Saturday, June 25, 2011

Graham Swift

Graham Swift was born in 1949 and is the author of nine acclaimed novels including Waterland and the newly released Wish You were Here, a collection of short stories and Making an Elephant, a book of essays, portraits, poetry and reflections on his life in writing. He has won many awards for his work including the 1996 Booker Prize.

From his Q & A with Jonathan Ruppin (one of the team at Foyle's, Charing Cross Road):

Wish You Were Here reflects on the consequences for ordinary people of contemporary issues, the conflict in Iraq and the difficulties faced by farming communities. Is this a political novel or do they simply form a context for the issues Jack and Ellie face?

I don't think the either-or of the question really applies. I don't write political novels in the sense of writing with a political agenda and my primary interest is in the messy, uncategorizable stuff of personal life and in what might be called 'the stuff we have inside us'. And I also simply want to tell a story. But, equally, I've always been interested in how the 'small world' of our personal lives connects or doesn't connect with the 'big world' of historical and communal forces. Once you enter that area, there's a political dimension. You'd hardly call Jack a 'political creature' and most of his dealings in the novel are of an acutely personal kind, but he's not totally blind to the fact that he's also dealing, intimately and personally, with the consequences of his country's foreign policy or to the need to look into his own conscience about it. There's a passage in the novel where he reflects, clumsily, on what it means to be a 'citizen' - to be a citizen in the particular distressing circumstances he has to confront. That's the beginning of politics.

In locating Jack and Ellie's new life in a seaside caravan park, you've returned to the liminal zone between land and water that served you so well in Last Orders, Waterland and 'Cliffedge' [a short story in Learning to Swim]. Why do you think you've been drawn to writing about such locations?

I agree that I keep coming back to the seaside. There's a piece in my non-fiction book Making an Elephant which is all about this and called 'I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside', which was one of the epigraphs for Last Orders. There are two aspects to it. I think...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue