So there I was, not quite on the floor. Which is good.
Janne was our third foreigner in around 24 hours, although with not a single interpreter in sight. Not necessary, as Janne divides her time between Denmark and New York, which as chair Gill Arbuthnott said is so glamourous. Janne looks glamourous, too, but actually seems nice despite this. And those boots…
We sat in the adult’s row at the back with Janne’s publisher Keith Charters and authors Gillian Philip and Linda Strachan, who are both quite good with knives and swords.
But nothing beats the (mental) goriness of Janne’s Nothing. She suggests. I faint.
I blame it on the fact Janne has no children. I think you can be much scarier if you don’t have them, and as we had agreed while waiting outside, parenthood makes a wimp out of you. She had been asked to write a children’s book, and first she thought she couldn’t, until Pierre Anthon (the boy who sits in a plumtree) spoke in her ear.
Then her publisher said the book was too strange to publish, so there was a delay until a teenage publishing offspring had been found who liked Nothing. At first the book sold badly and then it was banned in several countries. After which things appear to have picked up somewhat.
Janne read to us from the beginning, introducing the ‘heap of meaning’. It’s a weird feeling when someone reads softly and beautifully from what feels like a quietly menacing story, and doing so on what is really a glorified roundabout, with the traffic roaring extra loudly for Janne.
The end of the book was so hard that Janne wrote several. She was surprised by the reactions to her book, as she was under the impression she had written a ‘nice book’. This ‘nice’ book has been dramatised and has even been done as a musical in Denmark.
Her favourite character is Pierre Anthon, and she doesn’t particularly like her narrator. The humour in the story is absolutely necessary, she feels, although she is amazed at all the surveys that portray Danes as the happiest people. They ‘never’ smile, and she believes they just tick the happy box because it’s what you do.
There will be more YA novels from Janne. She has a short book about refugees (inspired by the xenophobia in Denmark), which features a Danish family fleeing to Egypt. And in every translation she changes the refugee family to one from the country in which it is published.
That’s what we need more of; something to make us think.
Afterwards I told Janne where I had given up reading. She told me nothing bad happens after that. Am I expected to believe her?