Robert Stone, novelist: 'I find the work of Joseph Conrad more and more satisfying for its insight into the human condition'


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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what do you see?

I am in Manhattan, on the sixth floor of a building constructed before World War Two. I am in the room that I am using as a study, and what I see from my window is block after block of post-1960's high-rise, brick apartment buildings and a small slice of the East River.

What are you currently reading?

I've been reading war histories – Max Hastings' Catastrophe, for example, and Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves.

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

As I get older and read him more thoroughly, I find the work of Joseph Conrad more and more satisfying for its insight into the human condition. His preface to the unfortunately-named but undeniably brilliant novel, The Nigger of Narcissus is one of the most profound commentaries on literature ever written by an author.

Describe the room where you usually write

I usually live in Key West, where the room I write in consists of windows and bookshelves. It adjoins a tropical garden where I can occasionally see an iguana. To avoid distractions I write on an old computer with no Internet connection.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

I identify with Ishmael, the narrator of Moby Dick. He is a thoughtful observer of the men around him, and of Captain Ahab's pursuit of the great white whale of the novel's title. Ishmael's survival is linked with his insight.

Who is your hero/heroine outside literature?

Abraham Lincoln, one of history's incomparable political heroes.

Robert Stone's latest novel is 'Death of the Black Haired Girl', (Corsair)