On Transforming Life Into Novels
“I feel like I have a duty to write.”
The acclaimed Irish writer Sally Rooney explains her urge to write novels about the life that she is living: “It didn’t come from any particular fascination with my own life, it was just that that was the only life that I had available to me.” Read more …
In this video, Sally Rooney explains that her two first novels, Conversations with Friends and Normal People, drew inspiration from her own experiences at university in Dublin: “I feel like I need to know something really well before I can pick up the kind of observations that interests me as a writer,” she says and elaborates: “To be able to set a story in a place, not so much a geographical location, but in a community, I need to have a really strong sense of how the people in that community behave.”
Sally Rooney explains that she sees the world through what she calls a Marxist framework and that both of her novels explore social structures: “When there are two people alone in a bedroom no one is thinking about class and gender, but the structures are there,” she says. Rooney’s books also discuss social class through her characters: “The people that I write about tend to be precariously situated in the economy. They are usually college educated like I am, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are financially stable and secure.”
“I find it really hard to explain why I’m interested in the things that interest me,” Rooney reflects. In her writing, she tends to throw obstacles at her characters to see how they react and develop:
“I wonder if that’s because the character is a projection of me.” The link between herself and her characters is apparent: “I need to feel that I can make something from my experiences because otherwise, I don’t know what they are. Maybe it’s a way of consoling myself for the meaninglessness of life,” she says and adds: “I feel like I have a duty to [write].”
Sally Rooney (b. 1991) is an Irish writer. Rooney is the author of Conversations with Friends (2017) and Normal People (2018). The latter won the ‘Irish Novel of the Year’ at the Irish Book Awards as well the Costa Book Award, which Rooney is the youngest novelist to be awarded. Rooney is also the winner of the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award 2017. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Granta, and The London Review of Books. Moreover, she is the editor of the Irish literary journal The Stinging Fly.
Sally Rooney was interviewed by Kathrine Tschemerinsky at the Louisiana Literature festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark in August 2018. In the video, Sally Rooney is reading from her novel Conversations with Friends.
Camera: Jacob Solbakken
Produced and edited by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2019
Supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Fond
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