Tuesday, 21 November 2017 | News today: 4

Jussi Adler-Olsen, Danish writer: Politicians in Europe are not capable, they are simply not good anymore!

I react because young persons at the moment in Europe are brought up to think only of themselves and their family. Denmark was a very fantastic social democracy before. Since 2001, it is not the country we knew, everyone is caring for themselves, and not for others, this is not Denmark, says Adler-Olsen

Jussi Adler-Olsen is one of the most popular Danish writers. His books have been translated into 40 languages and he has been listed on the world’s top bestseller lists, including the New York Times bestseller list!

In his late teens, he played in a couple of pop groups as lead guitarist, and studied medicine, sociology, film making, and he was a publisher, editor, composer of film score and bookseller. He has won numerous awards, and four of his books have been adapted into film. His books are number one recommendation for all lovers of Scandinavian thrillers. The Department Q series of crime thriller novels has made him one of the most renowned and most awarded European authors. The investigation into the mysterious disappearance of young politician Meret Lingard is the first task undertaken by Department Q sector, where the only employees are detective Carl Mørck -who returns to work after a shootout in which one of his colleagues remains paralyzed and the other is killed – and Syrian immigrant Assad. “The Woman in the Cage” is a great start to the Department Q series of books! Immediately after the release, the book debuted at number one and stayed on the top of the bestseller list all year! The book was also made into film.

We talked to Jussi Adler-Olsen during his stay in Skopje for the promotion of his novel “The Woman in the Cage” at the BookStar Festival, published in Macedonian language by “Antolog”.

You came to Skopje for the promotion of your novel “The Woman in the Cage” at the BookStar Festival. Is this your first time in Macedonia? What are your impressions?

I’m quite surprised by what I see here. I think is extremely unexpected. It is my first time in Macedonia and Skopje, but I’m sure it’s not the last time, because I must bring my wife here. Very lovely country. To be a tourist here is quite impressive. You have a wonderful river, there’s a lot of mixture of cultures, living areas, the bazaar, the old part of the city and the new stuff, the surroundings I find it very interesting. I think that we are going for a longer tour tomorrow outside Skopje, and I am keen about it. I think it’s lovely, and I’ve been travelling a lot. As an author this is my travelling number 120. So, that means in the last seven years I’ve traveled a lot. You can imagine. But it is also my last trip as a promotor. In spring time when I was in Germany I had an accident with both my ears, so I could not hear anything. The ten-day tour in Germany was too tough and I decided to go home, play the guitar, put my feet on the table, watch football matches and write a lot. Coming to Macedonia was a nice way of stopping it. Normally when I’m touring, I’m having like three or four days in a place. And now I’m here a few days, I came with a friend who was so curious about the history of yours. Also, I have to say this is a very strange culture, your history, the invasions, earthquakes, war and still you are here seeming like quite cheerful. I am very happy for you, not for the fighting with Greece around the name and the flag, but in the long run who cares … we know where you are and we know your flag. That was a long answer to a short question.

“The Woman in the Cage” is a novel about the first case of the Department Q, which involves the disappearance of young politician Meret Lingard. The book has also been adapted into film. Did you like the film adaptation of your novel?

I can tell you that the three first films were great, and they are going to make a fourth and I hated it. I think it’s not well-done in my opinion. Many people have seen it in Denmark, but I did not like it at all. You know, I was educated into movies, and I made many many adaptations and I’m good at it, so, of course, I wanted to make the adaptation myself, but I could not find the time. I think the manuscript is not as good as it could be. For me, a good adaptation is making good characters, and making them deep, so that you really feel the tension, the sadness, and love affairs and so forth. You don’t really feel anything here. And I think they made the movie just to scare the audience. But my books are not only to scare. This movie is a little scarier, but it is also about a story of an important woman that I am describing well … You know, I never attended the movie premiers. I’ve never appeared on the red carpet. Now I gave the contract to another film company for the fifth, a film company I have worked before and they are more mature, I think they will make a good adaption. Also I want to say about adaptions to movies, I’ve only saw one movie being adapted by an author that actually was better than the book. Recently they also bought the rights for the Department Q as a television series. It’s about a very good production company that has worked on “Minority Report”, “Schindler’s List”… It will be filmed in America with an international crew, so it’s very exiting and I hope they will be successful in doing it.

You were guest at the Book Fair in Belgrade. Do you think direct contact with readers is helpful for writers? Do you like meeting with readers?

