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My book: Silencios al sur
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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

On Why I write and Living in Norway

While I was growing up one thing was clear in my head: writing is about having something interesting to say.
The more I read and the more I talked to people, the more the idea was confirmed.
In the Peruvian Amazon or in the mountains of West Bengal, I'd often find myself surrounded by children waving their hands and giggling, all of them asking the same thing: did I have a pen I could spare?
They, too, had something to say.

But with time I've come to realize that for me, writing is about something else: it is about trying to understand.
Understanding means listening, asking questions, reflecting on the answers and then, asking yourself: have I asked the right question?
Living in Norway has been a blessing for me. My ear has become finer and more nuanced.
Many Norwegians are introvert and also, extremely attentive listeners. One can notice it even in the language when there is something they don't know they'll say to you: "Hør med Henrik, Hør med Hilde," go and hear with them, where as in other languages the suggestion would be: "Go and talk to, go and speak to."
It is in their culture to pay attention, to listen, and to try to understand.

The novelist Lionel Shriver, whom I had the chance to meet in London, recently wrote about her latest book: "I didn't want to publish dieting tips and slimming recipes, to write a thinly disguised self-help book....
A literary novel needed to dig down deeper."

I, too, have tried to dig down deeper in two of the stories that will appear this month in an anthology published by Holland House.The stories are about motherhood, loneliness, guilt and discrimination. All of them topics that I've put under my pillow hoping to understand, even if just a tiny bit more about.
In the anthology there will be also pieces by fellow writers Audrey Camp, Chelsea Ranger, Brian Talgo, Bree Switzer, Anna Maria Moore, Evelinn Enoksen and Zoe Harris, who also leads the Oslo International Writers' Group.

The Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf once said to me: "Finish it. Whatever you do, finish it."
And so I listened to his advise. The e-book will be released on the 17th of May and the print version on the 7th of June.

Lionel Shriver at the London Book Fair, 2013

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