Edna O'Brien, novelist & short story writer: 'My heroine is undoubtedly Malala'


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Where are you now and what can you see?

I am in my library in my house in Chelsea and what I see are sheaves of paper with illegible handwriting (mine) and books jostling for space on bookshelves.

What are you currently reading?

Eimear McBride's A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing and admiring it greatly, not simply for its audaciousness, but because the sexual rawness and emotional baulk is brilliantly rendered by halting words and broken chords. Reading it I was reminded of Benjy's stuttering speech in The Sound and the Fury.

Choose a favourite author and say why you admire her/him

On the rostrum some newcomers – W.G. Sebald, with an artistry so great that his dreaming fictions become one's reality, and Roberto Bolaño, especially By Night in Chile, a perfectly conceived novel, misleadingly ingenuous, the greatest, albeit most subtle, book about tyrants and totalitarian regimes that I have read.

Describe the room where you usually write

Once upon a time it bore some resemblance to a room such as Matisse might paint. There was a chaise longue (sans courtesan), there were flowers, but all, all is changed and a disproportionate amount of my time is spent looking for the things I have mislaid.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

In the past, it was Madame Ranevskaya, blissfully ignorant of the fact that she was about to lose her cherry orchard. Now that I am very old I wish I had adopted the playfulness and humour of Rosalind in As You Like It.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

My heroine is undoubtedly Malala.

Edna O'Brien's novel, 'Night', is published in paperback by Faber