Michel Faber Meet the Author

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Michel Faber

Michel Faber talks to Jim Naughtie about his book of poems Undying: A Love Story. The writer talks about how the ideas for it came to him in the aftermath of his wife Eva's death.

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Now on BBC News it's time for Meet the Author.


France celebrated novelist to poet. Michel Faber's success has come in


many genres but after the death of his wife Eva, he decided to write a


book of poems, Undying: A Love Story., which follows the last


stages of her illness and describes the raw day by day process of his


own grief afterwards. Welcome. As a novelist, was it difficult to


commit yourself, especially under this very painful circumstances, to


a poetic form? I didn't feel I was committing myself to anything. In


the aftermath of either's death, these poems came to me. I had no


conception that I was going to put them out there. They were just


suggesting themselves to be written. It seemed perverse not to write


them, given that they were coming to me. I didn't feel that I would put


them out there, but when I started reading the mad at literary


festivals, I noticed that they were connecting with people and I thought


that maybe this was something which wasn't essentially private, maybe


they could be shared. Reading this very direct, Frank, sometimes brutal


poems was, in a strange sort of way, giving people consolation, because I


was talking about things which are almost forget -- forbidden to be


talking about. -- Even though there's a lot


of grieving poetry out there, it tends to be quite


decorous and, and beautiful. And you wanted some


of this to be raw. I wanted it to be


raw and, in fact, I I could have gone on writing


the poems until now. But I stopped writing


them at the end of 2015, because I felt


I'd the stage in my grieving where there


was a risk I would just write


a beautiful poem that happen to have grief


as its subject, rather


than feeling grief and needing to express it


in They were private expressions


of your own feelings, some kind of reassurance,


some kind of record, I suppose, But you'd always thought


of them are something Well, I have a long record


of writing things and not I wrote for 25 years


without submitting anything. So, yes, if I had thought


that they were just me talking to myself about what I had gone


through, I wouldn't There is anger in there,


there is unbearable sadness. And there are those


moments after your wife's death that everyone


will Things, for example,


like the death of a cat. Which takes you back in a weird


way to your human loss. And it's the kind


of thing people think about but don't often say,


let alone write down. The poem that was particularly


significant on that level is... There is a poem


called You Were Ugly. Which talks about what happened


to her body as a result of And that's a taboo, you're really


not allowed in our... And when I read that poem out


on the radio about a year ago, someone phoned in the radio


station and said, look, I'm not But I am consoled that


someone has expressed this thing which I've


been thinking and felt that I wasn't allowed to


think. Will this take you into


poetry as a medium? No, this will be the only book


of poetry that I write. I'm under no illusions


that I'm a good enough poet to write


poems about anything Does that mean that


you will return to fiction? As you say, you had a long


period where you didn't You know, you're sort


of famously almost reclusive as a writer in that


sense, for a long time. Will this have that same


effect on you or not? Well, when Eva was ill,


and she knew she was going to die, she was very, very


upset with my decision, which I had already made, that I would


write no more novels. But I would be astonished


if I wrote another novel for I do want to write


a novel for children. It's something I


haven't done before. With each book I wanted to do


something that I have I also think that in the world


as it currently is, a There are writers,


thinking earlier about Thomas Hardy, who lived


to the late 20s, but wrote his last novel


in the mid-1890s, and spent the rest


of his life writing poetry. No, you say you're not


going to do another novel, another volume of poetry,


but it does seem as if the moment you've reached in your fiction


writing and with this break, because


of the circumstances you find yourself in,


it is time for something completely And something I also want to do


is figure out whether I can I'm so used to


inhabiting that little sanctum sanctorum and


creating works of art, which is an alternative to hanging


out with real human beings things that ordinary


people know how to do. When you're not writing, when you're


not sitting in that quiet I will occasionally read


a book about music. It's an extraordinary thing to hear,


in a writer of your celebrity and accomplishment,


saying he no longer reads fiction. Do you ever feel guilty


about that or is It makes, in some ways


it makes things a lot easier because it means when I meet


another writer and I haven't met their work, haven't read their work,


it's not that I'm choosing You can say I haven't read


anybody else's either. I haven't read anybody


else's either. So that's a sort of


socially convenient. But maybe in the future


I would like to become the sort of So whether you're writing


poetry in the sadness after your wife's death,


or whether you are contemplating a move to


fiction for young people, or listening to music, you're always,


finally, looking for a new horizon. Yes, but maybe the ultimate


new horizon is to become Because that has been


my mission in a way. Because I started off very,


very alienated, very strange. And I didn't want to


become an alienated It's frightening in a way


for me to become more connected, because as you become


more connected with other people, And if you're a solitary fringe


dweller, you're protected Whereas once you welcome these


people in, life is harsh. But it's a risk


you feel you now have I feel it's a risk


I now have to take. Well, not have to take,


but want to take. Michel Faber, author


of Undying: A Love


Michel Faber talks to Jim Naughtie about his new book of poems Undying: A Love Story. The writer talks about how the ideas for the book came to him in the aftermath of his wife Eva's death from cancer and the impact that this has had on his life.