The biggest names in literature convened for a weekend of interviews, conversations and performances amidst Humblebæk’s rural calm.
The elephant in the room
Zadie Smith, Paul Auster, Colson Whitehead and Chris Kraus all took part in multiple events throughout the Louisiana Literature weekend to discuss their new works, as well as how these might be instructive in today’s political climate.
Highlights include Chris Kraus being interviewed by the Danish activist Emma Holten – in which the development of the women’s cause over the last 20 years was chartered with some fascinating insights – as well as Colson Whitehead’s conversation with the young and rising French writer Édouard Louis.
And while the focus was undoubtedly on the literature itself, allusions to the current political turmoil in the US – Whitehead referred to President Trump as ‘it’, Jenny Offill as “he who shall not be named” – were, of course, inescapable.
Polarisation and populism
Such a situation seemed consciously facilitated by the conversation pairings on the final day of the festival. Kraus and Offill – two American women hailed for their subversion of hetero-male literary norms – were joined to speak about, among other things, the inherent misogyny of the White House and the reflection of this in recent violent outbursts.
Political polarisation and division also formed a large part of the Whitehead-Louis pairing. Interesting parallels were drawn between American and French populism, and both writers acknowledged how recent events have been translated into an increasingly polemic reading of their major works.
A lighter touch too
For those becoming increasing inured to all the political despair, however, the festival provided some lighter notes. Respite could be found on the villa stage, where the poetry of Tomomi Adachi and Cia Rinne featured, both collaboratively and individually, across the weekend.
Each day felt perfectly full, yet sufficiently calm; most if not all of the events in the concert hall were full, and for those not lucky enough to grab a seat there was a marquee outside designed for showing the proceedings.
Overall, a fascinating weekend for anybody interested in art, literature and the intersection between the two.