Michael Nath answers questions on his novel La Rochelle.
Q: Where did the idea for La Rochelle come from and what is the launch point for such a book?
A: The idea came from a dream my brother Paul told me, in the autumn of 2003. His girlfriend had been kidnapped by a criminal called â€˜Whitbyâ€™. I agreed to do a swap for her, so we took a taxi down from London to the countryside, where Whitbyâ€™d taken her. In the taxi, the driver turned to us and said, â€˜Canâ€™t you see, the whole of Londonâ€™s going down!â€™ Behind us, there were fires in the sky, falling cranes, etc. This was the starting point, the disappearance of a woman, and the name Whitby, which really stuck in the mind.
Q. It is quite an unconventional read. What is it you were trying to achieve with the book?
I was trying to write a novel that wasnâ€™t too much like a â€˜novelâ€™. It had to have the qualities of life instead, such as thickness, abundance, presence, a degree of untidiness. I was after something baroque and dishevelled, with a coat of varnish. I also wished to write something that will last, so that readers may feel inclined to read it again (and even again).Â Furthermore, I felt it was necessary to bring privacy back into fiction. Can anyone tell what the narratorâ€™s problem really is in La Rochelle? This isnâ€™t an issues book, and it isnâ€™t journalism in disguise.
I was also trying to make people laugh, and worry.
Q. Could you elaborate on ‘This isnâ€™t an issues book, and it isnâ€™t journalism in disguise’?
A. I mean it isnâ€™t a book in which the narratorâ€™s problems have been formulated in advance, and in a manner that robs them of their particularity to him. They are problems that are being experienced through a sort of fog, rather than seen clearly, as something that â€˜everyoneâ€™ knows all about these days. The narrator canâ€™t see around his own corner, whereas journalism typically supposes it can.