One is a CROWD – Peter Højrup

Literature as a European mother tongue: In our series “One is a CROWD”, we introduce you to authors from all over Europe who will be involved in the CROWD omnibus reading tour, taking place from May to July 2016, featuring 100 authors who will be travelling through 15 European countries. We asked them three questions about text production, reception and mediation. In case you were wondering what a literary activist in Copenhagen looks like, meet Peter Højrup!

“To give a text an Author is to impose a limit on that text, to furnish it with a final signified, to close the writing” ( Roland Barthes) – Do you see yourself as an author and do you agree with this?

“To give a text an Author is to impose a limit on that text …” – maybe, but to deprive a text of the Author is also a way to impose a limit. If there is no Author the text is no longer a human document, because it is a text with no sender. This concept of a text without an Author is inhumane, so as readers we automatically construct an image of the Author if the identity of him or her is concealed. We consciously or subconsciously try to determine the gender, ethnicity, age, etc. as well as trying to determine the period in time the text was written, the mood of the writer and so on. All of this helps us understand who is talking to us, it helps us think about and communicate with the text. If you take the Author out of the equation, the text is no longer a conversation. Whether I see myself as an Author (I think I would prefer writer though) or not is beside the point: The Author’s concept of him- or herself is of little interest to the reader who can do whatever he or she wishes with the text.

Have you ever participated in collaborative author/reader projects? And if so, what do you find interesting about it?

I have collaborated with other writers and artists on several collective works. We used to do something called ‘Idea Marathon’ among the crew of Basilisk Publishing. Everybody would write one line per minute for an hour. We would usually have a theme. I remember doing ‘Superheroes’ and writing about a superhero called The Oldster who had the power to give people wrinkles – alas I don’t remember what any of the others wrote about. When I write I prefer to be the monkey god: I am easily distracted and allow the distractions to be part of the work, but I don’t take orders from anyone, and I don’t have to behave or compromise. It is at best a state of freedom. When the work is done, it has to do without me, so I don’t try to dictate how it should be read or understood or try to convince anybody of how great or terrible it is.

What is your favorite literary spot in…? (literary venue, bar, meeting spot etc.) Please give us a link to the website of the spot)

My favourite literary spot in Copenhagen is the basement in Nansensgade 77 where the small publishing house Basilisk is located (seen in photo).  For the past 16 years, a small group of poets and translators, which I am part of, have run the place. We don’t get paid so we don’t have to care about sales and revenues which means that we can publish pretty much what we like. For a long time it was mostly translations (Thomas Bernhard, Anne Carson, Daniil Kharms, Pentti Saarikoski among others) but in later years we have started to publish Danish writers as well, which is fun but a lot more time consuming than doing translations of dead people, since they don’t complain.

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