Submitted by Leah on Thu, 2014-08-21 17:29
What has it been like to be longlisted?
I was stunned and then I was hungover. Between I seem to recall a great deal of unexpected good will, which was far more touching than I would have ever expected.
What are you working on next?
A novel about a ghost writer penning the autobiography of a con man.
What are you reading at the moment?
Bohumil Hrabal's Vita Nuova, the second volume of his memoirs written, subversively, from his wife's point of view.
What is your favourite Man Booker-winning novel?
John Coetzee's Disgrace.
The Thailand-Burma “death railway” and Japanese PoW camps are emotive and familiar topics, how did you set about making them personal and unhackneyed?
As a child, my father taught me the Japanese words san byaku san ju go. It was his number—335—that he answered to as a slave labourer of the Japanese on the Death Railway. What these words denoted was for me not a topic. Nor did it seem familiar or emotive or hackneyed. It was, I guess, a strange mystery. Occasionally I glimpsed what that enigma might be in laughter, a grimace, a hand momentarily tensing on my shoulder, or the recited lines of others. After many years, I discovered it was also me.
And so I am a child of the Death Railway. I am a writer. And sometimes it falls to a writer to seek to communicate the incommunicable.