Friday, May 20, 2011

Alan Sillitoe

Alan Sillitoe, who died of cancer in 2010, was one of the most important British writers of the postwar era. He made his name with the novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958) and the collection of short stories The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1959). From his final interview, with James Walker of arts magazine LeftLion:

Alan, let's talk about your childhood – what was it like growing up in Nottingham?

I lived in Radford, mostly. And it was very good really. It was a jungle. I don't mean a terrible jungle, but a benign jungle where we knew every twist and turn and double alley.

A happy place?

We all felt perfectly safe as kids and it was a good place to grow up actually. We lived about a hundred yards from the Raleigh Factory where we were on munitions during the war. I went to work there in 1942 when I was 14, and stayed for three months, then went somewhere else [where] they were making plywood parts for invasion barges and Mosquito bombers. All I wanted to do was get in the Air Force and bomb Germany. That's all you wanted to do in those days.

You attracted a lot of attention a few years ago by being one of the few authors to support the Iraq War. Given what's happened since, is it a view you stand by?

Not entirely. But to a certain extent, I do, because I believe that giving the people there a say in their own destiny is a good idea. But they don't seem to think so. And now it's very difficult for us to come out of it and leave them on their own. It's a shame they're not more educated, and that religion has such a high place in their life. If it didn't, they'd be alright. But they've buggered it up, really. You can't help some people.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue