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← Henning Mankell: My responsibilty is to react

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Showing Revision 8 created 12/17/2013 by KtiK.

  1. When people ask me what is my main inspiration
  2. I say it is the ancient Greek drama
  3. if you take a play like Medea that's written 2300 years ago
  4. it is about a woman who murders her children because of jalousy in relation to her husband
  5. if that is not a crime story, I don't know what a crime story is
  6. the only difference is that there is no police officer in it
  7. because in Greece at that time there was no police force
  8. but I can assure you if they had had a police force, there would also have a policeman in the play
  9. but this story uses the mirror of crime to look upon contradictions in society
  10. that is what interests me.
  11. Look at McBeth, take McBeth and put Richard Nixon in there:
  12. you have the same story, in a way.
  13. And then I can say that, yes, there are also pure crime fictions that inspire me.
  14. For example Sherlock Holmes.
  15. Because many histories talk about English society,
  16. about hypocrisy, about many things
  17. So, I don't see any differences by writing crime fiction or another novel
  18. I think, I put up my cheek a little and say that crime fiction is one of the oldest literary genre that exists
  19. it's not invented by Edgar Alan Poe, it's much older than that.
  20. All of my ancestors were musicians, they were playing in churches, organ players and
  21. my grandfather was a composer and I think that when I was young I also thought of myself as a musician
  22. but I realised quite quickly that (I was playing the violin) I would never be as good as I would want to be
  23. so I, in a way, chose another instrument because you have to understand that writing is a sort of instrument you have in your hands
  24. But on the other hand you might say that music is a very essential part of writing
  25. as it is in painting, as it is in sculpturing, as it is in any other kind of art making, I would say
  26. My home was full of music but it was also full of books
  27. and I think I grew up in what you can call a really, really liberal family because
  28. first of all no one said anything if you were late at night reading
  29. and secondly no one asked you what you read
  30. and that is to me a good definition of what is a liberal family
  31. I think that the specific thing with my childhood was the fact that there was no mother around
  32. she had left the family so I grew up with my father and he was very occupied
  33. but I can still remember at night sometimes I would tell him something about what I had read
  34. and he was clever enough to take two minutes to listen to all the stupid things that I said
  35. and about what I read
  36. and I think it is one of the lessons that I learned: you always have to listen to a child
  37. I think that the real artist is the child because if you remember back when you were 4, 5 or 6 years old,
  38. you know, you had an enormous belief in the fact that you could transform a stone into a car,
  39. or a piece of wood into whatever
  40. Now, then you start school and you know what happens
  41. rationality takes over … maybe it is necessary
  42. but later on when you maybe eventually would like to become an artist,
  43. then you have to reconquer the thing you had as a child
  44. I think that it has to do with the sort of connection back to the courage you had as a child
  45. to ask the really, really difficult questions
  46. I sometimes ask people when I am out talking:
  47. who do you think is my greatest idol? or icon?
  48. and people guess this, and that, and I say
  49. no, I have photo, a small photo on my wall
  50. and the greatest idol is myself as a 12 year old
  51. and when I watch this guy, this boy, this me at 12 years old,
  52. I think that at time I was at my best. I didn't see any limit to life.
  53. I believed in imagination, in fantasy, and reality
  54. I thought every mountain was possible to climb, every desert was possible to get through
  55. so I look at that boy and I try to imitate him, I try to be as brave and as good as he was.
  56. The sensation of being able to put one word after another word making a sentence, and then making another sentence,
  57. and then having a story … this is to me a miracle.
  58. And this is the understanding of reading
  59. and then obviously came the next miracle: that you realise that you could do that yourself.
  60. It was the next miracle.
  61. I still remember that the first thing I ever wrote was a verse on Robinson Crusoe on one page
  62. I would give a finger to have that paper left
  63. but I don't have it, it's gone of course … I probably was 6 years old when I wrote it and I, by the way,
  64. still believe that Robinson Crusoe is the best novel ever written
  65. for a very simple reason: because Robinson is not alone on the island before Friday comes,
  66. he is alone on the island with the reader and that's important
  67. you are on that island, with Robinson, … you help him out
  68. that is a genius way of telling a story. I could never think of a plot better than that one
  69. You could take out certain characters in certain books,
  70. take them out of the books and bring them with you as friends.
  71. I think one of the most important thing with art is that you get friends there
  72. you could have a painting somewhere; when you see someone in a painting
  73. you could take that person out of the painting and make that person a friend
  74. that follows you in life.
  75. Art to me is essential to see how the world looks, to understand the world by seeing how other people demonstrate it
  76. it could be Francis Bacon or Goya or Ken Holtz (?)
