Richard Flanagan, novelist: 'In every work of genius we recognise the shocking truth about ourselves'


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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

 In a pub in Hobart, Tasmania, log fire at my back, staring at a phone screen of questions for which I mostly have no answer.

What are you currently reading?

Bohumil Hrabal's Vita Nuova, the second volume of his memoirs written, rather marvellously, from his wife's point of view.

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

Reading Cortazar, said Neruda, is like eating a peach from the tree. I have eaten too many peaches to list.

Describe the room where you usually write

A room at our shack on Bruny Island looking out over the sea, and framing a wild world in eclipse – birds such as the forty spotted pardalote and animals such as the quoll that may be extinct in another decade. In summer, I write out on the verandah. Some days you can hear dolphins spouting and birds' wings cutting the air.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

A library of them, from Hannibal Lecter to Natasha Rostov. In every work of genius we recognise the shocking truth about ourselves: we embody the universe but are condemned to posing as a pebble.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

I really don't have one. Beauty and truth are to be found in the flaws in the glass, not the fallacies of perfection.

Richard Flanagan's Man Booker longlisted novel, 'The Narrow Road to the Deep North', is published by Chatto & Windus