Matunda Bigirimana

One is a CROWD – Birger Emanuelsen

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 Oslo looks like, meet Birger Emanuelsen!

Do you see yourself as an author? Are you the originator and main authority of your text? And if not, who is, if anyone at all?

My son was born the day I published my first book. With the story, I could control everything. Up until the deadline it was in my right & power to change every comma, edit every sentence. With my son, there was not much I could do but play the recommended whale songs and hope for the best. On the day of birth that changed. I no longer owned the universe I had created – that was now in the hands and minds of readers. All that control and influence and creation that made me feel like an author was taken away, and it felt like losing a secret that had belonged to me for a long time. Soon we drifted away. And my son … well, that’s a different story.

Do you like reader comments and feedback on your texts? What could be the consequences of social editing?

No, not before I have finished, not at all. I think too many things in modern culture come to us through a committee or board meeting or group of people accumulating their fears for what could happen if they don’t change the ending or the opening or the wording or the title or the main character or the plotline or the punctuation. In my mind, the potential consequence of social editing is a text trying to please everyone, thus disturbing or moving no one. But after the thing is published, hey, feel free, it’s now yours.

Which literary event fascinated you most and why?

In Norway there is a project called Ferdigsnakka, where musicians and writers come together to make literary singles. They also do live events; music festivals, literary gatherings, even sold out Oslo’s most popular venue. Suddenly there is a generation of young readers turning up in big numbers for literature readings. Last summer I did a music festival with them, and the feeling of taking something as intimate as a literary text to a grand stage, with live musicians behind you and a thousand people in front, was quite … yeah, as you say, fascinating.

Photo © Matunda Bigirimana

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