Péter Nádas Interview: The Role of the Writer

“I have a political animal lurking within me.” Péter Nádas, a major central European literary figure, was banned from writing for several years in the 1960s. In this video, he explains why he doesn’t consider himself a political writer, but that his obligation lies with his characters and the moral content and purpose of his sentences.

“When I’m writing I have to reflect,” Nádas says. This act of reflection, he continues, is not always a political act, but rather an emotional devotion or decision. The responsibility he feels is not about people’s wellbeing – “the democratically elected governments are there for that” – but rather his characters. In continuation of this, political attitudes are expressed through his different characters, and so he has to be able to shift from one point of view to another: “When you’re writing you can’t cling to one aspect or another aspect. Because then it’ll be a didactic novel or an essay or something else. But it won’t be narrative literature.”

Péter Nádas (b. 1942) is a Hungarian writer, playwright and essayist. Due to the content of his often surrealist tales, his work was banned from publication several times during the Communist rule in Hungary (Hungarian People’s Republic). Nádas is the author of ‘A Book of Memories’ (1986/ English translation 1997), which Susan Sontag called “the greatest novel written in our time.” Among his other books are ‘The End of a Family Story’ (1977/ English translation 1998) and the three-volume ‘Parallel Stories: A Novel’ (2005/ English translation 2011). Nádas is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Austrian State Prize for European Literature (1991), Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger (1998), Franz Kafka Prize (2003) and Würth-Preis für Europäische Literatur (2014).

Péter Nádas was interviewed by Steen Bille at Rungstedgaard in Rungsted, Denmark in connection with the Louisiana Literature festival in August 2018.

Camera: Klaus Elmer

Produced and edited by: Kasper Bech Dyg

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2019

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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