Gillian Slovo, novelist: 'Tolstoy was equally at home describing a frock horse galloping or a battle scene'

The author discusses Max Porter, the room in which she writes, and Walter Sisulu

Thursday 17 March 2016 15:10
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Slovo says: ‘When I'm writing, all the characters, even the most ghastly, contain cannibalised parts of me’
Slovo says: ‘When I'm writing, all the characters, even the most ghastly, contain cannibalised parts of me’

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm at my desk, looking out over my computer screen on to a winding green fire escape. Very West Side Story and with the sun shining, I am almost ready to break into song. Or leave the desk and go enjoy the day.

What are you currently reading?

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter. It's astonishing. I'm normally a fast reader but I'm taking my time with this one : each word, and each feeling, is just right and demands to be savoured.

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

Sorry to be so 19th century, but I will have to say Tolstoy, who was equally at home describing a frock horse galloping in the mist, or a large-scale battle scene.

Describe the room where you usually write

Do I have to? It's a complete mess. Books and papers all over the desk and spilling out onto the floor. But it's my room and it makes me feel safe.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

When I'm reading other people's fictions, I am thinking about them and not myself – that's the great joy of a good book. When I'm writing, all the characters, even the most ghastly, contain cannibalised parts of me.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Walter Sisulu: one of the South African greats who I had the privilege to know. Despite his commitment, and many years in Robben Island, he retained a respect and an appreciation for everybody he met. Gives me hope that people who struggle to change the world can still value humanity.

Gillian Slovo's new novel is 'Ten Days' (Canongate). Her play, 'Another World' comes to the National Theatre in April

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