One Minute With: Pauline Melville

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm in my front room looking out of the window and can see a raggedly unkempt privet hedge that protects me from the street, near the Arsenal football stadium.

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

I'll plump for Dostoyevsky: he's so magnificently untidy, furious and passionate, and he has such an understanding of the human condition.

Describe the room where you usually write

It has a bed disguised as a sofa, two computers, a map of Guyana, a landscape of Cuba and a painting of a scene from Zola's L'Assommoir.

What are you currently reading?

I've just finished Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. It's beautifully written – writing as close to being silk or water as you can get. And I've been reading the wonderful poetry of Wislawa Szymborska.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Heathcliff, unfortunately, with a dash of [the William books'] Violet Elizabeth Bott. Or that fictional character God – unreliable, amoral and prone to mistakes of a grand order.

What distracts you from writing?


What are your readers like when you meet them?

I meet a lot in universities... They're wonderful because they always reveal something about the work that I didn't know was there. Writers don't always know what they're writing.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

I'm not prone to hero-worship. I'm more like Diogenes, going round with a lantern trying to find an honest man. But it could be Cuffee, who led a slave rebellion in Guyana.

Pauline Melville's 'Eating Air' is out from Telegram.