Colm Tóibín Interview: On Giacometti

Watch as the award-winning Irish writer Colm Tóibín shares his thoughts on Giacometti’s iconic ‘Homme qui marche’. A timeless and inspirational sculpture, which has been interpreted as a wish to come to terms with the Second World War.

“It works in a number of ways, constantly ambiguously.” There’s no answer to where the figure is going, as Giacometti was not interested in the figure in society or in the political figure: “It is in a way the figure stripped of all those concerns, down to the very thingness of a self.” The figure then represents man in the larger and universal sense, which was also what the contemporary playwright Samuel Beckett was occupied with. In continuation of this, Tóibín argues that the space surrounding the sculpture is equally important and suggestive.

The sculpture series ‘Homme qui marche’ was made in the beginning of the 1960s, which meant that Giacometti and his contemporaries – including Beckett – were “living in the shadow of the Second World War” and trying to come to “philosophical terms” with that. The figure, Tóibín claims, is symptomatic of this as it’s both realistic and not realistic, epitomizing a character but also nullifying it: “You’re playing a game – but it’s a serious game – between the idea of the spirit, of the inner self, and the idea that the self is only the physical self. And you’re working between those things.”

Colm Tóibín (b. 1955) is an Irish novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, journalist, critic and poet. Among his novels are ‘The Heather Blazing’ (1992), ‘The Story of the Night’ (1996), ‘The Blackwater Lightship’ (1999), ‘The Master’ (2004), ‘Mothers and Sons’ (2006), ‘Brooklyn’ (2009), ‘The Empty Family’ (2010) and ‘Nora Webster’ (2014). He is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards including the 2004 Lambda Literary Award (for ‘The Master’), the 2006 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (for ‘The Master), 2009 Costa Novel Award (for ‘Brooklyn’) and the 2011 Irish PEN Award for contribution to Irish literature. Tóibín has also been shortlisted for the Booker Prize several times. He works as a professor at the Humanities at Columbia University in the U.S.

Colm Tóibín was interviewed by Kasper Bech Dyg in connection to the Louisiana Literature festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark in August 2015. The sculpture discussed in the interview is ‘Homme qui marche’ (Walking Man) (1960) by Italian Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) from the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art’s collection.

Camera: Mathias Nyholm
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015

Supported by Nordea-fonden


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