Jenny Hval is an artist torn between extremes.
Crafting truly transgressive pop music, the songwriter is able to ally often exploratory extremes to sweet, beautiful melody.
New album 'Apocalypse, girl' is out this week, a work which finds the Norwegian artist dwelling somewhere between fiction and reality, an oddly unsettling but utterly unforgettable document.
Intrigued, Clash asked Jenny Hval to discuss some of the literary inspirations which fire her work.
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What is your favourite book and why?
I LOVE DICK by Chris Kraus is my favourite book, and it's not what you think it is - on the surface level, it's a series of impossible love letters from Chris Kraus herself to the character (and real life person) Dick. But these letters are also a piece of writing that managed to overturn my ideas of fiction, autobiography, narrative, love and rejection. And philosophy.
I didn't have a favourite book for a long time, but then BAM! I read this book maybe three years ago and it changed everything. Kraus comes from visual arts and is also a sort of academic outsider. The amount of risk she takes, the way she manages to give meaning, value and artistic quality to rejected outsider perspectives and emotional experience makes her books transcend any kind of petty descriptions of "genre" or questions of whether or not what she writes is even literature. She is the most important contemporary writer and thinker I know of.
What other authors do you like?
I think the last book that changed my idea of writing as much as Kraus was Marguerite Duras' The Ravishing of Lol Stein. I read it when I was maybe 18 or 19. It's beautiful and sad and attacks you violently for thinking that it's beautiful and sad. I've also read and loved most of Anne Carson's work.
Apart from that I'm really digging into some Danish contemporary writers - Mette Moestrup, Amalie Smith, Maja Lee Langvad, Olga Ravn.
And (French-Norwegian-British poet/artist) Caroline Bergvall's recent book Drift is amazing and moving and necessary for all to read. Especially because it's incredibly relevant for what's going on in the Mediterranean right now.
What draws you to certain books?
Their ability to change me and give me hope. All my favourite books have given me hope.
Have you ever discovered a real lost classic? What is it and why?
What's a lost classic? I found a porn mag on the side of the road once when I was a kid... and it had the texture of a lost classic.
Do your literary influences have a direct impact on your songwriting?
I wouldn't be writing music at all without reading. At least not songs with words.
What are you reading at the moment?
I've read two Norwegian writers recently, Cathrine Knudsen and Vibeke Tandberg (who is also a visual artist). Very different writers, but with an interest in mechanics and relations. Tandberg's books are wonderful surrealist creatures. I'll be reading them over and over.
What is the first book you remember reading as a child?
A book with many drawings about a brother and sister who constantly hurt themselves in every possible way. A book about a girl getting lost in Venice. A wonderful children's poetry book by the Norwegian poet Inger Hagerup.
Did you make good use of your library card as a child / teenager?
In my local library they were running out of books for me to read when I was about 12 (it was a small town). At my worst I was reading several books a day. Then I got more picky.
Have you ever found a book that you simply couldn't finish? Constantly. Would you ever re-read the same book?
Absolutely. I read Mauve Desert by Nicole Brossard in my early twenties, and then re-read it five years later to write an essay about it. I and realised I had read it - and loved it - the first time around without understanding a single word. Like when I watched Claire Denis' Beau Travail with no subtitles, without knowing French (it's still beautiful).
Have you ever identified with a character in a book? Which one and why?
When I was growing up: Any sick or sickly child in any book I was reading.
Later: Orlando. Why? Because OF COURSE!
Do you read one book at a time or more than one?
They tend to pile up.
Is there an author / poet you would like to collaborate with?
Any of the above. I'd love to work with other writers. I've collaborated a few times with another Norwegian writer, Inger Bråtveit, and she - and her beautiful, visceral writing and reading style - has mean a lot to me. My main dream collaboration, though, would be to do something that is out of my comfort zone - like contributing to other writers' work, or a conceptual piece, or something. Or with someone who also did sound art.
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Photo Credit: Jenny Berger Myhre
'Apocalypse, Girl' is out now via Sacred Bones.
Jenny Hval has confirmed the following shows:
10 London Royal Festival Hall w/ Perfume Genius
11 Manchester Gullivers
12 Brighton The Hope & The Ruin
13 Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach
14 London Cafe Oto *SOLD OUT*