Fiction is Closer to the Truth
“You spend your entire career trying to find out why you’re writing."
“I’m in there, but I’m also hiding, and I think that works for me.” Meet one of Norway’s most talented young authors, Johan Harstad. He here talks about resisting autofiction, and about his critically acclaimed novel ‘Max, Mischa, and the Tet Offensive.’ Read more …
“I wanted him to become a Scandinavian ghost in a way.” In ‘Max, Mischa, and the Tet Offensive’, the main character – Max Hansen – is forced to leave his Norwegian hometown Stavanger for New York at the age of thirteen. The book reflects on how Max gradually becomes an American, realising that he – contrary to what he always believed – is never going back. This, Harstad comments, is the big question that the novel poses: “How long can you be gone before it’s too late to go back?” Writing the story, was also a way for Harstad to explore his own relationship to the U.S. as a Scandinavian, which he feels is quite complicated.
Harstad finds it hard to read fiction while he is in the process of writing. He therefore mostly reads “stuff that is non-intrusive in a way,” such as non-fiction or research material: “It’s sad because you become a writer because you love reading, and then you can’t read.” In contrast to colleagues such as Karl Ove Knausgård, Harstad prefers writing fiction to autofiction: “It’s just not for me. It feels like I lose these stories.” In a time where autofiction was hailed as the big new thing, he felt that is was necessary to point out that “maybe there could also be something about fiction that gets you as close, or even closer, to truth than autofiction.” For him, he continues, the novel-form is not only highly personal, it also allows you to write without the fear of exposing yourself.
Johan Harstad (b. 1979) is a Norwegian novelist, short story writer, playwright and graphic designer. His novels include ‘Ambulance’ (2002), ‘Buzz Aldrin, what happened to you in all the confusion?’ (2005) and ‘Max, Mischa, and the Tet Offensive’ (2015). Harstad is the recipient of several prestigious awards including the 2008 Norwegian Brage Prize, the National Ibsen Award in 2014, and the Hunger Prize in 2017. He lives in Oslo, Norway.
Johan Harstad was interviewed by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen at Politikens Hus in Copenhagen, Denmark in June 2019.
Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard
Edited and produced by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2019
Supported by Nordea-fonden