One Minute With...Mary Beard
Friday 20 November 2009
Where are you now and what can you see?
I'm in a little rented cottage in Aberdeen. It's midday – so it'll soon be dark. I can see my laptop, and I'm about to write a lecture.
What are you currently reading?
Women Latin Poets by Jane Stevenson. It's tremendous: she traces the whole history of women writing in Latin across time and space.
Choose a favourite author and say why you admire them
Tacitus: he's difficult, but the difficulty rewards you – like a Latin Joyce. He uses Latin in a cranky, weird way. It's so in-your-face, going utterly against the norms of Cicero.
Describe the room where you normally write
I write in the Classics faculty in Cambridge... where I have small concrete box with the door always open.
What distracts you from writing?
Events, dear boy, events! The open door, students... But the distractions enable me to write.
Which fictional character most resembles you?
When I was younger I liked to imagine myself as a cross between Jane Eyre and some hapless Margaret Drabble heroine – a horribly self-regarding position to take.
What are your readers like when you meet them?
I have two sorts: one has been made to read your books, and the job there is to make them see that you're a human being. With the others, it's very humbling to meet someone who has taken the trouble to sit down and read something I've written.
Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?
Classicists take a pretty grim view of heroes. If I had to pick, then Elizabeth Fry – because the black hole of British culture is the penal system. And I think I'd resurrect Lord Reith, because we need the BBC.
Mary Beard's 'It's a Don's Life' is out from Profile.
Interview by Boyd Tonkin
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 2 Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
- 3 Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
- 4 Refugee crisis: Aylan's life was full of fear - in death, he is part of 'humanity washed ashore'
- 5 German police forced to ask public to stop bringing donations for refugees arriving by train
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The real reason Eddie Redmayne was cast as a trans woman in The Danish Girl
Photographer captures the beauty and intensity of his girlfriend giving birth at home
Prog rock finally comes of age with launch of the first Official Progressive Chart
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 100,000 back our campaign
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up