Interview with Johan Jönson

by on Dec.13, 2010

Johan Jönson (b. 1966) published his first book Som samplingdikter (As Sampling Poems) in 1992. After publishing his second book, Näst sista våldet (The Next to Last Violence) the following year, Jönson moved into writing performance works with the performance troop Teatermaskinen, including pieces like extasy =/- noll and Woyzekmaskinen. At the turn of the millennium he returned to poetry with the five-volume project I krigsmaskinen (In the War Machine), followed by Virus and a number of other books. In 2006, he published Collobert Orbital (a translation of which can be purchased here). His most recent book, Efter arbetschema (After Work Schedule) was published in 2008, and it was awarded Aftonbladet’s prestigious literary award.

I just conducted this brief interview with Johan:

Q:Describe your writing process. Where do you write?
A:In my workroom, a rented basement room (a bunker, a grave chamber, a monad) in the neighborhood where I live.

Q:How do you write?
A: I write on a computer, or, sometimes, by hand.

Q: When do you write?
A: 8-15, Monday through Friday, unless I’m forced to have a wage job, in which case I write in the time left over; evenings, nights, days off etc. As well as the time left over after my family chores (taking care of the kids, household work (cleaning, washing, buying, doing dishes, cooking food etc etc)) have been completed.

Q: How often do you write?
A: Every day (except during vacation, in the summer, when I just read).

Q: After your first two books, you didn’t publish any more books for some time, instead writing for performances with Teatermaskinen, including performances about social issues. Please describe these performances. What were they about?
A: They treated one social issue at the time (often ordered by some organization): unemployment, children in abusive relationships, young people with self-abusive behaviors, neo-racism, union issues etc.

Q: How did you write them?
A: I read up on the subject matter, interviewed people, wrote. Then discussed the text with the people who had commissioned it and then with my theater colleagues. Then made changes.

Q: What was the intended audience?
A: Primarily the people who were affected by the issue, but also a general audience.

Q: Intended effect?
A: To bring up an issue for discussion within the organization that commissioned the performance.

Q: You were writing other performance pieces as well. Can you describe those?
A: Like textual landscapes, without individual characters, for actors to enter into but never really get out of.

Q: How did you write them?
A: Like my other books; in an intensive dialogue with other texts; but with a significant consciousness of most importantly the actors’ bodies and physiques.

Q: What were your concerns?
A: To make the best and most productive performance texts possible.

Q: In Collobert Orbital, what is the relationship between your book and Danielle Collobert’s work?
A: My intention was to expand on (parts of) her work; to re-vectorize it into a new technological and political (discursive) orbital.

Q: Why were you drawn to Collobert’s work?
A: Because of its stuttering, gasping struggle for survival.

Q: Her life?
A: Because she was very nomadic, but, in difference to the philosophy of pious hopes, it did not make her free in the least. On the contrary, it killed her. Or, more specificially: for me she was a clear and productive example of radical immanence.

Q: In Collobert Orbital as well as a lot of your other books, you refer to your work as a care-giver. I’ve read discussions about your relationship to traditional “working class literature.” What do you see as your relationship to this tradition?
A: I use its advances, write partially in critical dialogue with it. I share the class aspects, the feelings of inferiority and the consciousness of the importance of wage work for bodies, individuals, societies – yes, the whole damned planet. However, “my” aesthetic is very different from the classic Swedish working class literature. And we have different relationships toward modernity. Then: a linear, progressive, “from darkness we move toward the light.” Now: an imperialistic dynamic without outsides, without another horizon.

Q: Could you mention some poets, writers and playwrights that have influenced your writing?
A: Claude Simon, Heiner Müller, Marguerite Duras, Lars Norén, Göran Sonnevi, Leslie Kaplan, Verner Boström, Bruce Andrews, Don DeLillo, Thomas Bernhard, Elfriede Jelinek, Tor Ulven, Christophe Tarkos, Ernst Jünger, James Ellroy, Paul Celan, Gunnar Björling, Stig Sjödin, Inger Christensen, Lennart Sjögren, Thomas Kling + 10 000 other writers.

Clip from Jönson’s performance piece Logosfält with Teatermaskinen:

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