We visited Jonathan Franzen at his California home, where he shared his approach to writing character-driven novels and his thoughts on being a writer in America: "I play for 'Team Literature' and so I'm on the lookout for things that threaten the team."
Franzen had a miserable time at junior high school and felt a need to dissociate, which reading books for hours on end made possible: "... that was how I survived." Reading gave him a sense of a social life, which he didn't have much of back then: "You have a community of real people and then you have a community that you form as a reader..."
"Pages are more interesting if you're blowing something open." Franzen considers himself to be a character-driven author, and compares creating fictional persons whom the reader will experience as real persons to a sort of drug: "There's something deeply wonderful about setting out to create a character from scratch." Moreover, he has come to realise that a writer's abilities are "not a whole lot bigger than the sum of what you've lived, or what you've encountered, the people you've encountered, the situations you've been in, the emotions you've experienced."
Technologically mediated relations are becoming a growing part of our lives, which essentially means that we have "increasing interactions with robots," which Franzen finds problematic for literature: "I do worry that the power of technology is so strong that we will see fewer people able to find the private space in which to develop a relationship with books."
Jonathan Franzen (b. 1959) is an American novelist and essayist. His novel 'The Corrections' (2001) received widespread critical acclaim and earned him a National Book Award, a James Tait Black Memorial Prize and placed in in the final for a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Franzen is also the author of the novels 'The Twenty-Seventh City' (1988), 'Strong Motion' (1992), 'Freedom' (2010) and Purity (2015).
Jonathan Franzen was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at his home in Santa Cruz, California in January 2016.
Camera: Jakob Solbakken
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2016