Literature as a European Mothertongue: 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 travelling through 15 European countries. We asked them three questions based on text production, reception and mediation. In case you always wanted to know how a literary activist in Iceland looks like, meet Eiríkur Örn Norddahl!
Have you ever participated in collaborative author/reader projects? And if so, what do you find interesting about it?
I have sometimes, but I nearly never instigate them myself. I find working with others uncomfortable – I think one of the reasons I chose this profession (or got caught up in it) is that as a writer I don’t have to work with others so much. In collaboration I tend to either become too passive or too agressive, either I don’t want anyone changing my (“pure!”) work or I will accept whatever is suggested. But then I also work with what is uncomfortable and most writing worth anything is in some way uncomfortable – comfortable writing is nearly a contradiction in terms.
How do you feel about readers’ comments and feedback to your texts? Does it affect your subsequent writing?
I think that perhaps – since most readers’ comments is in fact some form of praise – the biggest danger is that it gets you stuck in a rut, making you feel that everything you’re doing must be right and thereby in need of being repeated, reperformed. Of course there is the occasional negative critique – yet even the most reviled books don’t get very negative reviews these days. And much of the negative critique is easily dismissable as the grunts of those who had no business reading the books in the first place (no good book is meant to be liked or enjoyed or understood “by everyone”).
However, I always work with multiple editors; some professional, some friendly, some foes. I don’t mind critical comment, I feed on it – but I need to be have full control of how (or even if) I react to it. I’ve thrown long manuscripts on the suggestion of readers and I’ve doubled down on things that troubled others. I tend to think that critical comments always have some validity to them, but not necessarily the validity that the editor in question believes they have. I.e. they’re probably right in that the text is broken, but they may not be right about the fix needed, or even if a fix is needed (sometimes X needs to be broken for Y to work properly, and then you have to decide whether X or Y is more important).
What is your favorite literary spot in …? (literary venue, bar, meeting area, city, etc.) Please do give us a link to the website of the spot / area.
I’ve been travelling a lot over the last couple of years, doing readings and interviews, so my favorite literary spot is home – my garage become office in Ísafjörður, northwest Iceland, the frozen edge of the known universe, squeezed between four mountains by the coast on a rock in the middle of the Atlantic, the remote of the remote. I’ve banned the internet in there, the garage has no website, and in it I write on an early nineties typewriter with no white-out, making notes with a pen. I even have a pulpit for standing up. Computers have started feeling like bottomless pits. The typewriter feels like I can dive into it without the threat of constant plummeting through space. And my garage is where I read and write – where literature gets to happen outside the social space, where I get to be free.
Which recent literary event fascinated you the most and why? (Please give us the link to the website of the event)
The last time a reading really took my breath away was a couple of years ago at the Stanza festival in St. Andrews, Scotland, when I saw Hannah Silva perform; juggling sounds and sentences, meaning and mind. I have to collaborate with her in January for an event in London and it scares the living daylights out of me.