‘Station Eleven’ author visits SMU

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Emily St. John Mandel, author of this year’s common reading “Station Eleven,” visited campus Wednesday evening to discuss her novel. She gave a lecture in McFarlin auditorium and attended a private dinner afterward.

“It’s an honor to be selected by SMU,” Mandel said during the private dinner sponsored by the University Honors Program. “It’s so rare to go to a place and there are literally a hundred people who have read your book.”

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Audience members wait for Emily St. John Mandel's lecture to begin in McFarlin auditorium. Photo credit: Lauren Aguirre

The novel is set in a post-apocalyptic world where most of humanity has been wiped out by a pandemic. Its themes explore the idea of what life would be like without all of the technology we take for granted today.

Sophomore Daniel Muehring said he was excited to hear that Mandel would be visiting SMU.

“I’m nervously excited,” he said. “There’s so many things you think about the book, and to hear what she has to say, you could end up being wrong.”

Mandel lectured to sizeable crowd earlier in the evening. She discussed her inspirations and writing process for “Station Eleven.”

“We live in a world where we have incredible things at our disposal,” Mandel said. “The best way to examine them is to consider their absence.”

She also discussed her research process in writing the novel. She said she would end up going down “google rabbit holes.”

“Station Eleven” centers on a troupe of traveling performers, wandering from town to town in this future world. The group travels by caravans, which are old trucks pulled along by horses.

“I looked up things like ‘what is the weight of a car without an engine?’,” Mandel said. “I needed to know if a horse could reasonably pull it, and how big the wheels would have to be for this to work.”

“Google didn’t have an answer, by the way,” she joked.

After the lecture, Mandel signed copies of her book for attendees. Then, she had dinner with 16 randomly selected honors students. The dinner was held in Prof. Ann Batenburg’s faculty-in-residence apartment.

“It’s a lovely honor to do this,” Batenburg said. “I’m excited to get my questions answered about the book.”

Over dinner, Mandel discussed various facets of “Station Eleven” – from the upcoming movie adaptation to details on writing specific portions.

She fancasted Carey Mulligan as one of the novel’s main characters – a young woman named Kirsten. Mandel also said she isn’t a part of production.

“Someone’s writing the script as we speak,” she told students. “But they get to go do their own thing. I’m not really involved in the process.”

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Mendel chats with students over dinner at Prof. Ann Batenburg's faculty-in-residence apartment. Photo credit: Lauren Aguirre

Mandel also said she really enjoyed writing the sixth chapter, which involves listing all of the aspects of modern life that was ripped away in the novel. Meanwhile, she said one of the more difficult parts to write was describing the pandemic.

“It’s [the novel] actually a love letter to this world we live in,” Mandel said during her lecture. “To the things that truly matter and the things that remain.”

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