Sally Rooney Interview: On ‘Conversations with Friends’


“The history of the novel is really a history of the love story.” Enjoy this lively conversation with the praised literary phenomenon, Sally Rooney, who has been hailed as “the Salinger for the Snapchat generation.” The Irish writer talks about love in relation to her prizewinning novel ‘Conversations with Friends’.

“Every time I moved one, I was interested to see how all the others moved.” Through the rectangular dynamics between four different people, Rooney explores why love is so central to our idea of being human. The narrator – who is preoccupied with the idea of the capitalist transactional nature of how our social world is structured – engages in an affair with a married man and immediately understands the archetype that this kind of story conforms to. This, however, also prevents her from understanding what’s actually going on: “She superimposes a familiar narrative on what’s going on in her personal life.”

Rooney doesn’t believe in the unaffected individual unit: “There is no you without others. There is no version of yourself that isn’t constantly influenced by everybody else in your life.” Any language of theory that we use to explain human experience “on an analytical or conceptual level,” she argues, is hard to make work in our everyday life. When she writes, Rooney asks herself how to take these ideas and principles “and make sense of them not in a broad social or political way, but in a very miniature way of people’s intimate lives, of love stories? How can a love story be Marxist?” People, she continues, can indeed be changed by other people, as we need others to love us, and the importance of human relationships should not be disregarded: “Whatever form they take. They don’t need to be conventional, they can be very unconventional, but they’re not just optional, you can’t just opt out of the rest of humankind.”

Sally Rooney (b. 1991) is an Irish writer. Rooney is the author of ‘Conversations with Friends’ (2017) and ‘Normal People’ (2018). The latter won the ‘Irish Novel of the Year’ at the Irish Book Awards as well the Costa Book Award, which Rooney is the youngest novelist to land. Rooney is also the winner of the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award 2017. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Granta and The London Review of Books. Moreover, she is the editor of the Irish literary journal The Stinging Fly.

Sally Rooney was interviewed by Martin Krasnik at the Louisiana Literature festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark in August 2018.

Camera: Jakob Solbakken & Simon Weyhe

Edited by: Klaus Elmer

Produced by: Christian Lund

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

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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