Elizabeth Strout: “I love Olive Kitteridge and feel like I know her very well.”


Barcelona (Spain), Feb 3 (EFE) .- From New York, the American writer Elizabeth Strout, creator of the Olive Kitteridge character, who was played on the screen by Frances McDormand, responds by email to Efe, and who now returns in “Olive, again” (“Light of February”), a novel that arrives today in Spanish bookstores.

Published in Spanish by Duomo and in Catalan by Edicions de 1984, the reader will reconnect with this irascible woman, but with an unbreakable honesty, who has widowed Henry (whom actor Richard Jenkins put a face) and who is still in the fictional town of Crosby, on the coast of Maine.

The novelist, who is also the author of “My Name is Lucy Barton,” asserts that Olive, the retired teacher in her seventies, has returned because it appeared one day, again, in her head and “one should take it as it comes.”

On this occasion, whoever enters the pages of “Olive, again” will see her longing for Jack, but meeting the former Harvard professor Jack Kennison, a widower with whom she will end up intimate, in a story in which neither the love, nor loss, nor loneliness, nor the unexpected moments of happiness that occur in every life.

He does not hide that whenever he writes, be it a novel or a story, he does not know how it will end, but “I love all my characters and when it seems appropriate for them to reappear I like them to do so.”

Specifically, about Olive he highlights that he loves her, “I love her since she appeared a few years ago. In this second book I felt that I knew her a little more, but she, for whatever reasons, I suppose because she is so Olive, has also felt that I know her very well ”.

In her wandering through the streets of the town and in her meeting with the different neighbors who live there, she will once again experience incredible situations such as the one that leads her to become a “midwife”.

Elizabeth Strout recalls that years ago she went to a “baby shower” party and there she thought she could describe it from Olive’s perspective, but she went further, and created the moment in the novel in which her character comes to “help give birth. to a young woman ”.

Likewise, he recreates scenes in which the protagonists are illness, infidelity or relationships between mothers and children, which “for many people are an imperfect love, although that is fine because it is love anyway”.

Neither does it obviate death and makes Kitteridge’s character come to pronounce that dying gives him “a fear of fear”.

When asked if she also feels it and how she experiences the passage of time, the writer answers that “it is interesting because I often find that I am afraid of death. But not as much as the fear I have of being very weak and not living fully. That worries me much more ”.

On how she occupies the passage of time, she points out that “every day I celebrate being alive, and I work, and I am with my husband, and I take a walk, now with a safe distance, with my friends, and I play the piano, more or less one hour daily ”.

A novel with a title that makes one think of Faulkner and his “August Light”, Strout reveals that he loves the February light of Maine -where it comes from- because it is “splendid, different from other parts of the US, because Maine is so far north that the light comes at a different angle. And I’ve always wanted to write about that light, and I realized that Cindy (one of the characters in this book) would notice it and would like it very much, just like Olive.

Regarding whether he thinks there will be a new series or season about his character starting with “Olive, again”, he thinks that both Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins did a “fantastic job, but there are no plans to continue it”.

Elizabeth Strout, on the other hand, considers that these last months due to the pandemic have been “horrible and terrifying times” and is very sorry for the people who “have lost loved ones because of the virus.”

In his opinion, it is one of the “strangest times” of his entire life and he believes that “it has also been for most of the people.”

As for whether it will be reflected in any way in his new titles, he confesses that he is already writing a book on the pandemic because “it is impossible for me to write about anything other than this question.”

In addition, he has just delivered to his North American publisher a new story that “happens between Maine and New York” and jokes that, later, he hopes to write more about the city of skyscrapers, in which he resides. “I’ve written enough about Maine!” He concludes.

Irene Dalmases