‘Why Do You Write?’ by Herman Koch


From Holland Park Press:

‘Are there any questions from the audience?’ the interviewer asks. ‘The author is quite happy to answer all your burning questions.’

The neon strip lights are on. Eighty coffee cups are laid out and there are biscuits in a plastic container. Raindrops make their way down the library windows.

‘It’s always difficult being the first,’ says the interviewer.

They have been listening to readings from the author’s work. The interviewer moved on to ask him about recurrent themes. He just about managed to restrain himself from asking about the same old recurrent themes.

‘There are two kinds of writers,’ the author had replied. ‘One attempts a new approach with each book. The other keeps rewriting the same novel.’

He had glanced across his audience. He thought his answer had resembled a clock that chimes precisely twelve times at twelve o’clock. Yet members of the audience – most of them were women sporting a sensible haircut – looked on earnestly.

A smell of coffee now wafts up towards the strip lights. The author is looking forward to drinking a bottle of beer. This will require some effort: after an extensive search through corridors, on bookshelves and behind copiers, the librarian will eventually locate a bottle of beer.

‘There was just one left,’ she will say.

The search is on for a bottle opener. After fifteen minutes they manage to find an opener. The beer is served at room temperature.

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