World known Norwegian freelance journalist and author Åsne Seierstad is currently doing a short, but intensive China tour; paying visits to Shanghai, Nanjing and Beijing. In addition to being one of the headliners at the Shanghai International Literary Festival, while staying in Shanghai she also held a press meeting at Changning Library, participated in a seminar at the prestigious Fudan University as well as doing a workshop with the Shanghai Writers Association.
More than 60 authors from 22 countries participated in the 8th annual Shanghai International Literary Festival, where Seierstad on March 6 took part in 2 separate events. Along with authors Riitta Jalonen (FIN), Lars Bukdahl (DK) and Sjon (ICL), she participated in a literary lunch with the theme “Nordic literature, Smorrebrod and Aquavit” where they discussed the implications of being writers from a remote Nordic country.
“Being from a small country that doesn’t have an imperialist background gives me a privilege authors from many other, bigger countries don’t have” she said. She jokingly describes Norway as “democratic to the bone”, that might be why we’ve often managed to keep an unbiased view on many of the conflicts in the world today.
“But my writing is that of a reporter; I have a realistic approach to writing, writing stories from the real world. I don’t regard myself as creative in the way that poets are” she said, referring to her fellow writers. “But understanding the culture I report from is crucial when I want do describe them later, therefore I always search for novels in the country I work in. My stories are out there, not inside me”.
At the Shanghai International Literary Festival, Seierstad also had a session where she told her experiences reporting from war-zones. Referring to her last book “The Angel of Grotzny” , she spoke of her experiences from being a reporter in a country torn by war, and how it has affected people there, especially the children. “In a novel you can write things that are hard to express in a news article, and in this case my writing technique is more apt for novels then news reporting”. Seierstad is known for her straight forward writing style, and she sometimes uses brutal means in her portrayal. “Chechnya is a forgotten conflict”, she explains. “It is necessary to use means that make people listen, I write out of consciousness.”