About Eli´s gender

For discussion of John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel Låt den rätte komma in
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johnajvide
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About Eli´s gender

Post by johnajvide » Wed Sep 22, 2010 9:37 am

Hi, there;

John Ajvide Lindqvist here.
Once again I visit these forums and once again I find many interesting discussions going on. One in particular caught my eye: the question of Elis gender and on what point in writing I decided to let Eli be a boy, Elias.
I didn´t really remember, so I went beack to the notes I made while writing the novel (about 90 pages, in all). In december 2000 I made the first one, and it all starts with:
”A vampire story. That takes place in Blackeberg. Not really sure that it is a vampire, but something similar.” a few more paragraphs and I have decided that it is going to be a vampire, and that the vampire is a boy.
The following day I make the decision that the vampire is going to be androgynous (Probably misspelled that one) and that he is, in fact, a castrated boy. This was two months before I even started writing the thing.
An immense amount of ideas and images written in these notes never made it into the novel, but it is funny to see that on that very first day of making notes in december I had also decided that the climax was going to take place in a pool. ”Blood and chlorinated water” I wrote.
So, yes, I knew from the beginning that Eli was a boy. What happened when I let Eli meet Oskar was that Eli started to change his behaviour from what I had originally envisioned. I didn´t even know that they were going to fall in love. But I felt that Eli/Elias would try to appear more likeable in order to ge closer to Oskar, once he had decided not to kill him (The stroke on the cheek). Since Oskar percieves Eli as a girl, Eli is content with not informing him otherwise, although he can´t help himself on a few occasions. Eli doesn´t want to fool Oskar, he is uncertain if Oskar is going to leave him if the truth comes out.
Yes, this is quite different from the Let me in movie version, even though I actually don´t have any problem with that. It is a very different interpretation of the story, but that one makes sense, too. And as you know, I have written my own endning. (Which, by the way, probably will be included in the American version of Paper Walls which is to be published in a not-too-distant future)
Also, I tend to be interested in androgyneous (that word!) characters, and Eli was my first one. I wanted Eli to act as an in-between. Girlish sometimes, boyish sometimes. He can be anything, and he suprised me many times while writing the novel.
Also I decided very early on that Elis name would be Eli. But it was simply a stroke of luck when I introduced the religious policeman and I remembered what Eli means in hebrew. And when Eli was going to reveal himself as a boy a remember being happy coming up with the name Elias.
From the beginning Eli was just Eli. A name. A sound. I thought very hard before coming up with that name, and when i chanced upon it I felt it was perfect. Maybe in part because on some subconscious level I knew that it could have many diffrent connotations. And it did.
But from the beginning Eli was just Eli. Nothing. Anything. And he is still a mystery to me.

Take care

John

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abner_mohl
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Re: About Eli´s gender

Post by abner_mohl » Wed Sep 22, 2010 9:49 am

Thank sir you for this wonderful post. It is fantastic and an honor to know you are following our discussions. Can't wait for the book to come out.

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drakkar
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Re: About Eli´s gender

Post by drakkar » Wed Sep 22, 2010 10:07 am

Thanks!
It is really an honour to be informed about these things here, before you read about them in the newspapers or on the web!

The translation of Paper Walls is really nice - in addition to the English version of the epilogue to Handling the Undead, you will get the short story "Gräns" (shall be interesting to see the translation of that title) - essentials imho.
Last edited by drakkar on Wed Sep 22, 2010 11:25 am, edited 2 times in total.
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a_contemplative_life
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Re: About Eli´s gender

Post by a_contemplative_life » Wed Sep 22, 2010 10:21 am

Thank you, John, for telling us this.

This is the most delightful post I have ever read on this site. I am so happy that I am still coming here virtually every day for about a year, so that it did not pass me by.

It's so human of Eli to be comfortable letting Oskar believe what he will about his gender, if it will mean that Oskar won't abandon him. I really find this quite touching. And I love how you describe Eli, as a character, changing and surprising you as you wrote your story. I am not sure why, but I find this incredibly fascinating. I suppose it is because so many people might think that everything is planned out from the beginning. And I'm so happy that although it was not originally known, you eventually did decide to let Oskar and Eli fall in love, because I am not sure where I would be without that! :D
johnajvide wrote:But from the beginning Eli was just Eli. Nothing. Anything. And he is still a mystery to me.
Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Herein lies our eternal fascination with Eli, and I am happy to know that even you, his creator, still find him mysterious.

