One Minute With: Charles Saumarez Smith

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm on holiday in a small cottage in the south-west corner of Anglesey. It's a good opportunity to catch up on some reading and writing.

What are you currently reading?

I'm reading a slightly turgid book about the Cambridge Apostles, and have just read E.M. Forster's The Longest Journey and E.F. Benson's David of King's.

Choose favourite author and say why you like her/him

I'm addicted to the works of the late W.G. Sebald for the way that he combines history, memory and the exploration of place.

Describe the room where you usually write

I write in a small, upstairs room, surrounded by books and looking out onto a 1960s housing estate.

What distracts you from writing?

I have more than a full-time job (as Secretary and Chief Executive) at the Royal Academy.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

There is a character in an early novel by A.N. Wilson who works at the Victoria and Albert Museum, is a student of Vanbrugh, and throws himself under a train at South Kensington station. The first two were true of me at the time.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

In general, I think writing books is like throwing a stone in a pond and you never know who reads them.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

The art historian, Michael Baxandall, who wrote Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy, supervised my PhD thesis, and died almost exactly a year ago. I wrote his obituary, but didn't do him justice.

Charles Saumarez Smith will be appearing at the Throckmorton Literary Festival on Saturday 19 September.