Dorthe Nors and her translator Misha Hoekstra are shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize for Mirror, Shoulder, Signal.
Words Without Borders (WWB): Tell us about how you became a writer. Was it a vocation, an accident?
Dorthe Nors: I think I was born with a certain sensitivity toward language and a certain need to process the world through language. I figured out I wanted to be a writer when I was eight. From that point and till I published a book, it was writing, reading, writing, reading, writing, reading.
WWB: How has your relationship to writing changed over time?
Dorthe Nors: It has become an even stronger part of my identity. I’ve become more professional, of course. There’s a lot of things I don’t have to fumble with anymore, but the investigation that goes on through language is unchanged (even though the themes I investigate might have changed since I was eight).
WWB: Have your goals and objectives changed throughout the years?
Dorthe Nors: I would be a very strange human being if I hadn’t changed throughout the years. I’m flesh and blood, hopes and fears, fully alive, and not Dorthe the Concrete Woman. In other words: of course!
WWB: How do you see your writing within the larger context of your country’s/language’s literary tradition?
Dorthe Nors: I write in a minimalist style that is rooted in a Danish literary tradition—the subtleness, the way we undertone content, and the way psychological material is dwelling under the lines. I’m also trained in the Swedish tradition. I studied Swedish at university and there’s a lot of Swedish existentialism in what I write. So, form: Danish. Content: Swedish (to simplify it enormously).
WWB: What’s your favorite book from a literary tradition other than your own and how has it influenced your writing?
Dorthe Nors: I don’t have favorite books. I have books that have meant a lot to me in certain periods of my life, but because I live and change, they live and change. One of the books that really did something for me five years ago was Ingmar Bergman’s memoirs, Laterna Magica, but that doesn’t make it my favorite book ever. Right now, I’m really interested in the writing of Claudia Rankine for instance. In five years—who knows what I will be reading and loving.