A visit to an unknown continent: From Serbia in 2000 to the USA during a presidential election

Now you have returned to Serbia, which was the subject of your first book. I went to Serbia in 2000 and I wrote this book about the Serbs. I went back in April to find everybody in the book to see what happened to them. And now I am sitting and updating that. What did you find? It’s really depressing, because they don’t get any help. Maybe some help from Greece. But the economy is going very badly and the United States has pulled back all aid and all support from the International Monetary Fund because they don’t cooperate with The Hague. It’s going very badly and I think nationalism is on its way back. Things that were not possible to say five years ago, now they say them, things about praising Mladic, Karadzic, those people. They wouldn’t do that five years ago. But it was interesting because – I don’t know in Greece – but in Norway this country has been sort of non-existent since September 11. Actually, for me as a journalist, it was kind of symbolic. Because on September 11, I was in the Balkans, writing… Then the planes crashed and I went to Norway. I just quit the Balkans, left everything, my luggage, everything, and went to Norway and from Norway to Afghanistan and this has been carrying on (in Iraq). I forgot the book, like everybody else. And now I went back, to see what has happened to them. For my next project, I’m going to the United States to do a series of stories in the autumn, for my Norwegian newspaper. We have a correspondent who will do the elections, the day-to-day stories about Kerry and Bush. And every Saturday, I will have a big story about the country, a feature. It will be very, very simply directed on a church, a school, a Burger King. They will be stories where I go to a place and stay there for a week. Like I will go to a jail and stay there for a week for a story about a jail. Or, you know, maybe the Bush kind of church and I spend some time with the pastor and the people in the congregation. Or if I do something on the school system, I will spend a week in one class, getting known to the pupils, maybe they will invite me to their homes. I’ll see what they talk about with their parents. Do they discuss the elections? Do they watch television? I’ll find eight or 10 stories like that. It sounds like a visit to an unknown continent. It does, doesn’t it? I’ve learned to believe that one quality in journalism that’s very important is time. It is one thing for you to go somewhere and do an interview and leave. But if you really go there and you do your thing and you stay and you get bored and they ask if you want something to drink and you say, «Thank you very much, it’s very good lemonade, or coffee.» And then they will talk about something they will do next week. And suddenly they will say something interesting… It will be nice to go to a place without war.