On Being a Writer
"Literature has become a place where I can be. My haven or exile.”
“I think I became a writer to stay sane. Or maybe because you don’t have to be sane when you’re a writer,” says one of the most influential writers in Swedish literature – Sara Stridsberg. In this honest video interview, she shares how writing allows her to exist in another reality, “coping with the world. Holding onto the world.” Read more …
When you write, Stridsberg feels, you can inhabit a language unlike any other: “The literary language is a foreign language. A strange, evanescent, perverse, wild, unruly language that can’t be tamed.” As a child, Stridsberg wrote what she describes as ‘consolation stories’, which she finds that she still does: “I can’t live in this reality alone. I can’t bear it. I don’t want to be here. I want to be somewhere else. Literature has become a place where I can be. My haven or exile.” She feels that she must be at odds with the world as she always reaches a point where she has to withdraw into writing: “… only in writing do I live. Only there do I feel the pulse of life.” In continuation of this, she finds that literature a place where you can escape fears and taboos: “It’s a place where you can’t tame people. Or rather, you can describe the chains that bind people, but you can also let them escape them. The magic of literature is that the two can coexist.”
“It goes for all my novels, that I venture deep into the danger until there’s no going back.” Stridsberg argues that to be a writer, one must be “out of one’s mind” in the sense that you must abandon your consciousness and make room for other voices. After a while, she continues, these voices take over. Her writing starts with powerful images rather than ideas – “sounds, voices that won’t leave me be” – and in her writing process, she listens to loud music as a way of blocking out the censoring and intellectual part of her. Finally, Stridsberg talks about the role that prostitution has played in her books and how she considers it “such an extreme and telling image of human relationships.” Prostitution, she adds, is a very lonely place for a woman: “She’s left out of the social contract, an unprotected creature. As a writer, I’ll always be drawn towards the unprotected…”
Sara Stridsberg (b. 1972) is a Swedish writer and playwright. Stridsberg’s fiction and nonfiction books are translated into several languages. Among her novels are ‘Happy Sally’ (2004), ‘Darling River’ (2010), ‘Gravity of Love’ (2016) (Beckomberga: Ode till min familj, 2014), ‘The Antarctica of Love’ (Kärlekens Antarktis, 2018), and ‘The Faculty of Dreams: A Novel’ (2019) (Drömfakulteten, 2006). Stridsberg is the recipient of several prestigious awards including the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize (2007), the Dobloug Prize (2013), and the European Union Prize for Literature (2015).
Sara Stridsberg was interviewed by Anette Dina Sørensen in August 2019 in connection with the Louisiana Literature festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark.
Camera: Klaus Elmer
Produced by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærksen and Marc-Christoph Wagner
Edited by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2019
Supported by Nordea-fonden