Do people not become writers because they already are, or in other words: It’s in the genes? To some, this is quite clear from an early age, even though they know nothing about geneology and have never heard of Mendel: they know they are authors and nothing else (as Halldór Laxness). Still, it is more common that people come to this conclusion by various different ways (even by the method of “ruling things out”) and sometimes it takes a long time, having spent half a lifetime doing different jobs, such as various working class jobs at sea or land, office work or lawier work, sometimes teaching or various academic jobs, medicine and priest-ship. Some were farmers or even professional drunks. Some worked at all of this at the same time while they had the energy, but still the writer was in their genes and taking notice of that fact could not be avoided – sooner or later. And no turning back! Of course this applies to other art forms, but in the old days it was easier to come into possession of a pencil or a feather pen than oil and brushes, not to mention instruments.
As regards authors, their talent is often best spent at one genre: most turn to prose, some to lyrik – and some to writing plays. Some tackle (not all as well) all of this (Strindberg was also great at prose writing). – As for myself, I would perhaps have become a chellist or even a director – a la Toscanini, had I afforded the chello. Music is my love, that’s for sure. In order to get one going at writing, to create the right balance of the mind and for one’s health also, nothing is better than Bach in the morning, not to mention the chello suites! – But now I have to reverse and try to explain why on earth I became a playwrite instead of something totally different, a painter for instance or a musician (that was in fact out of the question for reasons other than lack of money, for altough I know how to listen to music, the talent was not quite there, that having to be unquestionable – also when it comes to painting; on these battle fields I was doomed to be at the receiving end).
As a boy and a teenager, I was thought to be good at drawing and was sent to the art school, where Kurt Zier himself bought a watercolour of mine. Although everyone agreed this was where my talent lay, one person was of a different opinion: this person was I. And the chello had no purpose getting into my hands, since I was at highschool and not music shool, and when it came down to it, music school was probably not the right place for me. During my high school years, I fiddled with oil, chalk drawings and charcoil. I had also started writing a little, lyrical prose it could be called. The book Fornar ástir got me going. I think this is where some seeds about becoming a writer were planted. Halldór [Laxness] and Þórbergur [Þórðarson] at the same time encouraged me in my dreams and doomed them hopeless. After finishing high scool, I went to Vienna, determined to sign up for psychology at the university there. Having arrived to this prestigious institution, something called Theater Wissenschaft caught my eye, and there my fait was determined. I had in fact been in love with the theatre from an early age, my father being efficient at getting the family to go to the theatre.
In Vienna, the theatres themselves became my my theatre university. And I relalized during this time that my writing career would be devoted to writing plays, one advantage being that neither Halldór nor Þórbergur were in my way in that field. It turned out to be the absurd theatre that broke down all barriers for me with its charming absurdity, unbelievably funny and unbelievabley deep at its best, full of music and strange art and still stranger visualization of human behaviour. Otherwise, the “plastic” of disciplined acting (no less in classic pieces, even traditional) spoke to the artist in me and the rhythm of discourse to the musician (even the poet that resided somewhere within), not least if the text was by Shakespeare.
I thus find myself at home in theatre writing. In poems and prose I feel more like a “foreigner”, even if I am guilty of having flirted with both. Playwriting fullfils my investigative nature, both as regards characters and “human behaviour” and the presentation of ideas, and artistic needs in general, which evolve around creating first and foremost. My most fertile moments in the theatre are when I sit alone in the auditorium with an empty stage in front of me. Then ideas are kindled together with a strange life and you start to compose in this empty space, activating it with means that only belong in the theatre and have to do with creation and the presentation of ideas mentioned above. I enjoy music and visual art as a receiver, think in fact that both come into play in the theatre – the method itself, if only to give it the grace it cannot be without, however we turn and twist it. The text is not excluded here.
In other words: I write plays beacause I cannot do anything else. (For one has to do something! Right?)
Oddur Björnsson, 2003.
Translated by Kristín Viðarsdóttir. Back