To Walk Backwards and Hope for the Best
“Everything that my art contains is preexisting art. I cut it up and cook it in a pot and run it through my system and then I serve it nicely on a plate.” Meet an incomparable writer of entertaining short prose Peter Adolphsen, who featured a pandemic in a novel in 2017 and parallels inspiration with “swimming all the way through a dead man’s intestines, stomach, and throat.” Read more …
Peter Adolphsen’s early inspiration to become a writer came from Franz Kafka and “the wild ideas” from Kafka’s short prose found among the papers he left behind. When beginning as a writer Adolphsen made “a syntactic copy,” “sentence by sentence, bit by bit and inserted it into another context,” where he “copied myself so far up Kafka’s arse that I came out of his mouth, I was slimy and newborn and wobbly, but I was standing on my own two feet,” he explains.
To Peter Adolphsen telling a good story is crucial: “I want to tell good stories. I want to entertain. A great story is one that offers us a new point of view, the odd meeting”, he states. By keeping his focus on pre-existing literature as a starting point for his own writing, “the only way I can proceed, or move to another place is to walk backward and hope for the best,” he says. “Starting out with a pre-existing genre or type of literature gives you a place to start. You have a format.”
The literary form is “the kernel or the point of departure or the seed from where a plant should develop”. “We can hear when music swings, but no one can really define the formula, yet we all know what it is. The same is true for stories,” Adolphsen says.
In 2017 Adolphsen published a novel entitled ‘The Wrinkle-Fuck Disease’, which is a story about a pandemic. “Now, in 2020 with the Corona pandemic it’s been interesting to see how many of the pieces tumble in the way that I, didn’t foresee but rather calculated. There is a long list of societal mechanisms that relate to epidemics,” he says. He compares his writing in ‘The Wrinkle-Fuck Disease’ to “placing domino pieces and then see them tumble,” explaining that “you might compare it to a physics experiment in a chemistry classroom. When you pour in this substance, what’ll happen?”
Peter Adolphsen has difficulties with the term ‘inspiration’: “It comes from ‘inspirare’, it has to do with “blowing into”. The gods blow into your arse, and then beautiful art comes out of your mouth. I don’t believe that. I believe in hard work and careful exercise and reading and organizing things,” he says.
“If you want to talk about being a human or how other people think and feel, I think you’re better helped by describing what they do rather than saying, “That person feels this and that.” Then the reader can deduce what the person felt that motivated a certain action. It’s good old “show, not tell,” Adolphsen says.
If I can write books that can be found as objects somewhere else by another person who can read this book and get something completely different out of it or read it in a completely different way, then that has value there. Then all is well, and I shouldn’t claim that the issue is something else.”
Peter Adolphsen was born in 1972. He started off writing short stories but has also written novels and stories for children. He published three volumes of ‘Små historier’ (short stories), in 1996, 2000, and 2020. In 2003 came the novel ‘The Brummstein’ and in 2006 ‘Machine’. In 2017 the novel ‘The Wrinkle-Fuck Disease’ was published. Peter Adolphsen’s work is widely translated and he is regarded as one of the most prominent Danish writers of his generation.
Peter Adolphsen was interviewed by Christian Lund at ‘Fun Park Fyn’ Denmark, in September 2020. During the video, Adolphsen reads a selection of his work translated into English by himself.
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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