Disclosing reality

The German author Antje Rávic Strubel is currently the writer in residence at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies (HCAS).

Antje Rávic Strubel

The invitation to spend five months at the Helsinki Collegium of Advanced Studies came unexpectedly for Antje Rávic Strubel. Although very familiar with Sweden and an established critic of Scandinavian literature, she had not set foot on Finnish soil till now. “It did not take me long to accept the invitation. I had never been involved with Finland before and I was very curious.”

Interaction between research and art

The HCAS Writer Programme welcomes two writers per academic year to the Collegium with the aim of reinforcing interaction between research and art. The German author attends and arranges interdisciplinary discussions and seminars in collaboration with humanities researchers from all over the world. Death in literature, the memory of Socialism and the originality of literature translation have been on this autumn’s topic list.

Unveiling every day life

Strubel’s literary work comprises novels, short stories, essays and articles. She has gained acknowledgement by critics and has won and been nominated for various literary awards, most recently for the renowned German Book Prize 2011.

Among the author’s literary topics are gender issues and the former socialist Germany. “It is not so much the obsession with archiving history that makes me write about the GDR; I am rather interested in disclosing how socialist reality and everyday life were made and experienced.” Strubel cannot deny that her personal experiences prompt the development of certain literature issues and characters. “However”, she adds, “writing is easier for me the further away the story is from my own life”.

Strubel’s writing is influenced by American Realism and European Modernism. She describes her own style as lyrical, without following the boundaries of lyrical poetry. “I need the scope of a novel to unfold characters and story”, explains Strubel, “I never imagine a full character or story before I start writing; it is rather a slow bottom-up process. Each character is built sentence by sentence through what she says and how she acts.”

Pool of inspiration

Strubel will stay in Helsinki until the end of January. Besides working in an interdisciplinary research environment, the time at the HCAS is also meant to offer the writer a peaceful working environment and inspiration for her new novel.

“Wherever I go, I hope that something happens that triggers the writing process”, says Strubel. “It might be a discussion or a speech that makes me think further. It might as well be a landscape. I have for instance been pondering about the role of water for the Finnish landscape – everything here seems to be formed and transformed by water!”

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Text: Claudia Gorr
Photo: S.Fischer/Zaia Alexander
University of Helsinki, digital communications

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