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Barry Unsworth on Historical Fiction, Language and Aging

An interview with Barry Unsworth, winner of the Man Booker Prize in 1993 for his novel Sacred Hunger, has recently been posted on Littoral: The blog of the Key West Literary Seminar. Unsworth discusses the effects of expatriate life, of aging, and the role historical fiction plays in understanding our past and our present.

Here, he comments on how age has affected his writing: “With time I have grown more sparing with the words. I think less of fire-works and flourishes. I try to get warmth and color through precision of language. This is more difficult, I think, which may be why I find writing novels so challenging and exacting.”

And on public appearances, he comes to this: “There is also a division of persona in the way the writer is perceived, the discrepancy between the effects of his books and the impression he makes when the reader gets to talk to him or listen to him. It has to be admitted that there will often be an element of disappointment here. The best of us goes into the book. We are not, with some rare and spectacular exceptions, so brilliant or wise or witty as might have been hoped or expected. Far from it. And perhaps the lure of readings and talks and panels, and all these public forums, is simply a doomed desire to live up to the promise, to not disappoint.”

Read more of the interview on Littoral.

Barry Unsworth will deliver the John Hersey Memorial Address to open the second session of the 2009 Key West Literary Seminar.

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