We are so excited to dedicated this week’s Inspired By to the #FRC2015 course of the week, Lene Fogelberg, author of Beautiful Affliction. Here, she shares the five books that have inspired her writing most…

Selma Lagerlöf: The Saga of Gosta Berling

As a young girl growing up in Sweden, I loved to read Nobel laureate Lagerlöf, and I was captivated with her ability to weave mysticism into her stories. She often let the reader determine the driving force behind her story, and this was long before paranormal literature became the huge genre it is today. I remember wishing I could write like that, and I believe she was the one who taught me to trust the reader and to let readers interpret the story in their own way.


William Faulkner: Intruder in the Dust

I was blown away by this novel; to me it captured everything a story ought to be, the language, the storyline, the tension. Intruder in the Dust is a murder mystery to be solved, written in the voice of a young boy. The stream of consciousness can be overpowering, but to me that makes it even more riveting. I remember the exhaustion of reading one sentence stretching over several pages. I felt it demanded an effort from the reader, but it was so worth it, in what you gained in getting close to the character. From Faulkner I learned that language is not merely a means to an end, but a tool to bend and reshape the way you need to tell your story.


Tatiana de Rosnay: Sarah’s Key

De Rosnay’s Holocaust story rips your heart out on so many levels, and I remember pondering it for a long time after reading it. After drying my tears, I got curious how she had constructed the story to make it so emotionally gripping. When I started working on Beautiful Affliction I remembered Sarah’s Key and this book gave me the inspiration to tell my story with every other chapter as a flashback chapter in the first half of my book. I loved the way de Rosnay did it in her book, and even though in her story two different narrators tell every other chapter, I felt that this structure lent itself well to my story as well, and helped me solve the problem of how to tell my story.


Muriel Barbery: The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Barbery also used the “two narrators—every other chapter” technique, and it is very effective, to get to know the girl and the woman living in the same apartment building in Paris in her wonderful book. I studied French at university and lived in France for a couple of summers and I just love this poetic and melodious language. In addition, Barbery writes in wonderful philosophic and thoughtful prose that is somehow both slow and riveting, serious and playful, at the same time. Her two narrators build the story together, their voices complementing each other and the events from different chapters mirroring each other. This was something that had a great impact on me, and also the way Barbery lets opposing ideas reinforce each other, like in the title. I just love this book.


Tomas Tranströmer: The Deleted World: Poems

I was working on a paper on Swedish poet and Nobel laureate Tranströmer when I had to quit my studies at the university, due to my mystery illness. I still remember the look on my professor’s face when I tried to come up with some sort of an excuse: I am so busy, my daughter’s birthday is coming up, I won’t have time to finish the paper… How could I tell him I was dying, but no one knew why? I remember the humiliation I felt confessing to my husband I had to drop out of my studies, because the classroom was on the second floor and there was no elevator. But my husband totally understood and never made me feel bad. Still, I remember feeling like I was walking in one of Tranströmer’s poems through the snow-covered forest behind our house and reaching the meadows stretching out before me in their blinding whiteness, bringing the poet’s words to my mind: The unwritten pages spread out in all directions. In my heart I could feel my story aching to be written, aching for the right words to tell me why I was dying. That day my story felt like one of affliction. Never could I have imagined that the day would come when I would tell my story and by then it would have shifted shape and have become a Beautiful Affliction.


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