One Minute With: Raymond tallis

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm in Bramhall, in Stockport, looking out of my study across a valley towards the Pennines.

What are you currently reading?

A biography of De Quincey by Robert Morrison: The English Opium-Eater. It's absolutely wonderful. My opium – the opium of the people – is lager.

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

Martin Heidegger. Being and Time is the greatest work of philosophy of the last century... But Heidegger also happens to be totally loathsome in the way he lived his life.

Describe the room where you usually write

A large square room with a view across the valley. It's lined from ceiling to half-way down with books, box-files, CDs and tapes.

What distracts you from writing?

Thoughts about another book I'd like to write.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

There are bits of me all over the place. But there's quite a lot of me in Joyce's Stephen Dedalus, from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses. He's the person I imagine myself to be – although I hope I wash more.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

There are two sorts. One kind is incredibly courteous and flattering about my work. Then there are those who are very combative and say I've got everything wrong.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Anton Chekhov the doctor and medical officer – the author of the report on the [convict] island of Sakhalin. He managed to be hopeful in particularly hopeless situations.

Raymond Tallis's new book is 'Michelangelo's Finger: an exploration of everyday transcendence' (Atlantic)