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The Faculty of Dreams interview

The Faculty of Dreams interview

‘The author is never the perfect character witness when it comes to describing their own novels.’ Read our Man Booker International Prize 2019 longlist interview with author Sara Stridsberg and translator Deborah Bragan-Turner who tells us how she found a fictional voice for the characters in the book.


Sara Stridsberg, author of The Faculty of Dreams

What has it been like to be longlisted?

It´s a strange feeling when the past comes alive again. I wrote The Faculty of Dreams fifteen years ago, which is a whole eternity. Since the novel takes place in America, it´s of course a wonderful thing that it´s now reaching the English-speaking world and at the same time ends up in such excellent company as the Man Booker context.

Can you give us a taste of your longlisted book The Faculty of Dreams?

The author is never the perfect character witness when it comes to describing their own novels . . . but The Faculty of Dreams is a literary fantasy of a lonely woman´s death in a welfare hotel in the Tenderloin district in San Francisco, a literary fantasy of Valerie Solanas, the author of The SCUM Manifesto. The novel brings her to life again, and for a brief moment she´s back on the streets in her silver coat and all her brilliance and wittiness.

What drew you to the story of Valerie Solanas?

By coincidence I read her manifesto and I was thrilled and very touched by its wild and desperate and unobstructed voice, a voice that believed in neither God nor Philosophy nor History nor Fatherhood nor Family, and to me she seemed to be the loneliest girl in the world. I remember wondering what kind of experiences a person must have gone through to end up in such a tragic utopia and witty dystopia. A voice that is written out of the very darkness of prostitution. I believe that I was drawn and somehow gravitated towards the paradoxes of her soul and her life. She is the intellectual whore, the feminist with no contact with the contemporary women´s movement. She was the pacifist who tried to kill Andy Warhol and the manhater who worked as a prostitute her whole life. Valerie Solanas taught me to forget everything they ever taught me. Even the form of a novel and the map of America.



Deborah Bragan-Turner, translator of The Faculty of Dreams

What has it been like to be longlisted?

Well, quite fittingly, it’s been a bit like a dream! It was wonderful to know that people were eagerly waiting to read the book when it was published on 21 March.

What did you most like about translating The Faculty of Dreams?

One of the things I liked most was probably also one of the biggest challenges — seeking an equivalent in English to Sara Stridsberg’s very lyrical prose, its melody and rhythm, and her inventive and poetic combination of words, often appealing to more than one sense at a time. It was fascinating and absorbing to try to achieve lyricism in the English translation without losing any of the clarity of the facts lying behind the fiction.

How did you find a fictional voice for the characters in the book, especially as some of them are famous names?

I did quite a bit of background reading before and during the translating. I read Valerie Solanas’s SCUM Manifesto, first published in 1967, Up Your Ass, the play that led to Valerie’s disagreement with Andy Warhol, and the essay she wrote for Cavalier magazine in 1966, “A Young Girl’s Primer, on How to Attain the Leisure Class”. I also consulted books and articles about her and watched the 1996 film I Shot Andy Warhol ­— it all helped build a picture of this brilliant, desperate woman and what it was like to live on the margins of society in the USA at that time. It was fascinating to explore the author’s voice and through it hear the fictional voice of a character who was a real person.