K3, Malmö University
SE-20506 Malmö, Sweden
+46 40 6657 223
Writing as Exploration and Means of Social Change
I am a writer of fiction and non-fiction and associate professor at Malmö University’s School of Arts and Communication (K3), where I teach ‘Journalistic and Literary Creation’ and coordinate the ComDev master course, with my colleagues Rikke Andreassen and Anders Hög Hansen.
My first novel, Coyote, was published in 1983. It tells the story of a young man’s yearlong odyssey through Latin America in the mid 1970s. My fifth and to date latest novel, Santiago, was published in 2007.
Apart from novels, I have written several books of essay and reportage and worked as an arts journalist and editor in different media – predominantly newspapers. I have also done some literary translation on the side, mainly from Spanish.
My extensive travels to many parts of the world, Latin America in particular but also Africa and Asia, play an important role in my work, both as a fiction writer and as a journalist.
I spent two decisive years in Ethiopia in the late 1980s. In 2000, I quit as arts editor of Sydsvenska Dagbladet and started my late academic career.
In 2007, I embarked on my current research project entitled Fiction’s Truth. I am investigating fiction as a research method and a means of communication for social change, with South Africa and Argentina as case studies. The subject of my investigation could be formulated more simply, as two questions: What can fiction tell us about the world, that journalism and science cannot? And to what purpose?
As a fiction writer myself, I find those questions more and more compelling. Why do I write at all? Why do I prefer fiction to journalism? And why do I write novels, rather than scripts for sitcoms or educational soap operas? Whenever I attempt to articulate an answer, I inevitably come across the notion of ‘truth’. Fiction’s truth may seem like a contradiction, since the very word ‘fiction’ usually is understood as opposed to ‘fact’. It is obvious that any definition of literary truth must be different from, yet of course overlapping with, the definitions of journalistic or academic truth.
My intention is precisely to discuss fiction and its claim on truth in relation to these other two practices – journalism and academic writing. I am particularly interested in literary and fictional strategies that consciously transgress the genre boundaries, in a deliberate attempt to achieve and communicate a deeper understanding of reality.
The reasons for choosing South Africa and Argentina as my two cases are manifold. They are two literary worlds to which I have a long-time relationship. They are both extraordinarily rich in literary imagination and moreover share a common experience of dealing with a traumatic near past; in South Africa the brutal apartheid system and the violent last years of liberation struggle; in Latin America the military dictatorships and the ‘dirty war’ on the militant left. Transition periods are interesting from the perspective of literary and cultural production, since the dialectic between culture and society comes in the open – literature’s ability of looking back and looking forward simultaneously, reinterpreting the past and forecasting the future. In both countries, memories of the still non-reconciled past are being more or less heavily disputed. By way of hypothesis I assume that literature (fiction) is a medium with an unsurpassed ability to reveal the deeper truths that go beyond the factual events.