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Johan Smits


First Language(s): Flemish
Second Language(s): English, French


Johan Smits is a writer of non-fiction — human-interest and travel stories (for which he was shortlisted AITO Travel Writer of the Year in Britain) — as well as fiction, both long and short. He's particularly drawn to ordinary people who find themselves inside the no-man’s-land between the commonplace and the bizarre, exploring how it affects them.


What was your favorite book as a child?

Ah! I find this impossible to answer. Once I learned how to read, I thought the local library, where you could borrow as many books as you wanted — for free! — was the best thing since sliced bread. I devoured books like hot buns, all sorts, where one would best the previous one, until I’d get my hands onto another, even better treasure. To a child, or at least to me, that’s the magic and generosity of a public library — a vast Aladdin’s Cave of never-ending discovery.

What was the original reason or motivation why you started writing creatively?

Love letters. You have to be very creative when you’re trying to get into someone’s pants while not being very handsome.

What was the most adventurous or thrilling thing you ever did/experienced?

Birth, of course. Possibly being trumped by death — we’ll see.

Do you listen to music while reading or writing?

Rarely while reading. When a book is great, its perfectly crafted words and sentences already turn into some kind of music of their own, I find, from elaborate symphonies (Kazuo Ishiguro) and jazz (Elif Shafak) to pop & rock (David Mitchell) and hip hop (Paul Beatty) — or even some metal (Steve Tolz). And while writing: only when I’m getting bored with what I’m reading.


Issue Fall '23

Supported by:

Land Steiermark: Kultur, Europa, Außenbeziehungen
U.S. Embassy Vienna
Stadt Graz