A conversation with Siri Hustvedt

Coincidence as phenomenon and dramatic engine is perpetually present in Norwegian-American Siri Hustvedt’s oeuvre and in particular in her break-through novel What I Loved.

I will admit straight away that this interview is an experiment. This is my personal investigation of why Siri Hustvedt invariably is the person I mention when people ask me who I would like to meet, if given the opportunity. While others answer God, Gandhi, or Paul Auster, for years my answer has been the latter’s wife, Siri, based solely on the novel What I Loved. This book, more than any other literary experience, has marked me, entered my blood and become part of me.

When I think of the characters in the novel, Bill, Erica, Violet, Leo, and Matt, they occupy the same space in my mental inventory as my real-life relatives Anette, Fanny, Harry, Sam, and Sally, whose names I cannot even write without grief echoing through every cell in my body, making me heavy and warm. They were my family, and they died in a car accident, which irrevocably changed the keynote of my life. That is why the novel What I loved, in which death plays a significant role, has had a special importance for me since I read it the first time. And Siri Hustvedt is precisely the person I most often have wanted to ask about loss. About losing and losing oneself. About how we human beings get back on our feet and find the true core of what we are. All these subjects that function as governing principles in her writing.

“I really am interested in why people become who they are,” she says repeatedly in the course of the next hour.

I, on the other hand, am more interested right now in who she is, and not least how she manages to write stories that are as much alive in my mind as the people I loved.

Continue reading in Oak volume Two