One Minute With: Andrey Kurkov, novelist

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm on holiday in Aberystwyth with my family. I'm near Cardigan Bay and can see sheep to my right on a hill - and the ocean. I got up at six this morning, and I thought I heard human voices coming from the sheep.

What are you currently reading?

'Alone in Berlin' by Hans Fallada. It's a bit heavy – but very interesting.

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

Knut Hamsun, the Norwegian writer, who lived a very long and complicated life, and was also a Nazi collaborator. I like the way he describes horrible things – but with charm, not as tragedy.

Describe the room where you usually write

In Kiev, it's in a small studio flat,near the St Sophia cathedral. The walls are covered with paintings – we collect art, mostly Ukrainian.

What distracts you from writing?

Usually, Ukrainian presidents, and Ukrainian politics. But they push me into a more humoristic way of thinking than I need.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

I used to think it was Jack London's Martin Eden – but I didn't like the way that he finished his life. I like diving too, but I usually prefer to come to the surface. Or else [the rebel worker] Voshchev in Andrey Platonov's 'The Foundation Pit'.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

In Germany, they are usually retired middle-class people or students. In Ukraine, students or people with a good memory of Soviet times and Soviet humour. [In the UK], definitely people with a sense of humour.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

I have three: Rudyard Kipling, not as a writer but a traveller. The opera singer Fyodor Chaliapin, and Ilya Ehrenburg – he was allowed by Stalin to live in Paris as an example of the Soviet bon vivant, the Soviet playboy.

Andrey Kurkov's new novel is 'The Milkman in the Night' (Harvill Secker)