Rachel Cusk on Writing Without Feeling Like a Writer
In Conversation with Kjersti Skomsvold on How to Proceed
How To Proceed is a bi-monthly conversation about writing, creativity and the world we live in. Author Linn Ullmann talks to some of the world’s most exciting literary voices about their books, their writing process, and how they view the world and current events around them.
In this episode, the British writer Rachel Cusk talks to Kjersti Skomsvold about writing her memoirs and the Outline trilogy, and her upcoming novel Second Place. She also talks about form and truth, change and repetition, the feminine personal, and writing without feeling like a writer.
From the episode:
Rachel Cusk: So much of the story of that book became what I didn’t know when I wrote those things. At the end of it, it became the story of the aftermath of aftermath. So the reaction to that book, which was the most violent and murderous experience of my life, I think probably. The hatred and disapproval in this country, it was an explosion of it. It was one of those moments where clearly people had nothing better to think about. And it was an extraordinary thing in that state of vulnerability that I had gone to some effort to describe, which was not only my vulnerability, but the vulnerability of children in that situation and the difficulty of finding a way of writing about that without compromising them or their experience. So to have this sort of sledgehammer taken to the whole thing was quite extraordinary. So I couldn’t express myself for a very long time after that.
In terms of writing, without feeling like you’re a writer, that old writer was killed by the mob. So I had a long process of rebuilding to do, which, of course, as with all of these things and it’s something that I write about at length, these drawings away of realities are so hard. And yet, you know, only that way can the new reality be born. I thought divorce was that process, but in fact, it was the violent destruction of my book about divorce that was that for me as a writer.
Litteraturhuset in Oslo is Europe’s largest of its kind, dedicated to presenting literature in the broadest sense of the word. Since its opening in the fall of 2007, the house has welcomed authors from all parts of the world, and through readings, conversations, lectures and debates, it strives to open up for new horizons and perspectives on the society, the world and the people around us.
Rachel Cusk is the author of the Outline trilogy, the memoirs A Life’s Work and Aftermath, and several other works of fiction and nonfiction. She is a Guggenheim fellow. She lives in Paris.