Saturday, February 2, 2019
Hope, Peace of Mind, and The Kind of Literature The World Needs
I was born without peace of mind. At least that's what it felt like, but what I know for a fact is that a huge part of it was taken from me when I was four and a half. The next fifty years was a struggle, but the terror inside was probably why I had to develop a sense of humor.
I've never needed medication for my anxieties. White wine was my medication. So was living in my imagination and unlocking secrets from the stars, but the last ten years I've almost become a grounded human being. Internally, my life has never been better than now and I'm actually grateful for the struggles I've had. I would have been a human disaster if I'd gotten everything I wanted when I was thirty-three.
The awareness I have now will change my writing in the future. Most of the fourteen novels I´ve written I wouldn't write today. The Tsar's Dwarf and Flødeskumsfronten, my World War II novel, have been my biggest successes and I'm proud of them, but they are too dark for me now. And my early novels from the nineties are probably too shallow. From now on I want to lift people's spirit but whether it will happen as a novelist, a screenwriter, a spiritual speaker, a poet, or just by being the village idiot I don't know.
When I was keynote speaker at the Book Forum in Lviv, Ukraine in 2017, I told the audience that the age of thrillers and intellectual masturbation will come to an end soon. In the future we're going to need a literature that speaks to the heart, a more upbeat one because we're heading toward troubled times with a lot of uncertainty around us.
Hope must never become a four-letter world, but in the world of literature and "serious" film it often is. We seem to be addicted to misery which is understandable since it's much easier to write and has more readers. Killing people on the page is a breeze. Making them breathe is a great deal harder. Perhaps the same goes for life, but a lot of people are waking up to the fact that every word we put out there is important.
Do we want to be human sewers trolling everybody we disagree with? Or is it possible to be agents of positive change without writing spiritual dross?
By positive change I don't mean we should go in Disney mode and sanitize ourselves. We still need dramas, tragedies, and edgy thrillers. Nobody in their right mind would want to "outlaw" zombies or police detectives, but the trick is writing them so we can learn something about the human condition instead of increasing the collective anxieties in our volatile world.
I can only talk for myself, but why would I consciously rob others of their peace of mind when I know how dreadful it is to live without it?