Saturday, 31 October 2009

Genre Writing and Writing Genres: Storytelling and Idiosynchrasies in Different Media and Genres

I recently wrote the post "Comics – A Medium Not a Genre", and I would like to follow up on that with a discussion on format, both in terms of medium and genre. The reason behind this is that there sometimes exists a flawed assumption that any good storyteller by default can tell a story in any medium or genre, and even worse, with equal skill. As if the art of storytelling was so universal as to negate any idiosyncrasies of medium or genre. True, there are universal elements, elements that can be used in many (if not all) media or genres, but there are nevertheless differences that cannot be overlooked.

A great poet need not make a good novelist, nor vice versa. By the same token, a great science fiction writer need not make a good fantasy writer. Nor does a writer in the medium of literature necessarily play well in the medium of film, or a film script writer well in the medium of comics.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that one thing excludes the other (there are plenty of writers who have mastered writing within several genres and within several media). All I'm suggesting is that it is by no means a given.

Even if we look at the most ordinary type of narrative prose fiction and compare some writers' efforts within the same type of content genre (I will be talking more about genre in an upcoming post), but in terms of novels and short stories, there are clearly some writers who are either better at the succinct format or at the longer one. The former might seem to drag his/her material out or even get lost in the effort when writing in the longer format, whereas the latter might seem cut short in the briefer format. In fact, it might not even be so clear cut a deal, not a question of good or bad as much as "not quite as good." The point, however, nevertheless stands.

And what this points to is that a writer must know and master the format. Whether the format is a genre or a medium (or even more likely an intersection of genres in a medium; say a science fiction thriller novel, citing a cross-breed of two content genres (SF and thriller), one format genre (the novel), told in the medium of literature), it is a question of knowing how that genre and/or medium functions.

In my post on comics as a medium (referred to in the opening line), I brought up the example of Angel After the Fall in order to show a difference between the media of comics and film. This difference was shown by my pointing to a failure on Brian Lynch's part to understand it in his writing a comics script that (at least partly) reads like a film script. The end result in this particular case, as stated, is not bad (not at all, I hasten to add), but there is no escaping the fact that the inclusion of Lynch's script reveals an intended effect that has not only failed to come across in the finished product; it never had a chance of coming across in that way in the first place, simply because comics aren't film (for details on the argument, see that earlier post).

From my own point of view, understanding a medium or a genre is part of the fun of tackling a particular medium or genre. Writing the script for a film or a comic should not be handled the same as writing a novel, nor even writing a comic script as you would write a film script. There are differences (sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle), but the writer needs to understand these. He or she needs to play to the strengths of the medium at hand, and be aware of any potential weaknesses.

For instance, adapting Joyce's famous stream of consciousness ending of Ulysses to film with an ongoing (near mad) voice-over narration would, most likely, be catastrophic in terms of film-making and most likely quite boring (and yes, there are, of course, those who would argue that Joyce's own version isn't exactly a whole lot of fun either, but bear with me). Translating the sequence to a visual stream of consciousness perspective, however, might better suit Joyce's idea in itself, not to mention work much better in the medium of film. And, while a director is clearly the artistic captain of the film-making ship, it behoves the script writer nevertheless to write for the medium at hand. Because why should he or she write a lengthy, wordy, voice-over adaptation of Joyce's monologue if it is to be thrown out from the get go? Why not think that little bit extra and write a set of visual cues for the director to stage and operate? After all, a script writer for a film is not writing a novel (something that should be even more abundantly clear in a case of adaptation as just hypothetically described), but a script for a film. Shouldn't that script in itself be a blueprint to a successful finished product? Shouldn't it be all about visualising just that?

Maybe it's just me, but it seems strange to happily attempt to write for a medium or a genre without contemplating what it is, how it works, and how you could make it work for your story.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Research, Knowledge and Uninformed Opinionatedness

Last Saturday, Dr Jenny Mattsson defended her PhD dissertation The Subtitling of Discourse Particles. A corpus-based study of well, you know, I mean, and like, and their Swedish translations in ten American films (abstract and full text available here) at Göteborg University. Now the day before the event, the Swedish newspaper Göteborgs-Posten (GP) ran a short interview piece with her, entitled "Hon forskade sex år på småord" (Eng. trans. She researched small words for six years), which came across as somewhat odd.