Honestly, for most of the authors, it doesn’t help them, because meetings at the Fairs or signing of books cannot be called a meeting at all. To meet the readers is to meet them in their eye height. In many ways like if you are performing on the stage it’s important that you make the readers laugh and feel something while you are performing and not every author is good at that. And when you are signing books, most writers just sit and write. But I’m not doing that. I’m taking the chair on the table, I stand up, look them in the eyes, give them a hug, take the “selfies”, and discuss with them. It can take a long time. I have once at signing at Frankfurt Fair I signed books for three and a half hours. It’s fantastic, but people in the line are still waiting patiently. So for that reason you have to pay special attention to them. Readers are special. I have been a publisher myself and I realized that most of the books that I read, it gives too much away. Every reader sees the book differently from other reader and has another experience. And I, as a writer, I like to cheat you, manipulate you. Especially when you are lying in your bed and read, just before you are sleeping, I give you a little sentence that opens your eyes again, and then after ten minutes when your head falls down again then I give you a little laugh, and when you are laughing the dopamine comes to your brain and you can’t sleep for another half an hour. And after this half an hour when the dopamine is gone, I give you the killing. So if I can have your attention throughout the night, it’s wonderful, and if you are making your own locations, characters, thoughts, developments, it’s a good read. That’s how I read too, I prefer authors that are not too self-esteemed, and don’t care about the reader. I realized this as an editor and a publisher, that readers are quite clever and they have been reading all night and so you have to be generous to them. I love the readers and to meet them and in Belgrade I met with many readers. I want to see new audience, to hear from different sides, how they read it, how they see it. If you go to Taiwan, can you imagine how they see my books? I can’t. So I like meetings with readers.

Your books have sold millions of copies, and the Department Q series of crime thriller novels has made you one of the most popular and most awarded European authors. How did you start writing novels precisely about this genre? Why crime thrillers?

I think I ‘m writing more thrillers than crime novels. In crime stories it is mostly about finding a body and  investigating and then tell why and who. Thriller is like preventing a crime to happen at the end. It’s like a good movie. You have to see the end. And you have to read faster and faster to see what is happening actually in the end. That’s an old tradition, from the Bible actually. Did Abraham kill Isaac? We must know. And Moses how did he avoid to be captured by Ramesses II? We have been used to read thrillers long ago. And you can write anything: social topics, political topics, romance, you can write about everything in this genre. Also there’s a very big audience.

“The Hanging Girl” reveals the murder of a high school girl through a charismatic leader of a strange cult, “The Marco Effect” is about a teenager who disappears because of the misdeeds committed by his uncle Zola; “Disgrace” is about the murder of a brother and a sister who are high school students, which the police consider to be a work of a member of an elite society from the boarding school … Often, the main characters in the novels are teenagers. Are these real-life stories, or were you inspired by some true events?

Never. Much of my books are written before some events actually happen. I felt that something could happen. It’s very often that you are writing about stuff before it happens actually. I wrote about an airplane falling into a high tower, one year before it happened in the US. In book number two I wrote about whatever happened in a boarding school, and in number three I wrote about a person who is attending a specific church in Denmark. So what inspires me: it is like any work of journalists, they can write about reality from here to here, what comes next is not their job, but that’s my job. So I see what actually is happening at the time, I see what journalists would like to write about, but can’t. I wrote in 2003 a book about what all that happens now in America. A stupid president misusing his power. So then you could say: What’s next? I can never say for sure what is coming up next, but meanwhile I am writing the last three books of Department Q, I am writing number eight now. I am also writing a certain story about China. And I think that what I am writing about it will happen. It’s very interesting to be me. But sometimes it can be very scary. What happened on 9/11 in America, I was shocked and I was asked by many journalists: Did your book inspire whatever happened? And I said no, I’m sure. Anyway, it was very strange and I was very scared of being the next victim. So I was a little paranoid after 9/11 because of that book.

The Department Q includes detective Carl Mørck, his assistant, Syrian refugee Assad, Rose and the new collaborator Gordon. The status of Syrian migrants is a current issue in Europe and in the world. Given that Assad is part of your novels, do you have any experience with the refugees from Syria? What is your position on this issue? How can the problem be solved?

