As a consequence of my last visit to Iceland, I got a novel published in english,” says Jonas Hassen Khemiri. We’re on the third floor in the oldest theatre house in Reykjavík, Iðno. Jonas is almost two meters tall, so we’re crouched down in our seats. It’s a really low ceiling. “The publisher heard about my novel here at the Reykjavík International Literary Festival in 2007. She read it in german, I think, and then had it published in United States.”

Jonas is from Sweden. He’s considered one of the most important writers of his generation and has received many awards, including the P.O. Enquist Literary Prize.

“I really love the feeling of discovering an underground mix-tape by someone you’ve never heard of. I remember when I heard Kendrick Lamar for the first time. I was like ‘This is amazing. This is mine. I’m not going to share this with anyone. This is my private goldmine of genius.’ “

“I’m very fond of my readers. There are not that many outside of Sweden. It’s a small crew of readers who support my books. My main readership is mostly in the Nordic countries, but hopefully it’s spreading,” Jonas says taking a moment to slurp a spoonful of soup. He only arrived earlier in the morning. “I really love the feeling of discovering an underground mix-tape by someone you’ve never heard of. I remember when I heard Kendrick Lamar for the first time. I was like ‘This is amazing. This is mine. I’m not going to share this with anyone. This is my private goldmine of genius.’ I’m not comparing myself to him. I’m saying that good writing survives in the long term. I don’t know if I’ve created good writing yet, but that’s my ambition.”

Jonas writes novels that could be described as challenging or at least fragmented. In his novel, Everything I Don’t Rememberit features testimonies of a multitude of characters as an unnamed author tries to piece together the last day of a man named Samuel who died in a car crash.

Jonas and J.M. Coetzee

“The books that I write, I kind of think of them as lego,” Jonas says, “Fans of my work are people who like to put the story together themselves and that becomes part of the story. The act of putting it together as the reader. You need to enjoy putting pieces together to enjoy my books. There are a lot of books that put the pieces together for you if you prefer that and I love reading those as well. When it’s my book, I want you to enjoy recreating the book with me. It’s not a book for everyone.”

“I have so many books inside of me, that I have read, that changed my life. But if you start thinking about that when you’re writing, you’ll go crazy. ‘I’m going to produce something, something that will change the lives of everyone, forever, for all enternity! No Pressure!’”

With Nordic Noir being so popular–Wallander from Sweden is a global hit–I ask him if writing these literary or challenging novels is what he sets out to do.

“You can’t really control those things. I have a huge respect for anyone who’s been writing their whole lives: be it they write crime novels or be it they right tricky literary fiction. When I think about that binary, that binary between difficult or easy, literary or non-literary, I choke,” Jonas says. “I have so many books inside of me, that I have read, that changed my life. But if you start thinking about that when you’re writing, you’ll go crazy. ‘I’m going to produce something, something that will change the lives of everyone, forever, for all enternity! No Pressure!’”

Jonas isn’t staying as long in Iceland this time. He has a wife and children at home and has one more festival in Italy to attend before heading home.

“Last time I was here I managed to squeeze…I don’t know if selfies were a thing back in 2007, but I managed squeeze myself into a selfie with J.M. Coetzee, the South African Nobel Prize winning writer,” Jonas says. “You can’t do a thing like twice. It was me, a waterfall, and him. He looked fifty-percent amused and fifty-percent scared.”

Jonas is doing a live interview at 12:00 PM GMT, which you can stream live from the festival website here.