A Literary Atlas for a Dispersed Form
John Holten interviewed by Rob Doyle.
The Readymades, John Holten‘s 2011 debut novel, was a marvel. A Bolañoesque, avant-garde page-turner, it trained a breezily pan-European sensibility on the story of a shadowy Serbian art collective at large in Paris, Vienna and Berlin. Alongside the book’s heady inventiveness, there were ample doses of sex, drugs and alcohol, and exhilarating, wistful evocations of being young, broke and brilliant in post-Cold War Europe. Beautifully published by Broken Dimanche, the press Holten himself co-established in Berlin, where he now lives, The Readymades was largely ignored by the literary mainstream. One of the most remarkable novels of recent years, it has been read by relatively few people. Earlier this year, Broken Dimanche Press published Holten’s second novel, Oslo, Norway. Slimmer than its predecessor, it is no less abundant in flair, formal daring, and breadth of vision. There are metafictional tricks and turns, effervescent sexuality, apocalyptic visions, ruined love, Nordic alienation, and a Cortazarian invitation to read the novel in any number of ways. Holten is as much of a wandering spirit as the bright young things without borders who populate his fiction. I tracked him down between various art exhibitions and projects he’s been involved in, to talk about books, art, influence, travel, the future of fiction, and why it’s fun to write about threesomes and drug binges.