la-rochelleMichael 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 ‘Whitby’. I agreed to do a swap for her, so we took a taxi down from London to the countryside, where Whitby’d taken her. In the taxi, the driver turned to us and said, ‘Can’t you see, the whole of London’s going down!’ 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 wasn’t too much like a ‘novel’. 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).  Furthermore, I felt it was necessary to bring privacy back into fiction. Can anyone tell what the narrator’s problem really is in La Rochelle? This isn’t an issues book, and it isn’t journalism in disguise.

I was also trying to make people laugh, and worry.

Q. Could you elaborate on ‘This isn’t an issues book, and it isn’t journalism in disguise’?

A. I mean it isn’t a book in which the narrator’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 ‘everyone’ knows all about these days. The narrator can’t see around his own corner, whereas journalism typically supposes it can.

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