Lavinia Greenlaw: One Minute Interview


Where are you now and what can you see?

In my study in front of a dark-grey wall, empty except for a photograph of mudflats. To my left is a window out of which I can see the dilapidated roofs of a derelict factory and mission hall and an increasing quantity of dark-grey clouds.

What are you currently reading?

Having just judged a fiction prize, not fiction – historical texts about vision for work I’m doing as part of a Wellcome Fellowship. I’m going back to where I started, writing about trying to make sense of what and how we see.

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

Elizabeth Jane Howard, whose depictions of birth, death and all we negotiate in between are finely written and shockingly wise. She is cast as a writer of the domestic, when she is a writer of life.

Describe the room where you usually write

There’s the dark-grey wall, so it’s rather like working inside a storm cloud. I have my father’s surgery desk, a broken microscope and a working hour-glass. And a place to sleep, where I write more than at the desk.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Gulliver. I’m easily unanchored and susceptible to a loss of proportion and scale. I also get lost all the time and do not trust my own eyes.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Margaret Tait, born on Orkney in 1918, who made her way to Rome to study film and returned home to produce extraordinary film-poems.

Lavinia Greenlaw’s latest book, ‘A Double Sorrow: Troilus and Criseyde’, is published by Faber & Faber. She is chair of the olio Prize, 2014