Yes, I’m very familiar with the issue. I am a very political person. What is my standpoint about the refugees from Syria and other parts of the world, I am writing about it in my ninth book. It’s simply what the book is about. I live in in Barcelona in the winter time, ​​and on the beach there is a sign with digital numbers, and it’s counting day by day, more and more counting who drowned in the Mediterranean. When I’m there, I go there every day just to remind myself how horrible this problem is and how sad it is. We all know, thanks to media reports that people living in poor countries are very frustrated and of course I understand it. I would maybe be a refugee too if I was a Syrian and would have taken along my whole family and I would maybe do whatever was needed to migrate to the north, except for taking a boat in the Mediterranean, that’s dumb. So what to do about the problem. I suggested the Government of Denmark instead of providing containers or tents in refugee camps, why don’t we build them cheap  zero energy houses. So the houses will be of high-quality, most of refugees are good handicrafts -they can build them themselves, and when the war is hopefully over, and they can return to their own countries, the houses would be used for some other purpose. This is my personal suggestion. What do you think, what did the Government of Denmark say to me? They said that it could be a good idea and that they would take it to the EU. You think I ever heard anything? Year and a half passed and it was just an idea. No response. And why? Because politicians in Europe are not capable, they are simply not good anymore. So, I’m very furious about it and very often I react. I react because young persons at the moment in Europe are brought up to think only of themselves and their family. Denmark was a very fantastic social democracy before. Since 2001, it is not the country we knew, everyone is caring for themselves, and not for others, this is not Denmark. We would like to be an icon for the rest of the world, for the Scandinavian world, how to make it possible to go to hospitals or whatever is needed when you are in problem, for free, schools for free, universities… However, in Denmark, there’s still democracy, parliametarism, and it works, you can meet everyone: I met with the Queen a few times and if I meet the Prime Minister, and will say directly what I just said to you go away, you are not good enough. This is one of the nice things about Denmark.

You come from Denmark, but you live in Barcelona. Nowadays it is quite popular due to Catalonia declaring independence, the referendum and the protests. What was the atmosphere before you left? Can you tell us what’s happening there?

I haven’t been there since the election, but I’m going back in ten days. The Catalans are special population. What happened in Yugoslavia I don’t think it can happen there. I honestly don’t think it can happen, because they love their life, the city, the calmness, but they are furious. When a society wants independence, good talks are needed, and what they are doing in Madrid is making hate even bigger. It’s coming from the Franco regime. During that time, Catalans raised uprisings all the time, and they were killed, bombarded cities and they fought, and they never forgot that. What is interesting thing about Catalans is that they are not talking about it, they have no memories of the war time, the killings … It’s little like what happened in South Africa – what has been done, has been done – forget about it. And they do it and I admire them for doing that. I expect that there will be election on December 21, and in this election I am sure they will cheat, they will not count the votes right. You are probably wondering if there is fear in Catalonia that they will be thrown out of the EU. But they are much clever than that. And the Spaniards do not understand what’s going on. They are going to make a Switzerland. Simply. Good taxes for companies and they will be rich. After independence, the companies will return to Catalonia because the taxes will be very low. They are too dumb in Madrid. But what I do not understand is that no one backs them up in Europe. It’s not ok to beat women and children on the referendum day. It’s simply not ok to put people in prison for being separatists. Only Scotland is supporting them. Why don’t thy support them like trying to intervene and to make the negotiations go on instead of saying they have no right to do so? I am so ashamed of the European leaders that they are not intervening.

In your youth, you played the guitar in several pop groups. What kind of music do you like? Who is your favorite pop singer today?

Oh, what a question. I have so many favorite singers because I am into any kind of music. For example, your name Nevena reminds me of the Serbian group “Neverne Bebe” which has soft sounds and I have followed them for the last 15 years. I was in Montenegro when I saw the band. So skilled. I talked to the band several times. It’s amazing. They are so good musicians and composers. I’m not saying that because I’m here now, but very often I listen to their music. They sound smooth, I do not understand the words, nor the lyrics they sing, but their language, like yours, is very soft when you’re singing. It’s like a love declaration. And today, when I am walking around the city, I am going to buy procure CDs of Macedonian music. I’m not talking about folk music, but contemporary pop singers and I’m very excited. In older times when I was in rock bands I listened to Jimmy Hendrix and other great names, we played their music. Nowadays, I’m not playing that often, but I listen to music all day long, so I couldn’t mention any specific, it could be English, American, Italian, whatever. What I’m looking for is skillness and good composers. And I like classical music, I like every song if it’s good.

You studied medicine, sociology, and then film making. You were an editor, a publisher, a composer of film score, and a bookseller … How did you start writing and publishing crime novels?

