Hannah Kent, die mit ihrem ergreifenden Erstlingswerk „Das Seelenhaus“ („Burial Rites“) in ihrer Heimat Australien und in England die Charts stürmte hat Erfolgsgeschichte geschrieben. Ihr Roman ist bisher in über Ländern verkauft worden. Grund genug für uns ein Interview mit ihr zu führen.
Über das Buch „Das Seelenhaus“
Scheinbar ungerührt nimmt Agnes das Urteil hin, ebenso wie die Ablehnung der Familie. Erleichtert, dem Kerker entkommen zu sein, kann sie bei der Arbeit manchmal ihr Schicksal vergessen. Vieles hier ist ihr vertraut: die schroffe Landschaft, die ärmliche Torfbehausung, der harsche Ton der Hausherrin. Ihr ganzes Leben war davon bestimmt – bis sie einen Mann kennenlernte und sich nach langer Zeit erlaubte, sich ihre Sehnsucht nach Liebe und Zugehörigkeit einzugestehen. Der Schmerz über seinen Tod, der ihr nun angelastet wird, überlagert alles, auch die Angst vor dem eigenen Tod. Schließlich vertraut sich Agnes einem jungen Vikar an, der sie auf den Weg der Reue und Buße führen soll. Während der langen Gespräche, die die ganze Familie mithört, ist es vor allem
Margrét, die Hausherrin, die ahnt, dass die offizielle Wahrheit über Agnes vielleicht falsch sein könnte.
Das Interview mit Hannah Kent
krimi-tick.de: How and when did you got your ideas about the story to write down the book „Burial Rites (Das Seelenhaus)“?
Hannah Kent: I lived in a small town in north Iceland for a year when I was seventeen, as part of a Rotary Exchange. During the first wintry months of my time there I happened to drive through a very beautiful place called Vatnsdalur. A little awestruck by the landscape, I asked my companions if the area was significant and three hills were pointed out to me. I was then told that these hills had been the site of the last execution in Iceland: a servant woman called Agnes Magnúsdóttir had been beheaded there in 1830 for her role in the murder of two men. During the course of my exchange, and in the years that followed, my curiosity about this woman deepened. As soon as I started researching the murders and execution I was struck by the way Agnes was either portrayed as a manipulative, evil woman, or was hardly mentioned at all. My decision to write about Agnes was triggered by a longing to discover something of her life story – to explore her humanity rather than the stereotype of a ‘wicked woman’.
krimi-tick.de: Why are you writing such suspense stories?
Hannah Kent: I never set out to write a suspense story. For a very long time now I have wanted to write literary fiction. It was much more a case of becoming consumed with Agnes’s story, which just happened to be suspenseful. Having written the book now, I’m keen to continue exploring the genre, so long as I have the right story for it. I find true crime an interesting place to begin as a writer. It’s not so much that I’m interested in crime itself, but rather, I’m interested in the cultural and social tensions that lead to crime. What drives people to murder? I think it’s more than an inherent monstrousness. There are many external circumstances that shape an individual’s behaviour. These are what interest me.
krimi-tick.de: How are the methods to work for the plot, before the first word is written down?
Hannah Kent: The plot for Das Seelenhaus, because it was based on a true story, was largely already there. Once I made the decision to begin the novel after Agnes had been sentenced – to begin it when she is transferred to her final place in custody – I had a vague understanding of what events would need to take place. In many ways I had the ‘facts’ of the real case providing a skeleton for the story. The challenge was then to work out how flesh it out, how to negotiate the ‘why’ after establishing ‘what’. I think of writing as a very intuitive, unpredictable process, but I’m reluctant to embrace that uncertainty until I’ve laid out a solid narrative structure. Research is key for me in this regard. When I read historical material relevant to the book’s setting or characters, I get ideas for scenes, themes and storylines, and I gradually weave them together. When I research, I’m an archaeologist – I’m finding the skeleton. It’s only when I have the bones in order that I feel I can begin to write.
krimi-tick.de: How is your day if you are working as an author?
Hannah Kent: It really depends on what task I have ahead of me. If I’m in the early stages of a new novel, I will spend my day immersed in research, reading a great deal, making notes, and sometimes visiting libraries and museums. If I’m writing, I won’t stray far from my computer. Either way, I like to begin work early – I’m a morning person. If I can be at my desk by 7.30am with a coffee by my side, I’m happy. When I’m working on a first draft I will try to write 1000 new words a day, and I usually burn out by early afternoon.
krimi-tick.de: Which author would you like to meet and what would you like to ask him?
Hannah Kent: That’s a very difficult question. Most of the authors I can think of have passed away: Thomas Hardy, Angela Carter, Seamus Heaney, Virginia Woolf. I would have loved to speak to each of these extraordinary writers about their creative process, and about what literature can or cannot achieve. I would love to meet the Australian author Tim Winton. He writes so beautifully of the ocean, but I have quite a strong distrust of it. I would like to ask him how I can move past that fear.
krimi-tick.de: What are you reading right now?
Hannah Kent: I tend to read a few books at the same time. I just finished Sarah Waters’ new novel, The Paying Guests, and am still reading Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture, which is wonderful.
krimi-tick.de: Is there anything existing what is difficult or impossible for you to write?
Hannah Kent: I find it difficult to write about contemporary Australian life. I feel too close to it – I lack the objective distance necessary to write well about it. I know the maxim ‘write what you know’ is common, but I can’t do this in a parochial sense. Perhaps one day I will, but not yet. I need to learn how to hold Australia at arm’s length; I need to learn how to best to regard it.