I associated all my experiences at that time with the books I read. I was not so far off-target in seeing the uninhibitedly laughing mob of adults as cannibals, such as I knew and feared from The Arabian Nights and Grimm’s fairy tales. Fear thrives strongest; there is no telling how little we would be without having suffered fear. An intrinsic characteristic of humanity is the tendency to give in to fear. No fear is lost, but its hiding places are a riddle. Perhaps, of all things, fear is the one that changes least. When I think back to my early years, the very first things I recognise are the fears, of which there was an inexhaustible wealth. I find many of them only now; others, which I will never find, must be the mystery that makes me want an unending life.
Elias Canetti, The Tongue Set Free: Remembrance of a European Childhood, Trans from the German by Joachim Neugroschel
The Tongue Set Free with pod from Milk weed placed over the cover
But if the actual writing of the book [A Little Life] was brief, it’s only now that I realize that I had been thinking of this novel for far longer. I began collecting photography when I was 26, 14 years ago; and when I actually began writing, it was these images I returned to, again and again: They provided a sort of tonal sound check, as it were — was I conveying in words and scenes what I felt when I saw these photographs and paintings? Now that the book is done, I realize that these images are now so inextricable from the book — and my experience of writing it — that looking at them again is somehow jolting: They’ve become a visual diary of that year and a half, and I find myself unable to look at them without thinking of the life of my novel.
Hanya Hanagihara: How I Wrote My Novel: Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, Vulture April 28/2015
(from here) .. where you can see the images that influenced the writing of the novel
(HenningMankell describes his response to looking at paintings)
Every picture that means something special to me also has a story to tell, even if they open different doors to the ones opened by written texts.
I am constantly reminded that we human beings are basically storytellers. More Homo narrans than Homo sapiens. We see ourselves in others’ stories. Every genuine work of art contains a small fragment of glass from a mirror.
(from here) Henning Mankell: The Last Farewell,
When I was eight or nine years old I passed through a period in which I kept thinking about what kind of death frightened me most of all. That is nothing remarkable – people have such thoughts at that age. Life and death begin to be serious topics that one needs to come to terms with. Children are extremely serious creatures. Not least when they reach the age when they slowly take the step that changes them into conscious human beings – conscious of the fact that they have an identity that cannot be changed. Over the years what one looks like in a mirror changes, but behind that mirror image is always the real you.
Your identity is formed when you decide your attitude towards serious questions. That is something known to everybody who has not forgotten all about their childhood.
What frightened me more than anything else was falling through the ice on a lake or a river and being sucked underneath the ice sheet, unable to break through to the surface. To drown just underneath the ice through which you could see the sun shining. Suffocating in the cold water. Being overcome by panic from which no one could rescue you. Screaming without being heard. Screams that froze and turned into ice.
That kind of fear was not so strange: I grew up in the province of Härjedalen where the winters were long and severe.
Around that time, a girl about my age actually did fall through the all-too-thin ice on the Sandtjärn lake. I was there when they recovered her body. The word had spread very fast through Sveg. Everybody came running up. It was a Sunday. Her parents were standing next to the lake where the black water in the hole stood out among all the whiteness of the ice and snow. When the volunteer firemen had dragged out the girl with their grappling irons, her parents didn’t react as they would have done in a film or a book. They didn’t burst into tears. They were completely silent. It was others who wept. Her teacher, I recall. The vicar and the girl’s closest friends.
Somebody vomited into the snow. It was very quiet. The white clouds of breath coming out of everybody’s mouths were like incomprehensible smoke signals.
Henning Mankell, Quicksand: What It Means to Be a Human Being translated by the late Laurie Thompson
(from here) The Guardian
Filed under memories, story
Hilary Mantel reflects on her friendship with Elizabeth Jane Howard
No doubt the best conversations are those that never quite occur. I sensed that we both lived in hope, and had frequently lived on it. I always felt there was something I should ask her, or something she meant to ask me. . . . In Jane’s novels, the timid lose their scripts, the bold forget their lines, but a performance, somehow, is scrambled together; heads high, hearts sinking, her characters head out into the dazzle of circumstance. Every phrase is improvised and every breath a risk. . .
Elizabeth Jane Howard:Hilary Mantel on the novelist she tells everyone to read. The Guardian 30/1/2016