  77. Sometimes I can understand it immediately
  78. sometimes I don't understand it at all
  79. and sometimes I don't want to understand it. I just want that feeling to be sucked into my universe and stay there
  80. I think real art, whether it is a painting or music, or whatever, always gives you a certain surprise
  81. if there is no surprise, I think it falls down.
  82. I go down to the Prado museum in Madrid once a year, it is a sort of pilgrimage that I do,
  83. I spend two days there.
  84. And you know to walk the rooms full of paintings by Velasquez and then come into Goya, for example,
  85. well, it is not the same museum; it is not the same … it is like it is two different worlds
  86. you could say they are both painters but there is something more they are different in,
  87. they tell me different stories about the human condition
  88. I think you cannot come closer than that to defining art: a good artist tells you A story of life.
  89. Another artist tells you another story, a bad artist doesn't tell you anything.
  90. I'm not afraid of talking about good art and bad art. I think we are living in a time when people are afraid of talking about that
  91. and I think it is not good because we must be able to say that some art is better than other
  92. then we can discuss that: what do you mean by that?, I don't agree with you … but we can have the discussion.
  93. Today I think that critics are very … they lack courage in a way.
  94. I think that if you look through history, in most art, the important kind of art, whether it is sculpture, books or whatever,
  95. there is some dimension of a dream, of a better society
  96. and it's obvious to me and to most people that we are living in a terrible world today
  97. and the most terrible thing with the world today, it does so many problems, it's completely unnecessary
  98. let me just give one example: me as a writer
  99. in year 2012, millions upon millions of children go out in life illiterate, they cannot read, they cannot write
  100. and this is absolutely unnecessary. We could have eradicated illiteracy a long time ago
  101. if we really would have wanted to do it. But we don't do it,
  102. so these people are lost because still reading and writing and the little mathematics are the most important tools you have in life
  103. and I find this so disgusting, such a shame, that obviously I have to talk about it
  104. when people ask me can people buy your books, novels, in Mozambique
  105. I say, "why?". There is only one book important here and that is the ABC book
  106. whether it is a computer program or a book, I don't care
  107. but eradicate illiteracy before you talk about something else
  108. and then we can go on and on, look on the word and most problems that kill people are unnecessary
  109. and I wouldn't understand how could I use my instrument without in one or another way talk about this
  110. I could not understand myself
  111. As a writer I am an intellectual and as an intellectual, my responsibility is to react in a way
  112. to what I see in society
  113. that is the role of the intellectual
  114. at least if you have the idea of being a radical intellectual
  115. for me it goes back to the Enlightenment times of Diderot and Voltaire
  116. the role of the intellectual
  117. and I believe this is right and that is why I act the way I act
  118. I do write, I do write many various things but I also talk if necessary
  119. I would say it is my relation to the ideal of the Enlightenment
  120. and I agree with that, with the fact that you should talk
  121. I agree we are living in a very strange situation:
  122. we have never seen such a flow of information
  123. and never have people known so little
  124. because everything has been done into fragments
  125. just look at TV news in Denmark and Sweden, short news,
  126. the worst case if obviously the US where you don't understand anything of the news
  127. so that is obviously a risk and I agree also that words are misused very much today
  128. very much today
  129. but I think that the word that you and I use will always be the most important in communications
  130. so I think there will always be a way of cleaning up the mess
  131. but what is very difficult for me today is when I read these twitter and blogs
  132. and it's a way of saying that simplifying things is the best thing
  133. and I say, no, complicate things … because the truth is always complicated in a way
  134. so I agree that something is happening with language but I'm not afraid that we will lose it
  135. because if we lose it, we lose our humanity
  136. no, we won't do that
  137. I think there is also a need, among many readers to get long stories
  138. they are so fed up with these short fragments
  139. so, they want a long story. They want, in a way, Dickens
  140. which I also do myself: if I find a good novel which is 400 pages, I'm happy
  141. if it is bad, it doesn't matter if it is 100 or 400 pages
  142. so, I'm not afraid even of the epic story will survive
  143. I know of course that I'll never be able to do everything I want
  144. death will always come to disturb you, you never know when it comes
  145. and in some very few moments I can feel a sort of desperation, even a sort of depression about that fright
  146. but that is life. If you listen for example to the string quartets that Beethoven wrote when he was old,
  147. they are presenting you with something completely new in his music
  148. it is like he had ..., when he started to become old, he didn't give a shit about anything
  149. he had nothing to lose so he started to write some very, very new music that the world had never heard before
  150. that is his latest string quartets
  151. so, it might be that things happen when you get older that give you a sort of new freedom,
  152. you don't know that so, this is what I hope for
  153. to me, obviously, life has meaning when I can sit down and try to formulate something
  154. because whatever you do, is trying, you're trying … you never know when you're gonna succeed or not,
  155. but you are trying to do something
  156. that is the closest I can come to a meaning of life in the creativity
  157. I don't think I have a more intelligent answer than that.