Interview: Per Kristian Cani

atlas

Per Kristian Cani's debut, Atlas (front cover).

A debut collection of journalism-poetry by a Norwegian with a broad worldview.

Per Kristian Cani debuted recently with a poetry collection entitled Atlas, published by Flash Publishing. It is the first Norwegian book ever to take on the festering situation in Western Sahara, where Morocco and the Saharawi independence movement, Polisario, are in conflict over sovereignty. The author portrays the country, the people and the conflict with a distinct sting and engagement, but the collection also contains humor and touching moments. This is a collection where the eye is central; specifically, the gaze of the Western observer, which is constantly confronted and challenged.

Tell me a little about yourself.
I’ve been writing since I was 16 years. Decided then that I wanted to be a writer. But I lacked a good project; I found that when I went to Morocco for the first time in 2007. Besides writing, I work as a Norwegian teacher.

Tell me a little about yourself.

I’ve been writing since I was 16 years. Decided then that I wanted to be a writer. But I lacked a good project; I found that when I went to Morocco for the first time in 2007. Besides writing, I work as a Norwegian teacher.

Where did you get the idea for the project?

A good friend told me about the conflict in Western Sahara. Then I became more and more interested in traveling to this area. I worked as a freelance journalist in this period, and I thought that journalistic realism and poetry could be combined. I used mostly the latter.

What possibilities does poetry give to explore political issues? Or, put another way: Why poetry, and not reportage?

My editor, Bendik Wold, has written well about this, and I quote him: “Precisely because the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara is underexposed in the Norwegian public, it is a natural subject for an underexposed artistic expression.” And further: “Because poetry itself knows what pushing the borders is, it is particularly well-suited to speak on behalf of the voiceless, to transport insight and empathy about these hellish conditions across distances in time and space. “

What sources of inspiration, apart from Morocco, have been important for Atlas?

The basis for many of the texts are my own photos from the trip. Thus, they are usually short, descriptive and reminiscent of haiku. I often used the camera on my cell phone and pretended I was talking into it. This way, I could almost go all the way up to people without them knowing that I took pictures of them. This is very cynical, and I often felt guilty, but many interesting pictures came of it … It was also inspiring to meet people “in the field” – Sahrawis, Moroccans, tourists – so really, to respond more accurately to your question: “everything” has been focused on Morocco and Western Sahara in recent years.

What is ahead?

I have a few ideas, but they are still classified as business secrets.

You have also contributed to the anthology “Out the open windows of this town,” where contributors only had 20 hours to create a text. Stressful, liberating, or both?

Clearly both. It was nice to do something together with others – a sort of literary group project. All credit to the publisher of this well-executed project!

Source: Leif Bull for Litterturklubben’s Blogg

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