New York City & Amsterdam
Arnon Grunberg, Novelist
I'm writing this in New York, at a moment when Corona in the US is being eclipsed by the killing of George Floyd, by the protests, by police violence, by looting. If right now the post-war order is actually collapsing – which I neither hope nor expect (if only barely) – Corona will relate to that like the Spanish Flu related to the Weimar Republic.
By Arnon Grunberg
What would you say are symbols of your current situation or the current situation in your country?It is inevitable to derive meaning from a crisis, whether it's a purely personal crisis or a crisis that affects society as a whole. Without a doubt, that reflex also is an attempt to deal with the unknown, to deal with danger or the suspicion thereof.
During Corona, I have been both to the Netherlands – the country where I lived until I was 23 – and to the US, or rather, to New York, the city where I've lived since I was 23. In both places, the crisis has a different meaning. Without in any way wanting to downplay the suffering, in Amsterdam it means the momentary or at least temporary interruption of certain habits. In New York, the crisis is an ominous sign, a possible foreshadowing of potential decay.
In either case, Corona demands us to be flexible. What is the difference between rights and privileges?
How will the pandemic change the world? What do you see as long-term consequences of the crisis?I'm writing this in New York, at a moment when Corona in the US is being eclipsed by the killing of George Floyd, by the protests, by police violence, by looting. If right now the post-war order is actually collapsing – which I neither hope nor expect (if only barely) – Corona will relate to that like the Spanish Flu related to the Weimar Republic.
Corona has done wonders for the conspiracy theory: one of the virus's actual side effects is that ostensibly, the number of believers in all kinds of conspiracy theories has grown considerably. This is bad news for society. As is often the case, the side effects are the most horrendous, the most lethal.
What gives you hope?I'm not sure if we need hope more than we need trust.
Being attached to life can bring hope. To me, carrying on with life also is a hopeful obligation and maybe even more than that – even if it means the prolonging of suffering.
Writing is a form of hope. I suspect that total desperation precludes writing; literature should always offer some form of resistance to despair, however small it may be.
Hope is a positive fantasy about the future, and evidently, reality may partly and sometimes even entirely destroy that hope. But reality is brimful of signs that we can interpret as hopeful if we choose to do so. The question is whether we should want to do so or whether such hope isn't also dangerous.