"It is so inspiring to meet people passionate about books from all over the world".
© Eivind Røhne
As Director of NORLA (Norwegian Literature Abroad), Margit Walsø initiated Norway's Guest of Honour appearance at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2019 and is now one of its main organizers. Here, she talks about her personal relationship to Frankfurter Buchmesse, the highlights one should not miss of Norway as Guest of Honour and the hunger to make a difference of young female Norwegian authors.
What is your personal wish for Norwegian authors and the Norwegian literature in the light of this event?
Norwegian authors will certainly meet an interested audience at the book fair; German readers, but also professionals from the international book industry. My personal wish for the authors is to experience a cultural exchange, which is fruitful and inspiring. Being Guest of Honour will strengthen the literature life in Norway for the future. More than 450 books from and about Norway will be published from September 2018 until the end of this year, and not the least many books by very strong female voices. Lotta Elstad will talk with Vigdis Hjorth about feminism in fiction, and the authors of the successful book of personal stories Shameless is coming to the fair. The Literature House in Oslo is featuring a performance called The Political Body with the extraordinary author Maria Kjos Fonn. Many of them will participate in conversations with interesting German and international authors, and we’re proud to share that Margaret Atwood is coming to the Norwegian pavilion to talk about the fabulous art project in Oslo, The Future Library.
Since you are both - a successful author and director of NORLA (Norwegian Literature Abroad) – how does your perspective on Frankfurt differ, considering these two points of view?
From the perspective as director of NORLA - since we are involved in lot of facilitating activities between the Norwegian publishing industry and the international publishers, translators and literature festival organizers - the book fair is the most important place to be during the year. I used to be a publisher in the Norwegian publishing house Samlaget, and from my first visit to Frankfurt as an editor for fiction in the nineties, I was overwhelmed to see the international literature world gather and was inspired to meet people passionate about book from all over the world. The book fair with its multitude of ideas and stories is inspiring for me as an author as well, but I never attended the book fair in this role. I know that many authors can find the book fair too busy and crowded, but I believe that our Norwegian authors will feel a warm welcome as Guest of Honours. The Norwegian pavilion in Forum will be the place to be for all kind of book fair participants; a nice meeting place to listen to readings and conversations, meet people and to talk and listen to literature and music.
What, in your view, makes Norwegian literature so very successful all over the world?
The slogan for Norway as Guest of Honour is Det er den draumen/The Dream We Carry, which derives from the beloved poem ”It Is That Dream” by the Norwegian poet Olav H. Hauge. The last line in the poem is the hope ‘that one morning we‘ll glide into a cove we didn’t know’. This is what good literature does to its readers: it opens their hearts and takes them somewhere they have not been before. I think, literary quality, the willingness to experiment and a breadth of expressions and themes are defining features of Norwegian fiction, non-fiction and literature for children and young people. Literature from Norway is caracterized by good stories that doesn’t avoid discussing topics that are both difficult and important. Freedom of expression and equality is important and influences our literature. Also, due to a well-functioning literary system in Norway that fosters good readers and writers, the number of first-time writers remains high in Norway, which gives a rich inflow of new authors.
Maja Lunde, Erika Fatland, Åsne Seierstad, Maria Kjos Fonn, Marta Breen (tba) - one of the focus points of the Guest of Honour appearance is to shine a light on female authors and make new voices heard. What do you think drives this young generation of strong female authors?
According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2018, Norway is second best (after Island) in the world when it comes to equality between men and women. Norwegian female writers explore all facets of literature and the world today and write about everything they find interesting and important, without having to underline that they are women. The young generation of strong female authors act with confidence and is driven by a wish to use their opportunities and skills as writers to make an impact in the shaping of the future. They write about climate issues, they travel around the world and write about the global situation and they look into the individual stories between the sexes, the generation’s and children’s vulnerable situation in society. They want to do a difference with their writing. On the other hand, sometimes female authors need to do an extra effort to be heard, and cannot take their freedom for granted. A certain element of awareness that the struggle for rights is a continuously effort and this is still a motivation.
Thank you for the interview, Mrs. Walsø!
More information about the Guest of Honour you can find here: https://www.buchmesse.de/besuchen/privatbesucher/ehrengast
The Website of NORLA you can reach here: https://norway2019.com/de