Five Questions for Lars Saabye Christensen

Norwegian novelist and poet Lars Saabye Christensen is one of his country's most celebrated writers. He appears at the book fair's Literary Cafe at 4 P.M. on Tuesday, February 22, when he will be interviewed by Israeli writer Amichai Shalev.


Norwegian novelist and poet Lars Saabye Christensen, 58, is one of his country's most celebrated writers. Among his dozens of published works, he may be best known for the novels "Beatles" (1984 ) and "The Half-Brother" (2001 ), the latter of which looks at the history of a highly unusual Oslo family in the decades following World War II.

Christensen will appear at the book fair's Literary Cafe at 4 P.M. on Tuesday, when he will be interviewed by Israeli writer Amichai Shalev.

Lars Saabye ChristensenCredit: Siv-Elin Nærø

1. How and when did you become a writer?
I grew up in a home that was full of books. From a young age, I was drawn to myths, short stories, fables. That didn't make me a writer, but rather a reader. The thing that made me start writing was actually rock music, especially the Beatles. It may be that the words interested me more than the music. I was a shy and confused adolescent growing up in Oslo, and I found that I was able to identify with these lyrics, with these songs. My first literary attempts involved translating the lyrics into Norwegian, though without great success. But then I discovered Knut Hamsun, in particular his novel "Hunger," and from that point there was no turning back. I was bewitched by his electrifying language.

At the age of 14, when "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" came out, I decided I would become a writer, without having any idea what that meant, or what I wanted to write. John Lennon and Knut Hamsun made me a writer.

2. How and where do you find material for your books?
I find it among people. I find it in tiny rooms and in passenger terminals, in dreams, in books, and in experiences from the past that are the poetry of memories. I find it among the streets in which I grew up. I find it in my senses. Imagination is the extension of experience.

3. Which writers have most influenced you?
Knut Hamsun, John Lennon, Marcel Proust, Graham Greene, Hans Christian Andersen, Joseph Conrad, Sigbjorn Obstfelder and Tom Waits, to name just a few.

4. What does it mean for you to participate in book fairs, in general, and in the Jerusalem International Book Fair, in particular?
The opportunity to meet new audiences in person. The opportunity to experience the way that your book is read and experienced in a different context than the Norwegian one. The opportunity to meet colleagues and maybe discover books that you otherwise wouldn't find. This is especially true with regard to the Jerusalem book fair.

5. What are you working on now?
I alternate between novels and poetry. It's a kind of rhythm that I have maintained now for 30 years. At present, I'm in a poetry period.



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