Happy Birthday, Graham Swift, born 4 May 1949
Graham Swift: On Writing
“If I have any abiding allegiance in my writing it is to the power of the imagination, and I hope my imagination will always surprise and stretch me and take me along unsuspected paths, just as I hope it will continue to bring me up against certain things which I will have to recognise as my own peculiar territory – though that too is a process of discovery, not of preconception.
I have no wariness about the potential of fiction as such, or the privilege and joy (despite many an agony!) of writing it. Where else can you have such licence of expression? Where else can you combine so richly and intimately the world of ideas with the world of concrete reality? And where else can you know – or at least hope – that for each individual reader, each act of collaboration between author and reader, the experience will be something different? I have enormous faith in that invisible collaborative experience, though when I write I never think of the reader.
Fiction seems to me only to do in a specialised, concentrated way what we all need to do: to enter, in our minds, experiences other than our own. That is no small or simple thing – all our moral and social pretensions rest upon it. So I have no wariness about fiction’s importance either.”
If you can’t stand your own company alone in a room for long hours, or, when it gets tough, the feeling of being in a locked cell, or, when it gets tougher still, the vague feeling of being buried alive–then don’t be a writer.
When people aren’t expecting to be seen, they look their truest.
People die when curiosity goes.
Literature, after all, from Homer onwards, is littered with the recounting of deaths and with the fascination for death, and in this it only expresses what we all repeatedly dwell on but do not necessarily or readily voice. So far as death goes, I don’t claim any oddity. There is only one sea: I’m in the same boat as everyone else. And that seems, more generally, to be the position that every novelist, unless they are possessed of a peculiar arrogance, should take: I am mortal too, I am human too. I too, like you, share life’s joys, pains, confusions. We’re all in the same boat.
The real art is not to come up with extraordinary clever words but to make ordinary simple words do extraordinary things. To use the language that we all use and to make amazing things occur.
London is like no other city I know in its ability to become beautiful. You can suddenly turn a corner and there are odd moments – of light, of weather.
I think what I like to do is to begin with the ordinary and find the extraordinary in it.
Graham Swift is an English writer. His 12 books include Waterland, Ever After, and The Light of Day. Last Orders was joint-winner of the 1996 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction and the 1996 Booker Prize. His novels have been translated into more than 30 languages.
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