Q&A: Johanna Skibsrud

Author, Quartet For The End Of Time


Johanna Skibsrud caused a collective conniption when, as a relative unknown author, she won the 2010 Giller Prize for her novel The Sentimentalists. Since then she’s released a book of short stories and now comes to IFOA with a new novel set in 1932 that again looks at the impact of war.

She appears at the Penguin Canada 40th anniversary event Tuesday (October 28), 7:30 pm, at the Brigantine Room and at the Women & War panel, Friday (October 31), 7:30 pm, at Lakeside Terrace.

Here are her responses to our literary quips questionnaire:

Summarize your book in a tweet, i.e., less than 140 characters.

Four characters. One goes missing. Who, or what, is to blame – and what are the limits of responsibility?

Who should star as you in your biopic?

Katharine Hepburn, Meryl Streep or Dame Judy Dench.

What important book have you pretended to have read?

It’s really pretty easy to just smile and nod whenever someone mentions Animal Farm or Brave New World.

Recount your weirdest encounter with a fan.

When my novel The Sentimentalists was translated into Norwegian, I got to go to Norway for the first time and visit with some distant relatives. It was definitely weird – and wonderful – to sit next to my second cousin twice removed, who speaks no English and who read my book in a language I couldn’t understand.

Lena Dunham, creator and star of TV’s Girls, has received $3.5 million for her first book. Care to comment?

[Exaggerated shrug.]

You’re ready to write the next bestselling dystopia for young adults. What’s the premise?

Cold, unflinching realism.

Do writers make good lovers? Why?

I’d have to do more research.

Do book reviews still matter, or can you accomplish everything you need from social media?

Social media is probably the only thing that could have ever convinced writers and other artists to appreciate, and even feel nostalgia for, the good old-fashioned “critics.” Now everyone’s a critic – and a pretty lousy one.

Whose memoir do you not want to read? Why?

Pretty much everyone’s. Though if someone like Captain Sir John Franklin or Amelia Earhart could be convinced to come back to write their memoirs, I’d be into it.

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