In conversation with the authors. Norway

The second week (out of 12) of the OMNIBUS tour has started. The bus crawls up north to Tromsø covering big streches across Lapland before gradually falling back down again towards continental Europe. Please let me introduce the authors on tour once again, in a handy shake-around.

Maybe the provocative invocation of the phrase “the author is dead” died with the author himself, Roland Barthes. But still, as a division line between conventional literature and literature that reaches beyond its pure being-as-literature, it still is worth looking at the quote. What does today’s author answer to it? Is the attribution of an author to a text a limit that is precomposed and preempted for a text waiting to be filled in? And, it is worth looking at the intellectual gesture behind the text – that may be the author.

“Barthes reads today like an ad copy, like a handbook of cross-media marketing rather than anything with a revolutionary impact,” says Teemu Manninen from Finland, adressing how the question of an author turned out to be gobbled up by commercial needs. It is noteworthy that almost all of the authors on the bus actually agree that the author is an installation necessary for a text.

“I would consider myself an author. Afterall, others are butchers, bus drivers, teachers, so why not?” In other words, writing is a craft. Vakis agrees: “I feel more of a house builder. My work grows organically. A house has several lives after it has been delivered to its first owner. So a poem has a special meaning to every single individual without restrictions and obstacles.”

Poignantly enough Alev Adil would reconcile, books on how to write would actually outsell book of poetry. Maybe anybody with internet access can be an author today, that is why the author is dead. But let me add a restriction: not as the initiator of something genuinely original though.

Odile Kennel, a translator of French, Portuguese, Spanish and English, goes on as: “But for sure I like to play, especially when it comes to poetry translation, with the concept of “original” (the original does not exist) an “translation” (which is another form of original) … I mean, the author question has quite a tradition; and you could write whole books about it (as an author?)”

Aase Berg from Sweden sees the author as pretty much a mindfuck. Why? Because all the information collected in memory can interact, meaning that the author is simultaneously the reader of their own mind.

“All the things you have ever read cluster in a brain pool. When writing, you are swimming in that pool. Some thoughts get stuck and mix in new constellations. That’s my text, run through my unconscious “personality””, she says.

Interestingly enough she connects the author with the intimacy of solitude and the burden of the white page.

“Of course you get new influences, but the problem is that you might become lazy, not going as deep as you wold do in your own, more frightening solitude. Social events take away the anxiety of writing.
Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes a way of escaping from serious fear.”

Not an author (or not solely)!

D’accord. Barbi Markovic is one who completely agrees with Barthes. She applies methods that incorporate textual environment as a part of the written text: “I copied down all the texts to be seen in the main squares in Berlin, Belgrade, Vienna, Graz, Sarajevo and Zagreb in order to get a genuine city-text and be able to compare and translate cities.”

Before and after, after and before. Now let’s shake the time frame up a little bit. Where, for Barbi, the production of the text as collecting text material plays an important, Maxime Coton, based in Brussels, seems to perceive writing in a more paradoxical nature (also resonating that text is already and has always been there before you actually start to write it):

“My only moment of sovereignty is when I type the first sentence: the incipit. Its particularity is that it’s a phrase conceived before the writing itself has been set in motion. In this sense, I control it. I turned it over at length in my head before writing it. Thereafter, when it throws me into the text, the only question I ask myself is: how do I get out?”

Though not the exit to the maze:

Collective writing and social editing as a way to get out?

“I like to participate in poetry slams. There you always get direct feedback. That is helpful for texts written for the audience. And it can be the opposite for texts written to be read. It’s important to learn to deal with comments”, says Markus Köhle and fosters therefore another approach to how to review writing. (I wonder how he deals with the comments he himself makes on a text.)

Remember Aase Berg, who cherishes writing in solitude and suggesting that coming together takes away the burden of the white page (which could result in laziness)? But maybe social events are a way to get out – and to step back in again. Alev on fb: “‪#‎crowdlitbus‬ a week on a bus going to the Arctic circle with fellow writers- it’s like a cult experience – we bonded ❤”.

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