Princess Candy With a Razor
"I am what I write.”
“The characters I write about are not absolutely normal. But I don’t think I’ve ever met a completely normal person,” says Dorrit Willumsen, one of the grand voices of Danish literature. “When I was young, many didn’t relate what I wrote to the way I appeared. I’ve often been told, ‘It’s good you’re not the way you write’. I’ve always answered: ‘But I am what I write.” Read more …
To Dorrit Willumsen a book may begin “in a bus with a single sentence. Or it may start with a small experience that I myself have had that I may then elaborate on. Sometimes I start a novel where the main character seems most vulnerable or dramatic. Then I write from there. It’s rarely having won the lottery. More often it’s something embarrassing that gets me started. But the characters live through it and get over it,” says Dorrit Willumsen.
“To me often doubt or a bad experience is most interesting. It’s the rupture and the difficulties that occupy my books. That’s the way it is in folktales. In the embarrassment, the question is: How do I solve the problem? How do I get out of it? Doubt holds a lot of possibilities. It holds more fantasy than being happy,” Willumsen states.
“When I write about a person in my novels, I’m almost in love with the person. I enter that person with my life, with my dreams. When I write, the characters in the book are kind of family to me. The main character is actually an infatuation. I think I partly become that person.” “The characters that I best empathize with are partly myself. It’s a way to be both yourself and in a world outside of yourself. It affects your dreams when you’re inside a character. It’s a state I love to be in,” Willumsen concludes.
“I can’t imagine a life where I’m not writing. The characters I write about are not absolutely normal. But I don’t think I’ve ever met a completely normal person. They were all unusual in some way. There’s always something strange about a human being otherwise you’re not whole, I think,” Willumsen says. “The longing is in all my books. It’ll always be in me and also in the characters I write about. They may not necessarily long for something achievable. But longing is a positive feeling, I think. It’s not actually a passive feeling. You do something to satisfy that longing,” Willumsens says.
Dorrit Willumsen, born 1940, is an award-winning Danish writer. She made her literary debut in 1965 with the short story collection ‘Knagen’. In 1997 she was awarded the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize for her novel ‘Bang. En roman om Herman Bang’. Willumsen has written nearly 30 books, including novels, collections of short stories, poems, drama, and memory. For 53 years, she was married to playwright and poet Jess Ørnsbo.
In this video, Dorrit Willumsen reads excerpts from her novel ‘Onions Draw Tears’, 2019, and ‘Dutifull Happiness’, 2007, translated by Marina Allemano.
Dorrit Willumsen was interviewed at her home in Frederiksberg, Copenhagen, by Christian Lund and Lærke Rydal Jørgensen.
Camera and edit: Rasmus Quistgaard
Produced by Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2020
Supported by C.L. Davids Fond og Samling
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