To understand this oddity, I should say a few things up front.
1) Göteborgs-Posten is one of the major Swedish newspapers, especially on the western side of the country, what with it being based in Göteborg.
2) Göteborg has one of the country's biggest universities, which is by no means strange, considering it is the second biggest city in the country.
3) GP no longer reviews PhD dissertations within the humanities (with the exception for the odd dissertation on literature).

Bearing all this in mind, and for the moment leaving aside the obvious criticism against this being the case, I would like to return to the interview piece. The title itself sets a rather nasty tone (some might call it passive-aggressive) and throughout it becomes rather obvious what the interviewer wants his subject to say; that she has wasted her time and the tax payers' money researching small words (otherwise known as discourse particles) for the time period in question. Because clearly this is wasteful research, right? Joakim Lundgren at GP at least seems fairly sure of it. The question of course being how he knows this. Did he actually read the piece? It does seem unlikely, to be frank, and if anything it is more likely that he has read (or perhaps browsed through) the abstract, and from that formed a rather fixed opinion. An opinion which he then carries into the interview under the less than successful guise of objectivity. The piece as presented on-line is then followed by reader commentaries (the obvious option in this day and age), set off with the slogan "Tyck till! Behöver småorden uppmärkas mer?" (Eng. trans. What's your opinion? Do small words need to get more attention?), and the result, not very surprising, is not nice. Rather it is, at least in part, uninformed and quite ugly.

Do not get me wrong. A strong debate is good. As is a diversity of opinions. But when the opening argument is uninformed and opinionated, how can a good debate ensue? Especially when the original piece is slanted to such a degree that most readers will be following the suggested path laid down by Lundgren. And then it is very easy to say that this is wasteful research (as many people seem to think most research outside of medicine and technology is).

I am not saying that "wasteful" research does not exist. Of course, it does. The question is whether we can easily decide what is valuable research and what is not. And when. Many people like to say that the humanities and the social sciences are less valuable, more or less simply because they are harder to apply in a utilitarian fashion. But I am sure that a lot of those people would be shocked if they knew some of the research being done in medicine or technology too. Because some of that might look wasteful to the uninformed eye as well. Not to mention that some of it may be wasteful... as of yet. I am convinced that a lot of these people, if left in charge of research funding and left uninformed, might well have put a stop to the discovery of penicillin. I mean, why do research on mould, right?

A few weeks back, blogger Tom Karlsson wrote a blog post (in Swedish) in response to a newspaper column by another journalist, Richard Swartz, in Dagens Nyheter, another Swedish paper (found here). The column was obviously a cry of "sour grapes" concerning newspaper journalism losing ground to uninformed blogging (though not without its serious points about problems in newspaper journalism), which quite obviously and rightly irritated my blogging friend quite a bit. Because while there may well be reason to lament the loss of money invested in serious journalism and news analysis (of various kinds) at the newspapers today, this is largely the newspapers' own fault. And GP's piece mentioned above shows this very clearly. Because if a serious newspaper moves into uninformed and opinionated writing, which they then, in a very populistic fashion, open up to something less akin to a debate and more rightly described as pure opinionatedness to a large degree; then where are we heading?

If the individual cost of doing research is being ridiculed for one's work, not because it is bad, not even because somebody has critically gone over the work and found it wanting, but simply because somebody who cannot be bothered to actually read the work is opinionated in an unfavourable way (which is not to say that opinionatedness is any better if favourable, though clearly more easily digested and less offensive); then who do we expect will ever want to do research? And societies need a healthy and diversified research climate, within all branches of academic knowledge (and perhaps beyond).

Now the cost of useful research in any society is a lot of research, and a lot of that research will not in and of itself have a utilitarian purpose. However, we cannot judge everything by its utilitarian purpose, partly because of the fact that not being able to see the present utilitarian application of something at the present time does not equate that we will not be able to do that at a future point in time. But more importantly, how will we ever be able to know beforehand which research will provide us with useful answers? And useful to whom? For what purposes? And in what sense? Clearly these things need to be constantly discussed and argued, but in an informed manner. They need not be hung up as public spectacle and ridiculed by uninformed, opinionated people posing as objective professionals or people trusting the judgement of such people.

I am reminded of something said at a seminar at this year's Book Fair in Göteborg by Sven-Eric Liedman (Professor Emeritus of the History of Ideas at Göteborg University). In a discussion, Liedman brought up the importance of public fora and public debate, but pointed to a problem in today's society, namely that we tend to overemphasise the existence of such debate rather than the quality of it. Liedman made the point that we live in a time when it is very easy for anyone to start a blog and write a blog post, which may then in turn set off a debate or discussion in the comment section. But if the first post, the root of the debate, is merely a set of uninformed opinions, where will that leave the debate? Especially, if it merely reiterates the presentation of opinions, albeit it different in various ways and degrees.

