Author Reading: Rosa Liksom and Kjell Westö
It seems to have been an exciting week at the Literature House in Hamburg. Eleven authors from the Nordic countries have come to the 14. Nordic Literature Days, an event which takes place every two years. Per Olov Enquist and Jostein Gaarder are so popular, their readings were sold out before they even got here.
Crowds filled the room on Tuesday evening as well – at least 120 people came to listen to Rosa Liksom and Kjell Westö present their latest (translated) novels. Stefan Moster, a German who lives in Finland (and who translated Hytti nro. 6 into German) moderated the reading and the German text was read by actress Katja Danowski.
Rosa Liksoms novel Compartment number 6 (Hytti nro. 6) takes place in a compartment of the Trans-Siberian train from Moscow to Ulan Bator in 1986. A young Finnish woman has to share a compartment with a Russian man. He talks. She is silent. Rosa Liksom explained that her love for Russia began when she was a fifteen year old girl and took a so-called ‘vodka tourist’ bus from Rovaniemi to Murmansk. She said that when a girl from the country (she grew up in an eight-house village in Lapland) sees the lights of a big city for the first time, she is likely to fall in love with this city. And in her case, the big city was… well…Murmansk.
Katja Danowski read passages from the novel in German and the voice of the Russian man she did with a Russian accent so vivid that during the reading one was transported into compartment number 6 (had the Literature House had a few bottles of vodka to pass around at this time, the atmosphere would have been perfect).
Kjell Westö (who speaks fluent German) is an extremely popular Finnish-Swedish author and his novel Don’t Go out into the Night Alone is a sort of Jules & Jim story which begins in the 1960’s in Helsinki with an unlikely friendship between two very different boys. Music plays a major role in the story and Stefan Moster said that it was almost as though a soundtrack was playing throughout the novel (now there’s an idea – sell the book together with a CD of the music described in it…)
Stefan Moster, the moderator, is not only a translator, but an author himself. I leafed through his latest book Die Frau des Botschafters – I don’t think it has been translated into English – at the Book Fair and it seemed like an interesting story (and it’s set in Finland!)