In Datura, or A Delusion We All See, Finnish author Leena Krohn (Tainaron: Mail from Another City) describes the experiences of a woman struggling to draw distinctions between reality, belief, and hallucination.
What is the relationship between truth and illusion, fantasy and reality?
They are elements of the same consciousness—intertwined strands of the same rope. That rope is an umbilical cord connecting us to the totality of life. Delusions describe reality just as exceptions describe rules and illness teaches us about health. But delusions, illnesses, and exceptions are also essential parts of nature itself, not just mistakes.
What inspired you to craft the novel in an expressionistic manner, resisting a more traditional approach?
I do not think of myself as writing experimental literature. I try to be clear, precise, and brief, even when writing about unclear and vast matters. I find it best not to forcibly build a book, but to let it develop organically, like a plant, according to its own laws. It just needs to be watered with the writer’s own energy.
What importance do boundaries and borderlands between experiences, worlds, and objective and subjective experience play in the world of Datura?
Borderlands are always particularly interesting. The waterline, the edge of a forest, the borders between nations, dusk and dawn, the transition from one stage of life to the next... there are changes, transitions, and interactions, unions and battles, deteriorations and developments all happening at once. The human brain is a border town between the self and the world, the objective and the subjective.
What is “the delusion we all see”?
The delusion we (humans) all see is a species-internal reality created by the human brain. It has very little to do with objective, let alone absolute, reality. It is a grand delusion, one that we cannot escape.
How much do you share the narrator’s wonder and confusion at the world?
I share her questioning very consciously and permanently. As a child, I read theosophical literature, by writers such as Pekka Ervast and Annie Besant. Though I didn’t become a theosophist, questions concerning the possibilities of other planes of existence continued to occupy me. Doubt, grief, and ignorance form the unfailing foundation of my writing.
What genre do you feel Datura belongs to? Or do you resist labels?
I accept many kinds of labels, they don’t bother me. Categorization can be useful to readers, at least when they are choosing what to read. From a very young age, I have admired surrealists like Magritte and Giorgio di Chirico, and later also M.C. Escher’s mathematical graphics. Perhaps something of the tone of their work has found its way into mine. I have always admired Hans Christian Andersen. Could I perhaps be continuing his tradition in some way? Global literature is an immense web, in which individual books are junctures, all woven from the same thread of human consciousness.