Now, it might be easily assumed that Liedman's critical statement echoes that of Swartz's column in DN, but I am not convinced that that is the case. Swartz seems, somewhat weirdly (given his own comment that there is always a reader who knows and has understood more than the journalist/writer), set in seeing the blogs in and of themselves as part of the problem, whereas Liedman's caution rather seems to suggest that we need to consider any form of debate or discussion in qualitative terms; to consider where it stems from and what knowledge it rests upon.

As such, it is not the medium itself which should be blamed for the quality of the debate involved, but rather how the debate is set up. And on this account Lundgren's piece in GP (and by default GP itself for running the piece) failed miserably. Because nothing much good can come from uninformed opinions in the long run.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Comics — A Medium Not a Genre

There is a common, flawed assumption that comics are some form of (sub)literary genre, right next to your supposedly lesser genres of thriller, SF, horror and fantasy.

This, however, is untrue!

The argument that comics would be a literary genre is about as valid as claiming that film is a literary genre. Film is clearly a different medium from literature and while both literature and film can be, and most often are, used for storytelling (i.e., for narrative purposes), they are also different in how they can and do achieve this.

Comics, of course, also operate differently than literature. It is quite clearly more visual in nature than regular literature, which is fundamentally conceptual in that we have to imagine what we as readers "see" before our inner eyes, guided by the literary text itself. Yet, I also find Will Eisner's comment on comics being "movies on paper" to be an equal the medium. Sure, the argument could be made that comics are, in some sense, closer as a medium to film than to literature (at any rate, it is at least closer to film than literature is), but even then we are missing things, like film being an audiovisual medium, for instance (whereas comics are merely visual).

Most importantly though, I would argue for the following distinction:
Film is a temporal medium. It shows the viewer a sequence of images all placed, as it were, in the same space yet sequenced in time. As such, a film unlike say a novel actually has a set time for its own consumption (sure we can play with pauses and fast forwarding these days if we want to, but if we just want to watch the film, it is a certain number of minutes).

Comics, however, are a spatial medium. Like film it is based on visual sequential storytelling, but unlike film, the sequence is not set in time but in space. Each frame holds a specific space on a single page, each page holds a specific place in the comicbook or TPB, and the sequences of frames on each page together with the sequences of pages forms the narrative, is the narrative.

I actually found a good example to illustrate this difference when I read the first Angel After the Fall collection. Now don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed this comic, but in the extra material was an included script and I reacted to one thing in particular. Writer Brian Lynch indicates time and again that he builds up each page as a scene thinking very filmically, i.e. he sets each page up to hold a surprise reveal at the end (which will work as a sort of cliffhanger and keep the audience's interest). What struck me, however, was that this did not quite come across in the finished product. In fact, it could not. See, in film, temporal as it is, the end of the scene will not be known until we reach that particular point in time. In a comic, however, anything that I can see by a glance at the end of the page or even at the opposing page, will not come as a full on surprise for me when I reach that place. Rather, I will read the whole scene being fully (or at the very least partially) aware of what the reveal will be. For the surprise to function in a comic, the final panel on the page must instead be the cliffhanger setting up the reveal and the reveal itself needs to be in the first panel on the next page (letting the scene end there, as it were), or even effectively in some cases as a full splash page (the latter of course works particularly well with cliffhanger endings to an issue/chapter, etc.).

