Player Profile: Maria Takolander, author of The Double
by Jon Page - September 9th, 2013
Tell us about your latest creation:
The Double is a book of short stories. The stories range in their subject matter from rural Australia to northern Europe and beyond, and from the dark past of the Soviet era to a terrifying vision of the near future. The stories are bold and original, unnerving and unforgettable.
I am the only Australian-born member of my family. My parents and my sister were born in Finland, and then migrated to Melbourne. I now call Geelong home.
When you were a kid, what did you want to become? An author?:
I always wanted to be a writer. I think it had something to do with learning English as a second language when I was very young, and feeling like an outsider in Australia for quite a long time. As a result, language and the world never seemed ‘given’. Writing gave me the opportunity to ‘get to know’ language
and the world better.
What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:
The Double! I worked on it very intensively, and I had an excellent publisher supporting me.
Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:
I’m not fussy about where I write. I write wherever I can–at the kitchen table, in the train, at my daughter’s desk. All I need is my laptop and some time. Quiet, of course, also helps.
When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:
I love the poetry and prose of Jorge Luis Borges for its thrilling ideas, cool irony and lavish language. His writing reminds me that it’s exciting to be alive in a world that we don’t understand but that offers experiences of such intellectual and emotional intensity. JM Coetzee’s work is also brilliant. His writing evokes the suffering and complexity that unavoidably comes with living.
What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:
I’ll single out Enid Blyton’s The Wishing Chair. It was so wholesome and otherworldly, and I loved the idea of a magical escape. I think the book also intuitively represented for me the power of books more generally to facilitate
mesmerising flights of fancy.
If you were a literary character, who would you be?:
Feeling like an outsider, I have always strongly identified with Gregor Samsa! In more romantic moments, I saw myself as Jane Eyre.
Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:
I play with my young son, who loves books and imaginative play. Who wants to live solely in this world, when you can also inhabit so many others?
What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:
I love Finnish comfort foods and drinks, so I’d say Karelian pasties and milk.
Who is your hero? Why?:
My mum. She is an incredible survivor. Her family were exiled from their homes during the Finno-Russian war during the Second World War, and they endured significant hardship and privation. Nevertheless, my mother is the most loving and joyful person I know.
Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:
Finding readers for books, which are about probing the surface of things, in a society that’s increasingly content with surfaces.