Siri Hustvedt & Paul Auster: Interviewed Together


“Writing fiction is like remembering what never happened.” Two of the greatest contemporary American writers here talk about their own and each other’s oeuvre. Watch Siri Hustvedt and Paul Auster discuss current American politics and the book as a musical composition – and enjoy Hustvedt reading from her collection of essays ‘A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women’ (2016) and Auster from his 2017-novel ‘4321’.

Hustvedt and Auster talk about why some writing rings false to the reader: “A good writer builds up trust in the reader, and then you can go on all these long journeys with the writer. If you doubt the writer, then the pleasure is taken away,” says Auster. “Good works of fiction, whether you’re writing or reading them, you feel that the writer had had the courage to go into places that may be frightening but true,” Hustvedt continues. Both agree that in order to make a good book, you have to get rid of a lot of good material and that a book is about pace and rhythm – like a musical composition. Furthermore, it is a unique place for the meeting of minds, and Hustvedt finds that novels allow us to have experiences that we would otherwise never have had, expanding our consciousness in a way that is impossible in other art forms.

The writers also comment on current American politics and “the monster in office now.” They find that Trump is the culmination of several year’s growing right-wing power in the United States, and a loss of faith in the government and in democracy, which is making the country fall apart. The election of Obama was a happy moment for many, including the two writers, but they also realize that a violent antipathy toward him was instantly formed, as white male privilege had been undermined – 68 percent of Trump’s voters where white males without college education: “The idea of a black man in the White House was revolting to them, and they couldn’t stomach the idea that he was president.” The great thing they did by electing Obama, Auster remarks, “turned out, in the end, to be what created this reaction that has turned into a nightmare.”

Siri Hustvedt (b. 1955) is an American author and essayist who has written poetry, novels, essays, and works of non-fiction. Her books include ‘The Blindfold’ (1992), ‘What I Loved’ (2003), ‘The Sorrows of an American’ (2008), ‘The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves’ (2010), ‘The Summer Without Men’ (2011) and ‘The Blazing World’ (2014) for which she was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. In 2016 she published ‘A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind’. She holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University. Hustvedt lives in New York City. For more see: sirihustvedt.net/

Paul Auster (b. 1947) is an American novelist. He has published numerous novels such as the ‘The New York Trilogy’ (1985-1987), ‘Moon Palace’ (1989), ‘The Music of Chance’ (1990), ‘Leviathan’ (1992’), ‘The Book of Illusions’ (2002), ‘Man in the Dark’ (2008), ‘Sunset Park’ (2010) and ‘4321’ (2017), as well as autobiographical books such as ‘The Invention of Solitude’ (1982), ‘Winter Journal’ (2012) and ‘Report From the Interior’ (2013). He has also written screenplays for several films, including ‘Smoke’ (1995). Auster is the recipient of prestigious awards such as the Prix Médicis Étranger (1993) and the John William Corrington Award for Literary Excellence.

Siri Hustvedt and Paul Auster were interviewed by Kim Skotte in August 2017 at the Louisiana Literature festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark.

Camera: Mathias Nyholm Edited by: Klaus Elmer Produced by: Christian Lund Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2018

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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