Jan Kjærstad Interview: How I Write a Novel



Writing a novel means accumulating ideas and fragments of dialogue written by hand on random scraps of paper. Meet the award-winning Norwegian author Jan Kjærstad, who here describes the significant first chaotic time of his three-year-long writing process

“I hope that things will build up and collide and crystallize into something more interesting than something else.” During the initial year, Kjærstad writes down his ideas, using different kinds of pens and on different kinds of paper – from the back of a newspaper to pretty stationery – placing everything in a file called simply ‘Novel’. If he starts getting impatient before time, he forces himself to stay in the chaos until he can start picking out the places in the text “that are on fire”: “There are places within this 400-page manuscript where it’s burning. You can see fire, it’s hot, and I then try to lift it out and elaborate, and then I sit at the desk for a long time.” This concludes this “nomadic author’s life” and more than a year of extending and editing the important text fragments commences: “There are days when you write more, and some, where you write less. But in your head and your body, you work more and more intensively until you hand in the manuscript to the publisher.”

Jan Kjærstad (b. 1953) is a Norwegian author. Kjærstad is the recipient of numerous prizes including the Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature (1985) and Doblougprisen (2000), and in 2001 he won the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize for his novel trilogy about the TV personality Jonas Wergeland – ‘The Seducer’ (Forføreren, 1993), ‘The Conqueror’ (Erobreren, 1996) and ‘The Discoverer’ (Oppdageren, 1999). He is also the author of several novels and short story collections such as ‘The Earth Turns Quietly’ (Kloden dreier stille rundt, 1980), ‘The King of Europe’ (Kongen av Europa, 2005) and ‘Berge’ (2017).

Jan Kjærstad was interviewed by Klaus Rothstein in connection with the Louisiana Literature festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark in August 2018.

Camera: Klaus Elmer
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2018

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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