Writers are happiest in solitude
“From the end of loneliness” - an interview with Benedict Wells
“I went to boarding school when I was six. As a result, I was sure to think early on about things that didn't bother other children. "
Mr Wells, your new novel was awarded the European Union Prize for Literature (EUPL). It is not the first honor you have received. Do such fortunes change your writing?
No, not really. I am of course very happy about you, and I am just very happy when I see something like that. But I mostly write intuitively and from within, I'm in a kind of tunnel. I don't think about anything else but history.
Anyone who writes a novel spends a lot of time alone with their ideas. Doubts inevitably arise. How do you deal with that?
In the meantime, routine often helps me. I know the doubts will come, but I also know that when there are problems I just have to keep going and work harder. There is a solution for everything, as long as you have time, constructive criticism and motivation. So sometimes complaining is allowed, I just have to keep writing.
Do you also have someone who is so close to you that they are already involved in the creation of a new work?
Yes, there are always several readers, starting with my editor and my agent, for example. I often look for harsh criticism and honest opinions, test a lot and try to improve from version to version.
I read John Irving's The Hotel New Hampshire when I was fifteen. Then it was clear to me that I wanted to write.
“From the end of loneliness” tells of three siblings who lose their parents in an accident at a young age. When I read your book, I thought: madness, as he describes it, he must have experienced it himself. I can judge that very well because I lost my father myself at a very young age. Then I read in your thanksgiving that your parents - what luck! - still live. But now please reveal one thing: How did you manage to describe the events and feelings that one has to struggle with in this particular situation so precisely?
It's true, luckily I had a different fate than the children in the book. For this I - like most people - have had my own experiences with loss, loneliness or change. These experiences were like the ink with which I wrote this book. So many things never happened to me in black and white, but the feelings with which the scenes were written are real. In any case, it was important to me to do justice to these topics so that everyone who has become acquainted with them feels understood and taken seriously while reading.
You are still very young and your book is extremely lively and closely watched. How and when did you notice that you have a different view of life than most of your peers? Can you explain this look?
First of all, thank you for your words about the book! And hard to say. Perhaps the fact that I went to boarding school when I was six plays a role in all of this. This has certainly led to early thoughts about things that other children my age have probably not been concerned with. Even though my boarding school was ultimately more beautiful than Jules' in the book, and I still like to think back to a lot today.
I was certainly never the most talented. But I had commitment and will and did not give up.
One of my theories is that by reading you can gain a lot of experiences in a much shorter time than is possible in real life. Good books like your novel can capture life in its essence. How do you see it Have you read a lot in your life?
I see it similarly. While reading you jump into the heads of various people, experience completely different perspectives and are forced to deal with it on hundreds of pages. It has always inspired me, so I try to read as many books as possible. Classics as well as contemporary novels. Sometimes it's not the strange point of view that I love when reading, but more the feeling that you are not alone.
What was the first book that was so important that it changed something in you? And can you put into words the change it made?
That was, of course, "The Hotel New Hampshire" by John Irving. I was fifteen and before that I just didn't know what I wanted to do in life, nothing seemed interesting to me. Then it was clear to me that I wanted to write. Irving's wonderful book gave me a perspective and inspired me.
Once you write in your novel “I was convinced that you could force yourself to be creative.” Is that your opinion too?
Maybe that's a bit exaggerated. But my thought has always been that I was never the most talented. Even in my school class there were certainly three or four classmates with more talent. So the field in which you had to make the difference was different for me: commitment and will and not giving up. That was in my hands, so I didn't study after school, just worked and wrote for years. I figured there just couldn't be many of my age who were as crazy as that, so here I could go for a stretch and try to overtake those who were more talented than me.
You let your heroes love, experience excesses, start families, have children, fail, get up again, but also die. The whole full life. At one point in your novel Jules asks, “Are there things in you that can survive anything?” It would be comforting if there were such things. What do you mean?
I believe that at thirty-two it is not my place to give an explicit answer. But the four main characters in the book are four different approaches to answering this question.
On the biography of Benedict Wells
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