I would rather be loved by a few than “liked” by thousands
Who is Fanni Sütő?
I am a dreamy writer-poet girl, who is currently stuck in a 9-6 job trying to build her future and hopes she will soon be able to do what she really wants. I like to define myself as an explorer and a story teller because in my opinion people nowadays have a huge hunger for stories. We don’t have enough deep conversations and the world has been running faster and faster...
Do you think there is really a demand for stories? Do people read at all?
I don’t really know. What I know is that I would probably still write even if only a few friends would read my stories. I’m not really good in being persistent but I have been writing since I was 13 so that’s quite a time. I don’t do it because I expect to sell my works and then to buy a BigMac meal from the money I have earned, but because I just have to, regardless of the fact if I will have readers or not. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have readers if you want to make a living from writing. If I ever get to the level, I would prefer to earn money from writing in English, so I could allow myself to write in Hungarian just for the love of it, it would be something more artistic while the English would be more „consumable.”
What differences do you see between Hungary and abroad?
There is a big difference between writing for a 10 million market where you have only a little space to expand, our to the many millions of native English speakers and the other millions who also read in English. Also, I feel that in Hungary a lot depends on who you know, which school you went to, where you come from. The English speaking market is more „individualistic”, it is more important who you are, what have you done so far. I also have the feeling that here in Hungary, we have a small group of „successful” writers, they are the ones who have a voice and it is very difficult to get into their circles. In my opinion, the biggest problem is that there is no middle ground. There is „the contemporary Hungarian literature”and there are the amateurs ( or to put it more nicely: the beginner writers), who have the possibility to appear in some anthologies if they are lucky, but most of the time they have to pay for getting published. Unfortunately, these anthologies are rarely read by anybody else but the contributors. Not necessarily because they are not good but because in our economic situation one just does not want to give out 3000 forints for an anthology of unknown writers, when for this money they can buy the freshest volume of Stephen King or Haruki Murakami.
Despite all this, do you have any plans here in Hungary too?
In the future, I would like to write and publish more in Hungarian, since this is my mothertongue. I love it and I feel it my duty to try to create something beautiful and lasting with its help. I am actively seeking the ways and possibilities here but, since we are a small market, these are limited. I have my reading evenings which recall the atmosphere of the Nyugat matinées. I have recently had my seventh reading event where I had around thirty guests. There are always some new faces who come to see me even though they have never visited a similar event. They come, listen to me and in the end they come up to me and say they were having a great time. Of course, thirty-forty people could hardly be called a huge “fan base” but for me it is really more important that those few who know me as a writer really like what I do than to have 15 thousand people liking my writer page on Facebook but never give a second thought about anything I have written.
Do you think of yourself as a writer or as a poet?
Both, although I am writing less poems in these days. It is very interesting to see that in Hungary I have mostly poems published but in English they are not that popular: I have two poems which have been accepted, there is one waiting to be published. But as I have seen it, in England poetry is a bit different: it is more a performance, a sort of stand up comedy.
How can you be noticed as a writer in Hungary?
My first publication was in 2010, in the Ígéretek (Promises) anthology. After that I had other things accepted by that publishing house, it was a good start, it gave me self confidence. I regularly check out the possibilities on palyazatok.org and I also have a little circle of writer friends - we always share information and opportunities with each other. Currently I am diligently doing the writing course held by Könyvmolyképző Kiadó. They have a novel competition every year, if I finally get myself together and finish a novel I will send it to them to try my luck.
So you have no finished novels?
I do have a finished one. The only problem with it is that it should be completely rewritten. So I might as well say: no finished novels yet.
How much part of writing is inspiration and how much is hard work?
The problem with me is that I have tons of ideas but I don’t have patience or time… I have never been patient. Somebody once said that a masterpiece is 10% genius and 90% hard work and I agree. My favourite literature teacher once told me: ”Fancsika, it is great that you have 8 million ideas but nobody is going to buy a half-finished short story.” For me it is much harder to sit down and edit something I have written than to actually write. Sometimes when you are full of inspiration and sit down to get it quickly out of your head you can do huge errors. For a long time I hated to edit my writing, I didn’t like to be confronted with my shortcomings. I have come a long way in this area, in the writing school I also met the concept of “betas”. Beta is somebody who reads and corrects things you have written.
Do you write in English without mistakes?
Surely not, but neither do the English. Furthermore, I don’t write perfectly in Hungarian either but I think nobody does, everybody could do with a good editor. At the university in London where I studied for a semester, we had a competition. One of the girls in the jury said it was not my grammar which prevented me from winning. I made less grammatical mistakes than some of the English contestants.
Would you like to be the next J.K. Rowling?
Everybody ask this, but I don’t have ambitious dreams like that. Of course, I would like to be well-known but I don’t need the fuss and heavy criticism. If I had one or two novels published and there were people who would read it, I would be happy.
So you are more interested in the opinion of the public than of the professionals?
Yes. Unfortunately, I think, contemporary writers are more read by fellow “professionals” than the wide public. I consider myself a girl who is quite good in literary matters and I have read some contemporary authors, but not all of them and very few from young writers. I also didn’t meet the contemporary writers I like – for example Závada Péter or Szabó T. Anna – on the pages of a newspaper but in the interpretation of Magashegyi Underground who made catchy songs from their poems. Popular literature is indeed immensely popular, but things professionals recognize as good works are not widely read. Not necessarily because they are not good but because people don’t know them or because they are promoted as “high literature” and people get scared thinking “oh but I hated Odyssey as well.”
Do you find it good to have literature mixed with other arts?
Yes, for example I am more looking forward to have my poems turned into songs by Magashegyi or any other nice bands than to be read by millions.
Do you think this can smuggle back poems into the life of people, or will these be transformed into mere lyrics and music?
Think of troubadour poems, initially poems existed as songs, not lying dean on paper but sung. It seems performance is the original form of poems, it gives a different experience. I would like to have writing combined with other arts, I have been trying to get in touch with artists: I could write poems or stories to their pictures, they could illustrate my stories.
Do you think there is any other way which could help people to read, or even write more?
I am going to Baja soon, I was invited to two schools to talk a bit with the students. You have to walk up to young people and say that hey I am young too, I have written something – not necessarily Nobel-prize worthy but still something which is mine, just to show them they could also do it. Writing helped me a lot to understand things, to get over my problems. But not everybody is going to get famous. I think there is really no point in doing it just because you want fame and “easy” money. I write because that is my way of coping with life. If others like what I do, or they find it even helpful, maybe because they find something of themselves in my writing, then I feel that it is worth it. When people are moved by what I wrote, or even cry, it is a real recognition.
Translation by Fanni Sütő
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