One Minute With: Barry Unsworth, novelist
Friday 02 September 2011
Where are you now and what can you see?
I'm in my study [in Umbria, Italy], looking out of the French windows at the top of a fig tree – they're getting ripe now. I can see across a broad valley, with the mountains of the Apennines rising beyond it.
What are you currently reading?
'Hitler's Pope' by John Cornwell, about Pius XII, who signed the Concordat with Hitler that allowed the rise of Nazism. I have a new novel set in Rome in mind.
Choose a favourite author and say why you admire him/her
Joseph Conrad, because of his wonderful capacity for visual effects. To make the reader see was his declared aim... I admire that a lot, and try to do it myself.
Describe the room where you usually write
This study: no one else uses it, so I can leave my desk in the same mess – which looks like a vision of order to me! There are books in piles and what I call my meditation couch – something of a euphemism as I sleep on it much more than I meditate.
What distracts you from writing?
I've always suffered from lapses of confidence about what I'm doing, and they result in a lack of energy. I let time do the work – there's a resurgence of energy and belief.
Which fictional character most resembles you?
Pierre in [Tolstoy's] 'War and Peace'. I recognise that quality of well-intentioned clumsiness and ineptness – endearing in his case.
What are your readers like when you meet them?
Sometimes readers want to talk about the books they have written – which can be tricky. But I'm always touched by someone who has read my work and taken an interest.
Who is your hero/ heroine from outside literature?
The two Sicilian investigative magistrates, [Giovanni] Falcone and [Paolo] Borsellino, who were murdered by the Mafia in 1992. They showed extraordinary courage in pursuing their anti-Mafia investigations under constant threat of death.
Barry Unsworth's new novel is 'The Quality of Mercy' (Hutchinson)
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Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Howard Jacobson: Let's see the 'criticism' of Israel for what it really is
- 2 Instagram of US airport security chiefs: Lipstick knives and IED training kits among items seized
- 3 Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014: In defence of Mesut Ozil - the Arsenal midfielder works magic in the shadows
- 4 PornHub begs users to stop uploading video clips of Brazil getting beaten 7-1
- 5 Tony Abbott embarrasses Australia by praising Japanese WWII military, ‘getting on the sake’ and posing for ‘crotch-shot’ photo opportunity
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
There’s a nasty smell in the political air – and it’s coming from the Tories
Vanessa Feltz criticises 'vile' reaction to Rolf Harris allegations