Another rather clear cut example, which differentiates comics as a medium, this time from literature, is a sequence from Gaiman and McKean's early masterpiece, Violent Cases. Now, while comics can be "silent" in that they only require sequential art to tell the story (or even make their argument), the medium certainly allows for and commonly uses written words as well (which is perhaps one of the reasons for wanting to view it as a literary genre). However, in Violent Cases, where the narrator is telling a story about a childhood meeting with an osteopath (who was supposedly the osteopath of Al Capone), there is a sequence which could not effectively be translated to written language (which, of course, is the domain of literature). The sequence is basically four panels (see included image) inset at the top of a what is really a full page panel. The part of the story that is being narrated is actually the osteopath relating some of his past in a series of captions, while the images we get are basically a combination of that story as seen or imagined by the osteopath and by the narrator's child self. In particular, the fourth caption and the second panel both verbally and visually introduce O'Banion, a man whom we learn in the following caption "started saying that stuff about Sicilians" (this caption is set in the third panel showing three blazing gun nozzles). The same caption then continues to state that "Al and Johnny Torrio had to have him rubbed out." All of which follow the logic of the blazing gun nozzles and the gangster language. However, the final of the four inset top panels is a repetition of the second panel (i.e. O'Banion's face looking back over his shoulder), only in this panel it is smeared as if someone has started erasing the image, and it sports the caption "(Rubbed out?)", a question from the narrator's child self. The obvious effect is the double meaning of the phrase "rubbed out" and the child's difficulty in comprehending what the story the osteopath is telling means. However, any attempt to capture this double meaning in written language quite simply becomes analytical, and in some sense both less artistic and less eloquent (albeit most likely more verbose). In effect, it shows a strength of the comics medium where any attempt to adapt the piece into a short story or a novel would entail what adaptation theorist Brian McFarlane talks about as adaptation proper (as opposed to a direct transfer); that is, finding a suitable medium equivalent to that medium specific element in the source text.

I have now shown two examples differentiating comics as a medium from both the medium of literature and the medium of film, respectively. So why does the misconception linger? Most likely, it has to do with matters of prestige. The medium of film went through a phase early in its career, where it in some sense attempted to be literature, because of literature being an older, tried and more prestitigous medium and domain. But film gained its own prestige and didn't look back... well, at least not in the sense that it wanted to be literary (now, and for most of its existence, it is merely happy to adapt literature, to use already tried source material as a basis for what is still the most expensive artistic medium around. But I'm sure we'll return to such matters at another time).

Comics, however, despite being roughly as old as film, if not even older, depending on how we define comics as a medium (Scott McCloud's definition in Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, for instance, suggests that something like the Bayeux Tapestry could arguably be seen as an early comic), has simply not managed to gain the same type of prestige as film. This sadly leads to a lot of comics enthusiasts trying to lean on the prestige of literature by claiming comics as a literary genre, something of literary value, just to prove the value of the comics themselves (and yes, I have in earlier days fallen into that trap myself, I'll admit). The trap here, however, lies in the fact that, while we can argue the value of certain stories told and the telling thereof, to simply compare a piece of comics work to a literary work in literary terms, is quite frankly doing comics a disservice. They cannot do what literature can, or perhaps more accurately, they cannot do it in the same way, just as literature cannot function the same way as comics. For a story to move from one to the other requires adaptation, and adaptation proper at that, because there are medial differences to overcome in that particular translation.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Fourteen Seminars, Eight Mini Seminars, Four Signed Books and Four Days: The Göteborg Book Fair, Pt 2

So, here comes the second part of my highlights from this year's Book Fair in Göteborg.

Saturday, in terms of interesting and good seminars, seemed to focus on fantasy and imagination in literature, of the need to go beyond the real or the naturalistic and fully make use of human imagination as a writer.

The first seminar of three worth mentioning was "Drakmytologi i modern litteratur" (trans. Dragon Mythology in Modern Literature), a discussion between SF-Bokhandeln's Maths Claesson and children's writer Jo Salmsson which discussed how contemporary fantasy has developed dragon mythology from its more strictly mythological roots (actually raising quite a few questions in the mean time, which I might one day opt to look into much deeper) as well as discussing Salmsson's children's series Drakriddare (trans. Dragon Knights), the first book of which I bought and got signed after the seminar.

The next seminar, which dealt less with the genre of fantasy per se, and more with literary imagination, featured a discussion between moderator Stephen Farran-Lee and writers Carl-Johan Vallgren and Bengt Ohlsson. I have as of yet read neither of these two writers, but they have both caught my eye on more than one occasion and the conversation on stage did not lessen my interest. If anything, I regret only buying Vallgren's latest book and having that signed, and not taking the opportunity to also get Ohlsson's latest book and have that signed too. Ah well, sometimes quick unplanned purchases leads to one saving money in the wrong places... perhaps.

