One Minute With: Tim Parks

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm in an apartment in Milan and out of the window is a small courtyard with grass and a tree and a little bit of sky clearing because it's been raining.

What are you currently reading?

I've just finished reading The Situation Is Hopeless, but Not Serious by Paul Watzlawick, in Italian. It's an instruction on being unhappy. It's a very ironic book which I found funny and brilliant.

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

Robert Walser, a Swiss writer from the early 20th century. He wrote Jakob von Gunten, a book which Kafka borrowed from immensely. It's about a young man in an institution where they have to learn not to think, how to become the perfect servants. Psychologically, it's just fascinating. Walser was a man who was horrified by his own ambitions, he felt worried by the idea of the artist seeking celebrity. He served as a butler for a while.

Describe the room where you usually write

I have a little office in Verona. There's absolutely nothing in there but books and a desk.

What distracts you from writing?

The internet, and emails in particular.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Zeno from ( Italo Svevo's) Zeno's Conscience, who is always making the wrong decisions that actually turn out to be OK.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

They are all kinds of people. There's no categorising them.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Those I most admire are people who can deal with an enormous buzz around them without getting blown away by it, either positively or negatively; I admire David Beckham for that reason, and Obama.

Tim Parks's book 'Teach Us to Sit Still' is published by Harvill Secker