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A Conversation with Peter Stamm

A Conversation with Peter Stamm

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Published by otherpress
Peter Stamm, author of Seven Years, was born in 1963, in Weinfelden, Switzerland. He is the author of the novel Agnes, and numerous short stories and radio plays. His novels Unformed Landscape and On A Day Like This, and the collection In Strange Gardens and Other Stories are available from Other Press. He lives outside of Zurich.
Peter Stamm, author of Seven Years, was born in 1963, in Weinfelden, Switzerland. He is the author of the novel Agnes, and numerous short stories and radio plays. His novels Unformed Landscape and On A Day Like This, and the collection In Strange Gardens and Other Stories are available from Other Press. He lives outside of Zurich.

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Published by: otherpress on Mar 18, 2011
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09/29/2013

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OTHER PRESS
S
EVEN
Y
EARS
By Peter Stamm
Seven Questions for Peter Stamm
1) In
Seven Years
, Alex and Sonia share a passion forarchitecture, but she admires Le Corbusier whereas he is devoted toAldo Rossi. Was it clear from the start that architecture would play acentral role in the novel?
 
Sonia is a person who plans her life like an architect plans a building. Aboutrelationships, she says they are like a building with different rooms that havedifferent purposes. I found architecture the perfect profession for her withoutreally knowing where that would lead. Once the decision was made, Iplunged myself into architecture and found the whole field very productivefor my theme. Especially the theoretical work of Aldo Rossi, whose buildings Ivery much dislike.
 
2) A review from
Le Monde
in April of 2010 mentions that WitoldGombrowicz’s
Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy 
(1935) gave you theidea for Alex’s obsession with Ivona. What else inspired andinfluenced you when you came to write
Seven Years
?
 It was mainly Gombrowicz’s play and the question whether someone wholoves us has power over us. (By the way that’s the reason why Ivona isPolish.) Before I started
Seven Years
, I had worked on a novel that Iabandoned after maybe a year. Now it seems to me that this novel about awoman whose face is destroyed in an accident was a kind of preparation for
Seven Years
. Once I had begun writing there were a lot of influences. Iusually start from scrach and the material just adds up during the writing. 
3) Alex’s character is obsessed with the possibility of escape. Heachieves this in his affair with Ivona, in bouts of binge drinking, andin his dreams of travel at the end of the novel, to “Berlin or Austriaor Switzerland.” Is this escapism an idiosyncratic tendency or is itmeant to reflect a certain kind of typically masculine impulse?
 
O
THER
P
RESS
2 Park Avenue, 24
th
Floor | New York NY 10016P: (212) 414-0054 | F: (212) 414-0939 | publicity@otherpress.com
 
I guess it’s an impulse that many of us know, men and women. We live ourvery well-organized lives, not unhappy but maybe a bit lazy, making toomany compromises in our work, our relationships. I think it’s just natural tothink of escaping and starting a new life once in a while. Of course, most of us do not escape or do it on a small scale and for a limited time. But thefascination is always there. 
4) In one of her letters to Alex from Marseilles, where she isworking early on in the novel, Sonia quotes Herman Hesse:“So that the possible can come into being, the impossible hasto be attempted again and again.” She repeats these wordsto Alex in person. Do you agree with Hesse’s dictum?
 To be honest, I think Hesse is quite a horrible writer. I sometimes have thefeeling he never really grew up. And his wisdom seems bookish to me. I don’treally understand what he or Sonia want to say with these words. Sonia isthe kind of person who would throw this kind of wisdom at other people,without really thinking about it. She certainly doesn’t live according to suchprecepts. She seems quite happy not trying the impossible. 
5) Ivona is working in a Christian bookstore when Alex firstmeets her. She is powerfully devout, as revealed by the manyreligious icons Alex encounters in her room. Why did you choose tomake religion one of Ivona’s defining characteristics?
 Because she is kind of a Saint. Her love for Alex is an almost religious one.It’s like the love for God that is also never fulfilled and therefore is notcorrupted by reality. (If we would have to share bed and bathroom with God,our love for him would probably diminish after a while, as in mostrelationships with real people.) At one early point in the story, Ivona choosesAlex as the object of her love and after that, she never wavers or doubts herdecision. And of course she is Polish, so it’s quite natural that she would be adevout Catholic. 
6) Alex and Sonia go to see several films over the course of thenovel—“Rain Man” on an early date, and “Schindler’s List” and “TheLives of Others” some time later during their marriage. Are thesefilms you have seen and like especially? If you are a film lover, couldBilly Wilder’s “The Seven Year Itch” been an inspiration for thenovel?
 I have seen all these films but didn’t particularly like any of them. I deeplydespise “Schindler’s List” and think that “Rain Man” is pretty kitschy. “TheLives of Others” is okay, but not a great movie. What interested me, though,is how by speaking about these films, my characters show something aboutthemselves. My favourite filmmakers are Godard, Eric Rohmer, Antonioni.
O
THER
P
RESS
2 Park Avenue, 24
th
Floor | New York NY 10016P: (212) 414-0054 | F: (212) 414-0939 | publicity@otherpress.com

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