Rune Christiansen is a Norwegian poet and novelist. One of Norway’s most important literary writers, he is the author of more than 20 books of fiction, poetry and nonfiction. He has won many prestigious awards, including the 2014 Brage Prize for his bestselling novel, The Loneliness in Lydia Erneman’s Life. Fanny and the Mystery in the Grieving Forest, translated by Kari Dickson, was a finalist for the 2017 Brage Prize, and is his first book to appear in English. Christiansen is also a professor of creative writing. Rune lives just outside of Oslo, Norway. His appearance is supported by NORLA – Norwegian Literature Abroad.
Shauna Kosoris: What was the inspiration behind Fanny and the Mystery in the Grieving Forest?
Rune Christiansen: As always, there are events in my own life that find their way into the books, so is the case for the novel about Fanny. But when I write I set out to transform the biographical into something open and recognizable outside the personal sphere. I once saw a dog jump out of a high window, this memory, this simple but dramatic event, was the first image I noted when I started writing what was to become the novel about Fanny.
What was the most difficult part of writing this particular novel?
I have to say that the most difficult part was to trust my own intuition, and to be able to compose a dramatic whole of all the small events in Fanny’s life. And there are some personal experiences in the novel that it was difficult to put forward.
Fanny and the Mystery in the Grieving Forest is your first book to appear in English. Were you involved in the translation process?
The publisher was very generous; they let me read through and make suggestions for changes. But I have to say that the translator, Kari Dickson, had done a fantastic job, and so did the editors. I felt that the book was in very good hands at Book*hug.
Along with writing prose, you also write poetry. What first drew you to poetry?
I read a lot as a young man, and I still do. I came across an anthology of contemporary French poetry translated into Swedish, and I instantly felt at home with the genre, the diversity of the poetic practice.
Do you have a favourite poetic form to write?
No doubt the openness and autonomy of the free verse. In a way I’m a modernist in love with the classics.
You’re also a teacher. What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of teaching?
I am very interested in the editorial work. The challenge is to put away my own «hang ups», my own literature view, if I have one. And I love introducing and presenting books and authors.
So what are you working on now?
No new novel unfortunately. The last months and years have been awfully busy. The film rights for my previous novel, The Loneliness in Lydia Erneman’s Life, has been bought by a Norwegian filmmaker, and I am a little bit involved with writing the screenplay. Hopefully I will have time to sit down with some ideas at least for the first pages of a new novel in December.
Let’s finish up with a few questions about reading. What book or author inspired you to write?
Of course there are so many. But let me mention some without thinking too much: Colette, Virginia Woolf, Dorothy L. Sayers, Nathalie Sarraute.
Is there a book or author that you think everyone should read?
Again – there are so many. But let me pick one this time: Junichiro Tanizakis The Makioka Sisters.
And what are you currently reading?
Two books almost simultaneous: Julien Gracqs beautiful The Narrow Waters for the second time, and Josephine Tey: A Life, Jennifer Morag Henderson’s intriguing biography.