The last of the three seminars mentioned had the somewhat annoying title "Fantasy för fullvuxna" (trans. Fantasy for Grown-ups) and was moderated by critic Lotta Olsson, both of which had me wary from the get go. The title mostly because it presumes that most fantasy isn't for adults, or perhaps even excludes them, and the moderation by Olsson because she proved an appallingly ignorant moderator a few years back in a seminar with Jonathan Stroud. However, the author in question being Russian writer Nick Perumov, whom I've heard a lot of good things about, I decided to give it a go anyway. And in her defense, Lotta Olsson did a much, much better job this time around. Perumov discussed his fantasy series currently published in Sweden as Svärdens väktare (literal trans. from Sw. The Watchers of the Swords) as well as his Ring of Darkness, "sequel" to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (due to be published in Sweden next year, I believe). The discussion was very interesting, although Perumov's Russian perspective sometimes became a bit forced in that he seemed blind to the fact that if we (i.e. Westerners) can't see or understand everything that's gone down in the old Soviet Union and Russia, then maybe that would also mean that his own perspective makes him miss things on our side as well. The fact that he more or less accuses of Tolkien of an anti-Russian allegory (something which Tolkien no doubt would have argued heavily against, as my understanding is that he vehemently opposed any and all allegorical interpretations of his work, for better or worse) and of therefore not being realistic, while simultaneously claiming that he himself is writing about things as they really are, is more than ironic. I mean, he is after all not writing directly about present day Russia but a fantasy realm, which then means that he himself is using the technique of allegory more blatantly than Tolkien whom he accuses of this. Ah well... I'm still interested in reading his series, which is supposedly really good. I just wish people wouldn't praise anything outside of mainstream post-Tolkienite fantasy as ever so original and unique without first making sure that it is. The description of the fantasy genre as always and ever about black and white good and evil without any nuances of moral grey areas is getting ever so tired by now.

On Sunday the main theme on my schedule was clearly comics (perhaps not a coincidence given that the Book Fair itself had a focus on comics this day... as per usual), although I had an interesting tie-in with Saturday's theme of fantasy that is also worth mentioning.

Starting with the fantasy tie-in, I'd like to briefly mention Anders Björkelid's new Swedish fantasy series, Berättelsen om blodet (trans. The Story of the Blood), and the first book in it, Ondvinter (trans. Evil Winter). I haven't read Björkelid myself yet, but once again it is material I've heard really good things about. And after hearing Björkelid talk about it and read some of it to the audience, I am even more interested and curious.

The main gist of the day, however, was comics. In fact, three seminars dealing with them. The first being entitled "Vart är den tecknade serien på väg?" (trans. Where Are Comics Heading?), with the subtitle "Vad är en grafisk roman?" (trans. What Is a Graphic Novel? – though it should be noted that the term in Swedish is not 100% the equivalent of its English origin). In this seminar, comics publisher Rolf Classon (Kartago) presented a brief overview of comics history and development, both in America and in Sweden. This was followed by a discussion between Swedish comics writers/artists Henrik Bromander, Charlie Christensen and Kim W. Andersson on comics in general and their own comics. I was only familiar with Christensen's work (I'm a huge fan of his Arne Anka), but the real find here for me was Kim W. Andersson. For better or worse, Swedish comics far too often tend to lean purely toward the American Underground and sometimes almost seem stuck in autobiographical narratives in black and white, not rarely with an aesthetic sensibility widely differing from my own (in that it comes off as crude and rather unappealling). Andersson, however, seems to have been raised on mainstream American comics fare (much like myself to a great degree) and with that source of inspiration his artistic style is much more appealing. So, I took the opportunity of buying a copy of his collected short horror stories entitled Love Hurts and got that signed. Once I've read the collection, I'm sure I will be talking more about this comics writer/artist... one way or the other.

The second comics seminar was a discussion between artist and cultural personality Carl Johan deGeer and his friend Jan Lööf, who is famous in Sweden both for his comics work and and his illustrated children's books. He's also rather famous for being somewhat of a recluse, so it was a treat indeed to see the man on stage and in fine form. The fact that I more or less by happenstance managed to pass by a table where he was signing a while later, with a very short line at that time, was also a bonus that lead me to buy volume two of his collected comics work.

The last comics seminar of the day, which I visited, was about humour in comics, about the strip format, and other formats for that matter, and how the format affects what the comics writers/artists are doing. Moderated by Tomas Torn from Serieakademin, this was a discussion between Tony Cronstam (creator of Elvis), Jonas Darnell (creator of Herman Hedning) and Lars Mortimer (creator of Hälge), and was very illuminating on many levels. From practical matters like where the strips (or comics) are published (newspapers, comicbooks, etc) to what audiences they attract and how they are allowed to develop, this was a really interesting seminar to be sure.

