Sigrid Nunez

in conversation with Laura van den Berg

Recorded Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

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Sigrid Nunez in conversation with Laura van den Berg

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Sigrid Nunez’s new novel What Are You Going Through––a surprising story about empathy and the unusual ways one person can help another through hardship––offers a moving and provocative portrait of the way we live now.

Sigrid is the author of the novels Salvation City, The Last of Her Kind, A Feather on the Breath of God, For Rouenna, and the National Book Award-winning The Friend, among others. She is also the author of Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag. She has been the recipient of several awards, including a Whiting Award, the Rome Prize in Literature, and a Berlin Prize Fellowship. Nunez lives in New York City.

Laura van den Berg is the author of the story collections What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us and The Isle of Youth, and the novels Find Me and The Third Hotel, which was a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award. She is the recipient of a Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Bard Fiction Prize, a PEN/O. Henry Prize, a MacDowell Colony fellowship, and is a two-time finalist for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Her third collection of stories, I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, was published in July. Born and raised in Florida, Laura splits her time between the Boston area and Central Florida, with her husband and dog.

“What we miss – what we lose and what we mourn – isn’t it this that makes us who, deep down, we truly are. To say nothing of what we wanted in life but never got to have.”

—Sigrid Nunez, The Friend.

Get ready to join Sigrid in conversation, Wednesday, September 23rd.

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  • 3

    votes

    Did you find it to be difficult to write about writers in “The Friend”? Is the meta aspect of the plot something that you wanted to produce intentionally?

  • 3

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    How would you describe your genre of writing?

  • 3

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    You’ve spoken about your interest in film. Have any particular films influenced your work? Are there techniques used in film that you’ve adapted to your writing?

  • 3

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    Have you always been close to animals? What inspires you to center your writing around animals?

  • 3

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    What inspired you to write “The Friend”?

  • 2

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    Which book was your favorite to write?

  • 2

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    Where do you find inspiration? How do you know when you have an idea that will turn into a novel?

  • 2

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    Who are some of your favorite authors, whether fiction or non-fiction, and have they influenced your writing?

  • 1

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    Do you ever reread your book an if you do, have you ever wanted to revise it?

  • 1

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    I was surprised by and loved the story the cat at the Airbnb told the narrator in What Are You Going Through. Can you talk about your decision to include elements like the storytelling cat that are beyond known reality, at least for me. I also loved how the woman in the portrait became a household saint seen by both the narrator and her friend. I was delighted by these otherworldly happenings and wanted to know more about your decision to include them in a novel that otherwise is firmly grounded in realism.

  • 1

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    What is the last thing you saw that moved you?

  • 1

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    Why did you become a writer? Did you always write?

  • 1

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    How do you choose from which perspective to write a book? Is there anything difficult about writing to a “you”?

  • 0

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    Can you say something about your marvelous novel Mitz and also about the relationship between your characters and animals — and how animals are key characters in that book and this one and also The Friend. Thank you.