Events / People

A day of literature: my private passa porta

I have been ignoring my blog for months, devoting the little writing time I have got to my new novel. But I cannot resist writing about my passa porta experience. I bought the parcours badge and was faced with making some difficult choices. As the weather has not been at all in favour of literature today, with very unpleasant diagonal rain, making sure everyone gets wet despite the umbrellas, I finally decided to stick to Bozar. I spent the whole afternoon there and listened to the public conversations with four authors: Pascal Mercier (Switzerland), Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (Russia), Valeria Luiselli (Mexico) and Ian Mcewan (UK).

All the conversations were engaging and inspirational in their own way. The writers shared their insights about writing, literature, time. I have taken notes of some of the things they said.

Pascal Mercier: “I think that how we experience the time, our attitude to it has a reflection on how our life passes. (…) The temporality determines the life of a person.”

Intellectual, profound discussion over time, space, history and how they find their places in his writing.

In passa porta’s words: “Pascal Mercier made his international breakthrough with his third novel Night Train to Lisbon, selling two million copies in the German-speaking world. Under his real name, Peter Bieri, this Swiss philosopher has published.”

Ludmilla Petrushevskaya: “I think that Dostoyevsky and Chekhov were anti-semitists. (…) My inspirations comes from the stories of people I meet. I am a chronologist, an analyst Only my fairy-tales come from me, all the rest comes from life. (…) Publishers were asking me to write novels not novellas. But what does this mean? A novella, even a short story, can be a novel too…”

(c) Anastassia Kazakova

(c) Anastassia Kazakova

Very strong presence of an exceptional woman. Ludmila Petrushevskaya along with being a writer, sings, paints, performs. She was very natural, feminine, Slav. The meeting started in a full hall with people standing and sitting on stairs. After the twentieth minute they started leaving in groups. I could only guess that they had expected some serious talking about the Soviet regime and the realities of being a forbidden writer. Instead she offered artistism, frivolous behaviour, simple way of speaking and humour. I haven’t read her work yet but I found her glamorous. And, obviously, not easy to handle in a society where the depth is ought to come with a serious, self-centred and solemn face .

In passa porta’s words: Ludmilla Petrushevskaya ‘s work could not be published under the Soviet regime. This injustice has since been corrected with countless literary prizes and a national celebration for her 70th birthday. Thanks to publications in The Paris Review and n+1, her work is also being discovered in the West. A unique opportunity to meet ‘Russia’s greatest living writer’ (The New York Times).

Valeria Luiselli: “I am interested in the meaning we give to a name. We can still use the same name but change the content and it is the content what matters” (about her giving the full names of famous writers such as Cortazar and Borges to her characters who are ordinary people – not a completely exact quote in terms of wording but capturing the content)) “I am not crazy. The reality is.”

© Alfredo Pelcastre

© Alfredo Pelcastre

Very confident and intelligent presence combined with great sense of humour. This was well reflected in the extract she read from her forthcoming novel The Story of My Teeth.

In passa porta’s words: “Seen as the new star in the firmament of Mexican literature, the young Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli presents the Dutch translation of her second novel, The Story of My Teeth (forthcoming).”

Ian McEwan: “The writer has to be curious about what he is writing. The reader has to be curious as well. (…) There is a world of objects around us which I also try to capture in my novels. (…) There is no exact expression to describe the pleasure of writing something which satisfies you. It is a different state from the joy one gets from eating, sex etc. Still this is one of the greatest pleasures in life” (not a completely exact quote in terms of wording but capturing the content).

(c) Joost van den Broek

(c) Joost van den Broek

Listening to McEwan was another intellectual pleasure. His insights about writing and literature made me think about my own process and how I experience it.

In pasa porta’s words: “Don’t miss the festival’s closing event at BOZAR. British writer Ian McEwan ‘s output rests on his fascination for the human mind. Fiction enables him to expose from the inside subjects such as ecology, power, religion and science. He places his characters in moral dilemmas in the post-9/11 world. Annelies Beck talks with ‘England’s national writer’ ( The New Yorker ) about his work and our time.”

In conclusion on my private passa porta: A wonderful, enriching experience provoking all sorts of (self)reflections. More fictional worlds to discover. And some extra motivation for my own writing.

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