happen
“When I read a story in a book, I can feel that this is true. That it is true within the world of this person.”
Swedish author Alex Schulman explains why he believes an author needs to write from a place of truth, how literature saved him from loneliness, and how he finds forgiveness for his mother through his own writing. Read more …
In this video Alex Schulman argues whether an author can write fiction without using their own life as a point of departure for their stories. “They can, but the books end up being very bad, I think. When I read a story in a book, I can feel that this is true. That doesn’t mean it happened to him or her, but it’s true within the world of this person.”
Since 2008 he has published autobiographies, writing from the material of his own life. In 2020 he made his big international debut with his first fictional piece of work, the novel The Survivors. But even when writing fiction, he finds that staying close to the truth is vital: “My book The Survivors starts off with a story about three kids by a lake. The father says: ‘Let’s have a contest. You have to swim out to a buoy and back, and the one who comes back first wins.’ They run into the water and are fighting so much to be the first because they want to be loved by their father. They are close to drowning. When they finally come back to the shore, the father isn’t there anymore, he is inside doing the dishes. And it is just so empty. That is a story that is one hundred percent true for my life, even though it did not happen to me.”
The father takes a central role in the novel, but the character Schulman finds himself returning to over and over is that of the mother: “I always thought that the father was the big thing, but the older I get, the more I understand that the mother character is unbelievably… I can’t fathom her, and I need to understand her. I keep on writing about her.”
Schulman’s own mother battled alcoholism for many years until her passing, leaving behind a trauma that he has revisited and rewritten several times throughout his literary career: “It’s always about forgiving her. And I always do. I forgive her all the time in these books. But it’s the strangest thing, that I had a mother that I did not think was worthy of being forgiven, and she never asked me for it either, but in the fictional world I forgive her all the time.”
Alex Schulman (1976) was born in Skåne in the south of Sweden and grew up in the Stockholm suburb Farsta. He has had a successful career as a journalist, blogger, television and radio host and has produced several stage performances. Since 2012, he has run Sweden’s most popular weekly podcast, Alex & Sigge, with several hundred thousand listeners every week. Schulman made his literary debut in 2009 with Hurry to Love, dedicated to his deceased father, the journalist and television producer Allan Schulman. In 2011 he published his second book, To Be With Her, about his wife. His third book, Forget Me, about his relationship with his alcoholic mother, was named Book of the Year in Sweden in 2017. In November of 2018, his fourth book, Burn All My Letters, was published and became a runaway bestseller. Burn All My Letters has been unanimously praised by readers and critics alike. For five consecutive weeks, it was featured on the prestigious critics’ list in Sweden’s biggest daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter. Schulman made his big international debut with his fifth book and first novel, The Survivors, published in 2020. Sold to thirty-three countries and published to great critical acclaim worldwide, The Survivors has established Alex Schulman as a literary force to be reckoned with on the global stage.
Alex Schulman was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at his Danish publisher Lindhardt & Ringhof in September 2021.
Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard
Edited by Jarl Therkelsen Kaldan
Produced by Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2021
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