“I think that my job is to observe people and the world, and not to judge them. I always hope to position myself away from so-called conclusions. I would like to leave everything wide open to all the possibilities in the world.
I prefer translating to criticism, because you are hardly required to judge anything when you translate. Line by line, I just let my favorite work pass throu\gh my body and my mind. We need critiques in this world, for sure, but it’s just not my job.
At what age did you become a writer? Was it a surprise to you?
“When I was twenty-nine years old. Oh yes, it was a surprise. But I got used to it instantly.”
Instantly? From the first day of writing you felt comfortable?
“I started writing at the kitchen table after midnight. It took ten months to finish that first book; I sent it to a publisher and I got some kind of prize, so it was like a dream—I was surprised to find it happening. But after a moment, I thought, Yes, it’s happened and I’m a writer; why not? It’s that simple.
When I start to write a story, I don’t know the conclusion at all and I don’t know what’s going to happen next. If there is a murder case as the first thing, I don’t know who the killer is. I write the book because I would like to find out. If I know who the killer is, there’s no purpose to writing the story.
When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long—six months to a year—requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.
I think sex is an act of . . . a kind of soul-commitment. If the sex is good, your injury will be healed, your imagination will be invigorated. It’s a kind of passage to the upper area, to the better place. In that sense, in my stories, women are mediums—harbingers of the coming world.
My protagonist is almost always caught between the spiritual world and the real world. In the spiritual world, the women—or men—are quiet, intelligent, modest. Wise. In the realistic world, as you say, the women are very active, comic, positive. They have a sense of humor. The protagonist’s mind is split between these totally different worlds and he cannot choose which to take.
But some part of him is always in the other world and he cannot abandon it. It’s a part of him, an essential part. All human beings have a sickness in their minds. That space is a part of them. We have a sane part of our minds and an insane part. We negotiate between those two parts; that is my belief. I can see the insane part of my mind especially well when I’m writing—insane is not the right word. Unordinary, unreal. I have to go back to the real world, of course, and pick up the sane part. But if didn’t have the insane part, the sick part, I wouldn’t be here. In other words, the protagonist is supported by two women; without either of them, he could not go on.
I like to write comic dialogue; it’s fun. But if my characters were all comic it would be boring. Those comic characters are a kind of stabilizer to my mind; a sense of humor is a very stable thing. You have to be cool to be humorous. When you’re serious, you could be unstable; that’s the problem with seriousness. But when you’re humorous, you’re stable. But you can’t fight the war smiling.
My protagonist misses something, he has to search for it. He’s like Odysseus. He experiences so many strange things in the course of his search . . .He has to survive those experiences, and in the end he finds what he was searching for. But he is not sure it’s the same thing. It’s the driving power of my stories: missing and searching and finding. And disappointment, a kind of new awareness of the world.
Disappointment as a rite of passage. Experience itself is meaning. The protagonist has changed in the course of his experiences—that’s the main thing. Not what he found, but how he changed.
When I’m absorbed in writing, I know what the author is feeling and I know what the reader is feeling. That’s good—it gives my writing speed. Because I want to know what happens next as much as the reader does. But also you have to stop the current sometimes. If it gets too fast, people get tired and bored. You have to make them stop at a certain point.
The theme is this world and the other world; how you can come and go between them.”
“Since I’m a novelist I’m the opposite of you – I believe that what’s most important is what cannot be measured. I’m not denying your way of thinking, but the greater part of people’s lives consist of things that are unmeasurable, and trying to change all these to something measurable is realistically impossible.”