Garth Greenwell: “It has been heartening to see the response to the outrageous spite and incompetence of Trump.”

American author Garth Greenwell gave an interview for Helsinki Lit’s Philip Teir. Greenwell will perform at Helsinki Lit on May 14th together with the Finnish author Jari Tervo.

Congratulations for all the success with your novel! How would you describe the book, in short, for the Finnish audience?

– The book begins when an American high school teacher living and working in Sofia, Bulgaria meets a younger Bulgarian man in a public toilet and pays him for sex. What he takes for an easy, straightforward transaction becomes endlessly complex, and he finds himself caught and challenged by his feeling and by a past he has tried to run away from.

Your Facebook account mostly revolves around three things: literature, kittens and American politics – lately it’s been more of the latter. How are you coping with Trump as the new president?

– Like a lot of Americans, I feel extraordinary despair and shame about the new Administration. And also a great deal of fear. I worry that our democratic institutions are fundamentally quite weak, and they’re now being put under unprecedented pressure.

There seems to be a growing political movement in the US now after Trumps election, is this something that you are a part of?

– There is, and I am. It has been heartening to see the response to the outrageous spite and incompetence of Trump. It will be very difficult to maintain that response over the next four years; we have to find a way to do so.

Finland is celebrating it’s centenary this year, any thoughts on this? Did you know that Tom of Finland is sold as special coffee brand nowadays?

– Oh, Tom of Finland! I’ve admired some Finnish literature (notably your own and Pajtim Statovci’s novels), but most of my knowledge of Finnish culture is musical: Sibelius and Saariaho were two obsessions when I was in music school. In my imagination, the landscape is bound up with the soundscapes of those composers. I can’t wait to see the real thing.

Philip Teir