I had the chance to exclusively talk with Jonas about his latest book Umm Nur. A book full of short stories charged with a synasthetic element. One week ago we have introduced his new book in a post.(read more about this topic and an exclusive chapter of the book here). Now, he talks about his book, his style and why he likes Finland vodka.
1. In a nutshell, can you describe what “Synaestetic Story Telling” is for you in your own words?
If words and composition of words are able to leave the textual level and to quicken the senses of the reader, hence they are not language anymore, but fragrance, taste, color and figure.
2. Since when are you writing and what has been the reason for you to become a writer?
A friend of mine once says that she has to write because her fantasy did not let her alone. That is to the point in my case. Sometimes the words impose their selves and they want to be written, to be read and to be felt. That is the same with me. But it takes time until I found my words. Some day I have stopped reading texts by others, e. g. Rilke, who I really love. Because whenever I have written something I had the feeling that these have not been my own words, but the words of other poets. When I was fascinated by Erich Fried I have written like him, as I have found Rilke I only wanted to write like him. Then there was something like a literary asceticism. I had no feel for reading anymore, but to find my own language. Who knows if I have found it, this a long way to go for sure.
Anyway there is always something in me that wants to deliver something in the world via language. Something that breaks out of every word when it gets read.
3. What has inspired you to write a book with short stories?
The inside of life, maybe the „between“?
4. Why is choosing “the right words” so important?
Maybe that is not the point. Maybe the words are choosing the writer, if he or she is open-minded. That distinguished the writers from each other: there is one who knows the trade, who knows the aesthetics of some compositions, the power of pictures. And there is one that lives in the words, feels through them and lets it feel. A good text needs both.
5. What is your secret, how are you able to write those stories? It is difficult for you to come up with those plots?
That may sounds funny, but the stories seem to write themselves. Time and time again in all-day situations the words show up, the sentences in my head and I need to be fast to write them down before they get lost.
Maybe I get difficulties with the plot when I will write my first roman. In my short stories the plot is not the center.
6. What parts do emotions and culture play in literature, especially in your short stories?
That depends on the genre. A thriller not necessarily needs the cultural aspect. But emotions are the core of every text, that distinguishes a phone book entry from a poem line. Dead, unemotional texts are only for information, but the do not catch you, they do not move you – but a certain name could also create big emotions, for sure.
In my texts the cultural aspect is quite dominant, because I am as a human highly influenced by this, the being between the cultures. But emotions are an unique language that are cross-cultural. I think that I am writing more on the emotional level. The text for it own is only the carrier that tries creep his valuable fruit by the ratio of the reader. That is the reason why I am not so concrete in my stories, because the people are unconcerned in their own inside. The inside world has concrete references, but feelings, dreams and the unconscious show them-selves apparitional and intangible. Therefore, it is important, in my opinion, to leave language indefinite so that the ratio is not able to take power. The concrete takes the magic of things; hence I follow Rilke who says:
„I am so afraid of people’s words, they describe so distinctly everything“.
7. Your style is quite unique and sometimes a mixture of “confusing and fascinating impressions” at the same time. Can everybody read and especially understand your stories?
That’s exactly what I have got as feedback on extracts: confusion and fascination. Often it was the case that somebody felt deeply touched by the things he or she has read, but without any explanation why. That is a compliment!
By reading the first time one can get the impression that these texts demand certain knowledge of language. I don’t believe that this is the case. The character Umm Nur for example is absolutely tangible, also if not anybody knows the translation of the name. The language has the aim to evoke memories, fantasies and desires, it is less about communicating clear, easy and structured content. This level does exist but it is not the reason why a text can be understood. The reader needs to let it happen.
8. Do you know a good ads campaign that tells a story you wish you had written?
I know a passage from an advertisement for vodka from Finland:
In a past life I was a mermaid who fell in love with an ancient mariner. I pulled him into the sea to be my husband. I didn’t know he couldn’t breathe underwater.
This has nothing to do with the drink, but it is wonderful.
9. You have 2 children, what kind of stories do you tell them before they are going to sleep? Your own stories from a book, an improvisational story or something of e. g. Brothers Grimm or something from your home country?
Whether Grimm or not my son likes to create the stories with me. In some cases Sleeping Beauty is riding rhinos for example. I can tell my daughter what I want, today she is not able to disagree. But I am curious about if she has the same tendency like her brother or dad.
10. Do you have any advice for marketing and brand managers in terms of “Synaestetic Story Telling”?
No. This would be arrogance, because I have no experience in this field. But I can imagine very well that a cooperation could be very exciting, due to the fact that feelings and language are a common ground of marketing and of writing; also if the aims and objectives are totally different, both are trying to reach people, to seduce and to bewitch.
I like to thank Jonas for his time and honest answers.
If you have any questions, comments or disagree with him or us, please do not hesitate to comment.