At school, I was clapped on my shoulders from the teachers and then I knew. Then I took part when I was a kid in a national competition and I won all the prizes. I think that I am competitive, I like to be in competitions. Not only in writing, but to do my best simply and demand a little more of myself that I normally would. I think two specific incidents were helpful for me to be a writer. Have you heard about the one when I was a boy scout? I built a three point tower and on the triangle on the top together with a friend I made a platform and we put grass there and we decided, just for fun, that we should stay there for a week. We heard that some soldiers had done that for three days. And after three days, we understood why they went down – because it was boring. It was autumn, and the leaves came down, and then we smoked them. Fourteen-year-old kids out of boredom, and we had heavy diarrhea from that, but we couldn’t go down. Many people were coming around to see us because the local newspapers wrote about us. Then I knew we were brave because we stayed there. And that’s one thing to be a writer. You have to grow up, you have to get to know yourself, you have to think that you can live from it, that you are good enough. You cannot be introvert, just sitting in a room and just waiting something to happen. That’s one thing. The other thing, let’s get back to the tower. We stayed there, but we were still bored and we started to tell each other stories. My friend had a very good memory. He knew all the stories of Edgar Allan Poe. I do not- because that’s an author. We can never remember anything, we just invent stories. And I made my own stories in the tower. My friend could not sleep for three days and he knew that my stories were terrible, and I knew that horror stories came easy to me to invent. Another thing. When I was 30 years old, I had the plan that one day I will be a writer. Why? Because this seemed to be the best job in the world. You do not have to go to work and even if it’s cold outside, you can write in your pajamas and if you are lucky you could also make a good living. My wife and I went to the Netherlands where she painted, and I tried to write a novel and I succeeded in doing that – It was a very gruesome story about Cambodia, Uganda that has never been published, because I don’t want it to be published. When I was 45, I decided to sort of retire as author and I wanted to be a housewife because my son was 6 years old and I could stay at home all day and when he came home from school there were pancakes every day, I could go to football with him. That was my purpose to get time for my life. I could live from the books easily, and when the Department Q came, the books were even bigger success. Writing for me is a terrible waste of time in some many ways. I love to make the stories and to make the synopsis and this is a fun time, you have to do lot of research, you have to travel, speak to lot of people, read a lot before you start writing, and now comes the trauma when you have to sit down for some months and just write. I write whenever I feel like or whenever I have time or whenever my deadline is coming closer. It can be two hours a day it could be nothing for two months, bit can also be fifteen hours when I am very close to finish the story. So, I am a terrible person in my own writing discipline, but anyway I succeed. I have lot of tricks to keep my mind going on.

I came across the fact that you have worked as a restorer of old buildings for a certain period of time, and you considered it to be your most beautiful hobby. You do not do it anymore? You do not have time or something else is the reason for that?

First of all, I have renovated and built about sixteen houses myself and we were living in the houses while I built them. That means that my wife has been living in dusts for thirty years and I promised her that now it’s over. But I miss it so much, not only for the handcraft, but most of all physically, because if you are building houses like laying bricks you are also using other parts of the brain, which makes the creative part of the brain better and you are in better physical condition too…

Your father worked as a psychiatrist in a mental hospital. As a child, along with your sisters, you spent a great deal of your time near his job. What experiences do you have from there? Were there some unusual happenings? Was it later incorporated in your works?

Actually we lived in the hospitals, amongst the patients. I lived there throughout my childhood since I was five until 14. In the meantime, the treatment of the mental patients has changed a lot. At first, nothing could be done about them except giving them electric shocks, tying them and giving them lot of medications. When I was six years old I had friends with mental illness. Amongst them is Mr. Mørck, who is one of the characters in the novels. What did you learn from that? Maybe everything. About how harsh life can be. In a social aspect, when you are a grown up, how problematic it can be if you are mentally insane, or that every child, like I was, could be insane later on if anything happens in your life taking other direction. I learned to take care of my surroundings and of myself and I learned a lot about empathy, which is the most important thing that we can give to our children. Give them empathy and they will be better persons, for sure. Then, of course, there was a lot of horror stuff. It’s like living on a farm where you could see animals being killed. I saw many electroshocks, autopsies. We climbed on the roof and we look down, and we knew the patients. But it was like normal for us, I knew anatomy of human being, so to speak. I learned to see how it pays off to carry on with the people you are treating, that maybe you though can’t be cured. My father was very controversial and he taught me a lot about it. It was my intention to be a psychiatrist myself so that is why I began to study medicine, but after a while I decided that I did not want to spend my life amongst sick people. So, I just stopped and never regretted it.

You have received various prestigious literary awards, your books are sold in millions of copies, three of your novels have been made in film … What are your next plans? Is there anything you want to do that you have not done yet?

Three days ago it was to go to Macedonia. I would like to play a lot of music, compose for contemporary movies, it could be fun to come to the top in pop music, compose music, do the texts… I would like to travel here and there, I haven’t been to Japan, for example, then I’m going to write, to follow my son in what he does, hopefully to I have grandchildren. These are simple things and I’m fortunate that I can do whatever I like, but when you can do that you don’t do it, or don’t want it anymore. When you are younger, you always have to pay the rent, you have to do this or that, and when you are older like I am, you can only expect to be sick and to die. That’s the reality, but I’m very hopeful that like the rest of my family I will grow very old.