Hello Yukiko Duke, host of the award ceremony

Yukiko Duke is a book reviewer for the television program Gomorron Sverige, editor of the magazine Vi läser, and herself an author and a translator. Tonight, on 29 May, she will host the award ceremony for ALMA laureate Wolf Erlbruch. We caught up with her to ask a few questions.

Yukiko Duke (photo Anna Widoff)

Yukiko Duke Photo: Anna Widoff

What is your earliest memory of reading?
Wow, I have a lot. Mostly Japanese books, I’m afraid, because my mother, who used to read me bedtime stories, was Japanese, and she chose Japanese books to keep the language alive for me. But I remember Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince very well, because I thought it was so odd  so sad and still so light, all at the same time.

What is your favorite book by Wolf Erlbruch, and why?
The one that most stands out for me is Duck, Death and the Tulip. It is the most beautiful and most dignified book about dying I have ever read, in any genre. I can’t count the number of copies I’ve given to people – both children and adults.

It’s always interesting to hear your book recommendations for Gomorron Sverige on Swedish public television. How do you choose books for the show?
Gomorron Sverige is a news show, so the basic criterion is that the first reviews should have been scheduled for that week or the week before. Apart from that, it’s up to me. Since the news desk likes to pick up nonfiction books anyway, I usually concentrate on fiction. I try to choose books that deserve to be reviewed but don’t always get the major reviews in the big papers.

When and where do you like to read?
I read obsessively, all the time, everywhere. On the couch, at the table, in bed, on the bus, on the plane, standing in line…

What’s on your bedside table right now?
Hm. A lot of different books, actually. The latest book by the Swedish artist Lars Lerin, Och fågeln flög fritt för att uppsöka sin bur, which is a set of illustrated reflections on his life. The English critic Olivia Laing’s volume of essays, The Lonely City, about being alone in New York. And the second book in Madeleine Bäck’s fantasy/horror series about mysterious happenings in a small community in Gästrikland, in eastern Sweden.

You review and translate other people’s books and also write your own. What role suits you best? What are the hardest and the most fun parts?
Let me quote the Japanese author Haruki Murakami: “I’m a farmer with diversified crops.” I like working with language in general. I enjoy reading, formulating my thoughts about reading and writing in book reviews, and moving written material from one language to another. All of these ways of rubbing up against words and language have their charm.

What kind of future do you see for children’s books, as children spend more and more time on tablets and other screens?
I think we shouldn’t get hung up on the forms in which literature is disseminated. All people, grown-ups and kids alike, will always need stories. Telling stories to ourselves and each other is our way of explaining the world and making sense of life. Have children’s books in digital form, alongside books with bindings, won’t change that in the slightest. Nor do I think that people, either children or adults, will stop reading. They might read in different ways, but they won’t stop.

You’ve said in interviews that you want to be a cultural bridge between Japan and Sweden. How are you doing that?
I translate Japanese fiction into Swedish, and I write about Japan in Sweden and vice versa. Once a month I go on nighttime radio for the Japanese public broadcaster NHK and talk about Sweden. I also give a lot of lectures about Japan. Right now I’m working on a seminar series about Japanese culture to celebrate the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Sweden and Japan.

Tell us – what have you got coming up?
At the moment my mother and I are putting the finishing touches on our latest project, a translation of Murakami’s essays about writing. They are funny, rather philosophical pieces about what makes a writer a writer and ways to work with narrative.

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