And that, as the saying goes, was that... Fourteen seminars, eight mini seminars, four signed books (a few others bought) and four days of running around and having a whole heckuva lot of fun.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Fourteen Seminars, Eight Mini Seminars, Four Signed Books and Four Days: The Göteborg Book Fair, Pt 1

... and a bad cold, one could add, as an explanation as to why this post have been delayed until now.

Anyway, Thursday 24 September through Sunday 27 September were the days of the annual Book Fair here in Göteborg, an event of both national and international significance. Unlike many other Book Fairs and Conventions around the world (e.g. Bologna, London or Frankfurt) this one is not aimed exclusively at the publishing world and its connected parties in education, libraries and the like, but actually open to the general public as well (naturally giving it a slightly more commercial tang to be sure).

With the possible exception of missing a year or two in the late 90s / early 00s, I've been a faithful visitor to the Book Fair since at least 1990, in various forms I might add. From trying to peddle off a script to publishers (unsuccessfully) to being there reading poetry on stage in connection with the publisher of an anthology I was in many a year ago. For the last four or five years, however, I've been going the full four days, visiting various seminars.

From experience I've learned that moderators are more important than one might at first imagine, and after the first year or two of seminars, I've sometimes opted not to go on seminars that might otherwise have gone to simply because of a known bad moderator. But in equal measure, there are moderators that can make me go to their seminars even if the subject is only remotely interesting on its own. Simply because these moderators deliver. The gold standard, in my humble opinion, being Peter Whitebrook, whom I was sad to note didn't moderate any seminar this year.

Still, it was certainly four days filled with a lot of fun. Too much really, to go through in full (especially, as my "report" is already late as it is), but allow me to mention a few highlights.

On Thursday two seminars stand out as extra interesting (though a few more comes rather close).

The first one was on the writing of a history of literature, particularly in the national sense. The seminar was exquisitely moderated by Lena Ulrika Rudeke and featured a discussion between Professor of Literature Göran Hägg (himself a writer of various literary histories of sorts) and Annika Olsson (Stockholm University) and Åsa Arping (Göteborg University), both of whom have participated in putting together the fifth, updated edition of Litteraturens historia i Sverige (trans. The History of Literature in Sweden), originally written by Bernt Olsson and Ingemar Algulin. Circling around the issue as to whether it is possible to write a literary history, or perhaps rather, if it is possible to write one literary history, the discussion seemed to point strongly towards the need for literary histories in the plural rather than the singular; for the need to contemplate the formation and development of literature from various different angles, and to constantly reconsider old knowledge from the vantage point of new knowledge and new perspectives.

The second seminar was entitled "Det förgångna definierar nutiden" (trans. The Past Defines the Present) and was moderated by John Crispinsson. It featured a discussion between historians Dick Harrison and Maja Hagerman, and publisher Stefan Hilding (Norstedts) apropos of the just started publication of a new Swedish history (first two volumes of eight out now), which incidentally is the first one of its kind in fifty years. Here too the need for a plurality of points of view and a constant need to reconsider old knowledge from the vantage point of new knowledge came to the surface.

Friday presented me with two seminars clearly above the rest.

My day started with "Bolaño på svenska – går det?" (trans. Bolaño in Swedish – Is That Possible?), which was a discussion about the late author Robert Bolaño and the inherent problems of translation, particularly in the specific case of translating Bolaño from Spanish to Swedish. While moderator Gabriella Håkansson at times left a bit to be wished for, Louise Epstein from radio channel P1's cultural department and Bolaño's Swedish translator Lena Heyman more than made up for those snags. All in all, a very good discussion on both Bolaño and on translation, the latter of which is a necessary phenomenon which I find it hard to believe isn't more widely discussed among the general public (a topic which I'm sure I will return to more in depth at some point in the future).

The second highlight of the Friday, and in all honesty possibly the highlight of the entire Book Fair, was my introduction to Israeli writer Etgar Keret. In a discussion with cultural TV personality Kristofer Lundström, Keret spoke of the necessity for humour, the problems of political parties appropriating important historical events and censorship. Keret also treated the audience to a reading of one of his short stories (in English translation) and on that basis, I will definitely be picking up at the very least one of his short story collections.

Well, I'll stop here for now, and will tell you about the highlights of Saturday and Sunday in my next post. I will make sure to have part 2 up by the end of the week, to make up for lost time.