In the Line of the Unusual
"Literature lets us face our worse fears and unthinkable horrors in a space where we feel safe, and we can test ourselves."
Meet Samanta Schweblin – one of the most important Latin American writers of her generation – in this personal interview about writing between the real and the magic. Read more …
“The unusual, the weird does not usually happen, but it’s possible that it happens. And that places the uncanny really close to the reader’s skin. If I am reading ‘Frankenstein’, I think this can be terrifying, but it happened many years ago, far away from home. It’s not going to touch me,” Samanta Schweblin says.
“If while doing this interview, suddenly a majestic, huge, beautiful white horse would pass by inside this room, it would send a chill down our spines; it would be something spectacular.”
“For me, it’s a state of opening myself. As a reader, when I go through those situations as I cannot label what’s happening, I am more willing than ever to listen and understand. It’s an absolute state of concentration, almost like a meditation. When you are not judging, just looking with your wide-open eyes, eager to understand. And that’s the most magical state I can reach both from reading and writing.”
“In my last year in primary school, when I was between 11 and 12, I did not talk at all at school for a whole year. The psychoanalyst sent me back to school with a letter that said that I was perfectly normal but totally uninterested in my surroundings. And in those years, literature became some cape that protected me and helped me to disappear. Even the teachers said, “Don’t bother Samanta, she is reading.””
Today public exposure still makes Scheweblin nervous, but now she is “paying back” by giving interviews instead of escaping. “Sometimes I wonder if moving to Berlin had had something to do with that because I moved to Berlin when I started to have some visibility in Buenos Aires.”
“Literature is a very special technology if you think about it. Because it only happens in the reader’s mind. Literature lets us face our worse fears and unthinkable horrors in a space where we feel more or less safe, and we can test ourselves even physically. We can ask ourselves: “Could I survive in this?”, “What would I do in such a situation?” “Would I act like the character that I am following?” “What happens after a revelation like this one?” They are very vital questions. And you can close the book and come back to real life with this new information that can change what you do afterward. It can change your next decisions.”
Samanta Schweblin (b. 1978) is an Argentinian writer. Her first publications – two slim volumes of prose, ‘The Core of the Disturbance’ (2002) and ‘Birds in the Mouth’ (2009) – immediately led to her international breakthrough. Her short story collections have received numerous awards, including the prestigious Juan Rulfo Story Prize. Her original short novel ‘Fever Dream’ (2017, originally published 2014) is her first novel translated into English and was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize. Both Mario Vargas Llosa and the literary magazine Granta have proclaimed Schweblin as one of the most interesting contemporary young Spanish-language writers. She lives and works in Berlin.
Peter Adolphsen interviewed Samanta Schweblin at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark in connection with the Louisiana Literature festival in August 2021.
Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard
Edited by: Johan von Bülow
Produced by Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2022
Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet, C.L. Davids Fond og Samling and Fritz Hansen.
Becoming Paul McCarthy
On the influential and groundbreaking contemporary American artistSeries / 3 videos