WRITER NO. 1
The first writer I saw at this year’s festivaletteratura in Mantua was Bjorn Larsson, a Swedish novelist. (No relation to Stieg.)
His works include The Celtic Circle and Long John Silver. I have read neither of them.
Bjorn Larsson surprised and delighted the crowd – well me, anyway – with his fluent Italian. This meant there was no need for an interpreter and the interview flowed more smoothly as a result.
Larsson’s novels sell particularly well in Italy and apparently Italian women fall for his Long John Silver character. They write to him and tell him about it! He didn’t mention how women of other nationalities react to Long John S.
His latest book, Dead Poets Can’t Write Crime Fiction, also sounds intriguing but you can’t judge a book by its title, its cover or its reviews. You also can’t judge a book from an interview with its author, even if he is quite charming.
WRITER NO. 2
The second writer I saw was an Englishman, Edmund de Waal. As well as being a writer, he is also a famous potter, ceramicist and art critic of note. His book, The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance, is a family memoir told by tracing the history of de Waal’s inherited collection of tiny Japanese sculptures (aka netsuke).
This interview was less successful, partly because of the setting – a lecture hall – the outdoor events are more personal, more relaxed.
Also, de Waal’s words had to be translated into Italian by an interpreter. This always disrupts the flow of the dialogue and requires patience on the part of the audience. That said, the festival would be worse off without its international and non-Italian speaking writers.
De Waal made his book sound intriguing, although I probably won’t be reading it. It’s about a fabulously wealthy European family who were titled, talented and beautiful and who rubbed shoulders with the great European artists of the last century. They suffered at the hands of the Nazis and would have lost the netsuke had it not been for a faithful servant…It seems to be a story worth telling, and reviews suggest that de Waal tells it well, but it simply doesn’t appeal to my current tastes. It’s not what I’m hungry to hear at the moment.
So there you have it: my brush with two likeable writers whose works I have no immediate intention of reading!