Hisham Matar & David Vann: Something Still About Writing



“Every time I’m described as a ‘novelist’, I feel there’s a big question mark after that,” Libyan novelist Hisham Matar jestingly remarks in this playful conversation with fellow American novelist, David Vann, about being essentially unoriginal.

“I’m only a writer when I’m writing. Now I feel like I’m pretending to be a writer,” Matar continues, commenting on the interview situation at the Louisiana Literature festival. For him, it all began when he abandoned his vocation as an architect, started painting houses and borrowed money in order to be able to finish his first novel. When it was time to let the book go, however, it wasn’t without a sense of fear: “It was a sort of shelter, a space that made sense of my life.”

David Vann had lost faith in ever becoming a writer. When his first book finally came through, it wasn’t fiction and was reviewed only by sailing magazines: “I felt like such a fake,” Vann says good-humouredly. A now acclaimed writer, Vann still does not take himself too seriously: “None of us are original, we’re essentially derivative. We’re made up out of all the works that we’ve ingested and loved and read over and over.”

David Vann (born 1966) is the author of several books, including ‘Legend of a Suicide’ (2008), ‘Caribou Island’ (2011) and ‘Goat Mountain’ (2013), which have been published in more than 20 languages. He has received numerous prices, including Best Foreign Novel in France and Spain, and the St. Francis College Literary Prize 2013. Vann works as a creative writing professor at the University of Warwick in England and is an Honorary Professor at the University of Franche-Comté in France.

Hisham Matar (born 1970) is a Libyan-born novelist, who in 1986 moved to London, where he still resides. Matar holds a degree in architecture as well as a MA in Design Futures from Goldmiths, University of London. His debut novel ‘In the Country of Men’ was shortlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize. Matar’s second novel ‘Anatomy of a Disappearance’ was published in 2011.

David Vann and Hisham Matar were interviewed by Tonny Vorm at the Louisiana Literature festival in 2012, in front of a painting by German artist Jonathan Meese, at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark.

Camera: Jakob Solbakken & Martin Kogi
Edited by: Kamilla Bruus
Produced by: Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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