This is sort of a random thought, but your post makes me wonder . . . does God find us mysterious? Do our turns and twists ever make Him scratch his head from time to time? I like to think so. :lol:
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gattoparde59
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Re: About Eli´s gender

Post by gattoparde59 » Wed Sep 22, 2010 10:28 am

Thank you very much for shedding some light on the "mystery." :)

I especially enjoyed your description of the writing process for this, your first novel. Writing out notes and everything. Cool!

I'll break open the story and tell you what is there. Then, like the others that have fallen out onto the sand, I will finish with it, and the wind will take it away.

Nisa

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Klesk
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Re: About Eli´s gender

Post by Klesk » Wed Sep 22, 2010 11:32 am

Thank you for this valuable insight.
johnajvide wrote: Also, I tend to be interested in androgyneous (that word!) characters, and Eli was my first one.
A Morrissey Fan and interested in androgyneous characters. What a coincidence. :D
A creature of the night, that carries the light in itself.

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Re: About Eli´s gender

Post by covenant6452 » Wed Sep 22, 2010 12:01 pm

Great to hear all of that from you, sir!
Personally, I am just happy that you did come up with Eli AND Oskar, but hearing you tell how you did was a special treat...thank you.
Du måste bjuda in mig...or else!

WhiteBackground
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Re: About Eli´s gender

Post by WhiteBackground » Wed Sep 22, 2010 1:42 pm

Thank you for this fascinating insight into our favorite character :) It really is a blessing to have you here reading the forum.
"The one with enough courage and patience to dare gaze all his life into the darkness will be the first one to see in it a glimmer of light" (c)

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Re: About Eli´s gender

Post by theguy1991 » Wed Sep 22, 2010 3:20 pm

Thanks for the info John. It's cool that you visit these forums

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PeteMork
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Re: About Eli´s gender

Post by PeteMork » Wed Sep 22, 2010 4:10 pm

johnajvide wrote:Hi, there;

John Ajvide Lindqvist here.

Once again I visit these forums and once again I find many interesting discussions going on. One in particular caught my eye: the question of Elis gender and on what point in writing I decided to let Eli be a boy, Elias.

I didn´t really remember, so I went beack to the notes I made while writing the novel (about 90 pages, in all). In december 2000 I made the first one, and it all starts with:
”A vampire story. That takes place in Blackeberg. Not really sure that it is a vampire, but something similar.” a few more paragraphs and I have decided that it is going to be a vampire, and that the vampire is a boy.

The following day I make the decision that the vampire is going to be androgynous (Probably misspelled that one) and that he is, in fact, a castrated boy. This was two months before I even started writing the thing.
First, thank you so much for taking the time to share all this with us. The process by which a successful author builds a novel from scratch has always intrigued me. Especially this beautiful novel.
johnajvide wrote: So, yes, I knew from the beginning that Eli was a boy. What happened when I let Eli meet Oskar was that Eli started to change his behaviour from what I had originally envisioned. I didn´t even know that they were going to fall in love. But I felt that Eli/Elias would try to appear more likeable in order to get closer to Oskar, once he had decided not to kill him (The stroke on the cheek). Since Oskar perceives Eli as a girl, Eli is content with not informing him otherwise, although he can´t help himself on a few occasions. Eli doesn´t want to fool Oskar, he is uncertain if Oskar is going to leave him if the truth comes out.

…Also, I tend to be interested in androgyneous (that word!) characters, and Eli was my first one. I wanted Eli to act as an in-between. Girlish sometimes, boyish sometimes. He can be anything, and he suprised me many times while writing the novel.
It’s good to hear that your characters often take on a life of their own. I’ve thought that this must be the case, but its good to have it verified. Eli’s evolution in the book was particularly realistic to me. And I think you nailed his androgyny perfectly! It was certainly the source of my theory (confusion :oops:) in the thread “Was Eli always Elias?”
johnajvide wrote: …..And as you know, I have written my own ending. (Which, by the way, probably will be included in the American version of Paper Walls which is to be published in a not-too-distant future)
Thanks for verifying the rumors. We are all looking forward to it!
johnajvide wrote: From the beginning Eli was just Eli. A name. A sound. I thought very hard before coming up with that name, and when i chanced upon it I felt it was perfect. Maybe in part because on some subconscious level I knew that it could have many diffrent connotations. And it did.

But from the beginning Eli was just Eli. Nothing. Anything. And he is still a mystery to me.
Well, if he’s a mystery to you, I doubt that he’s a mystery any of us will be able to unravel, although we take great pleasure in attempting it. Thanks again for your valuable input to these discussions!
We never stop reading, although every book comes to an end, just as we never stop living, although death is certain. (Roberto Bolaño)

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