b“We turn to
for that level of
we can’t get in
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We read to
The Costco Connection JANUARY 2006
CONTNUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGE
and write a book that takes a very young callow boy who hasn’t realized the value of all
the richness around him and, in a very short
space of time, take him to where I am now.
To tack into that short surreal intense journey
everything that I know at my much older age
that I wish I had known when I was that age.
There is something very enclosed at youth—
insecurity and ignorance. Growing up is the
ability to move away from self-obsession toward
the things out there. It enriches life.
In a way, the next novel ( The Trial of True
Love) is the next stage of maturity for the narrator. The similarity is exploration of love from
a male point of view. It combines a love story,
a mystery story, and a reflection story.
CC: Was The Society of Others inspired by
WN: Very much so. The unnamed police state
in which my hero finds himself is caught
between the middle ground and a terrorist
group that is deliberately trying to radical-ize the main population by precipitating
violence, in the hope that the overreaction
of the police will push the middle ground
towards the leftist. This doesn’t work, but the
news doesn’t appear to have reached some
of our leaders.
When our societies speak of defending
freedom, the truth is that you defend it by
remaining free in every possible way. What
you do not do is not create Abu Graib. I’m
one of the people that believes the many
moves that have been taken to protect the
public have made the public less safe. What
you need to do to terrorists is say we are able
to be free and strong. We are always going to
be an open society. You will wither, because
yours is a doctrine of hate, and ours is of love.
The artists in the story—these are the
wimps that I believe in, people who live
kindly, who use their power gently. If you are
a kind person you do not torture or blow
people up. It involves an awareness that others have an equal value to yourself. The followers of Vicino don’t have the good tunes,
the cool guns, the rallying cry and the passion shouting. But, they are the people that
we want to be. We don’t want to spend our
lives shooting people.
The reason that Tony Blair lost that vote
[to detain prisoners up to 90 days without
charges] is that he was saying, without really
offering anything solid, “Trust me, there are
very good reasons why this civil liberty infringement is necessary.” Unfortunately, we’ve
heard this approach this before: Dodgy
dossier, odd collection of facts. The problem
is that it permits the radicals to say this is an
unjust society. Freedom has power. You do
not need to say, “we’ve got to license torture
to stay free.”
CC: Explain the ending? Was his journey real
or just a dream?
WN: The story can be taken in two ways.
Yes, he has gone on this journey. From the
moment the pigeon hits the window, the
story is an unfolding of what has happened
in his life, the kind of worlds that he had
come under the influence of. In fact the book
is packed with clues. For instance, as you proceed through the book scene after scene are
actually paintings from the national gallery
he has visited.
CC: Did you know what the ending for The
Society of Others would be when you began?
WN: Absolutely. I had to. The ending is built
into the beginning. Like Japanese paper flowers. Everything had to be packed into those
first few chapters.
CC: You bemoan the loss of conversation in the
book. Do you feel that conversation is becoming a lost art?
WN: Conversation takes time. You can’t
squeeze it into an e-mail. You need to value
what appears to be an empty and unproductive period, where all you’re doing is sitting
and talking. It may take the form of gossip,
very important, it’s all testing. The kind of
conversation I love, it takes a while to get
into, things you really care about. Conversation gets you these places.
CC: You became a husband and father late in
life. How has that experience affected you?
WN: It’s been amazing, an absolute revelation. It still astounds me. I still feel so grateful
and enriched and it gives meaning to my life.
It gives joy to my life. Having a child is the
most powerful experience anyone can have.
More than sex or winning an Oscar or being
on TV. Having a child is a miraculous experience. I love my family more than my writing.
My only regret is that it took me so long to
CC: Why are we drawn to reading?
WN: We turn to books because we’re hungry
for that level of contact that we can’t get in
our daily life, because we’re too busy and too
tired. We read to know we’re not alone. C