Jonas Hassen Khemiri on his relationship with his stories and characters
On Thursday afternoon, the Swedish novelist Jonas Hassen Khemiri met with Lorenzo Pavolini in the Basilica Santa Barbara. Although Khemiri is a renowned writer, he has never been one who likes to talk about his work but he found himself exactly in this situation on the second day of Festivaletteratura, because his new book The Father Clause had just been published in Italy. What followed was not a classical book presentation but almost a philosophical discourse in which Khemeri gave very intimate insights into his way of thinking.
At the centre of the tragicomedy The Father Clause, there is a family consisting of a father, a son and a daughter. For the Swedish author, the most truthful way of describing a family is to define a person's identity through their contact with other characters. A son is also a father or a brother at the same time and embodies different roles. What shapes Khamiri’s figures is their unique way of remembering: “the key of understanding someone is to understand the way they do remember.”
When Khamiri talks about his character in the bright Basilica di Santa Barbara, it seems as if he is talking about people very close to him. “The fictional world sometimes shows us other ways,” he says and explains how he uses his writing to assimilate his own experiences. “The point of being human is to create relationships knowing that these people will leave someday.” His first impulse is to fill this gap with his words.
This close relationship to the language, to his stories and figures can be clearly felt this afternoon. About his main characters he says, “maybe it would have been me if I wouldn't have had the courage to show my stories to someone.” Khemiri concludes this special event by reading the first lines of his new book in Swedish, his mother tongue.