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.

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

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

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

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

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

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commit yourself, especially under this very painful circumstances, to

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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of grieving poetry out there, it tends to be quite

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decorous and, and beautiful. And you wanted some

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of this to be raw. I wanted it to be

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

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the poems until now. But I stopped writing

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them at the end of 2015, because I felt

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I'd the stage in my grieving where there

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was a risk I would just write

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a beautiful poem that happen to have grief

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as its subject, rather

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than feeling grief and needing to express it

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in They were private expressions

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of your own feelings, some kind of reassurance,

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

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of them are something Well, I have a long record

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of writing things and not I wrote for 25 years

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

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

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

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there is unbearable sadness. And there are those

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moments after your wife's death that everyone

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will Things, for example,

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

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

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

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let alone write down. The poem that was particularly

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

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called You Were Ugly. Which talks about what happened

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

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

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

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

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someone has expressed this thing which I've

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been thinking and felt that I wasn't allowed to

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think. Will this take you into

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

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

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that I'm a good enough poet to write

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poems about anything Does that mean that

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

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

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of famously almost reclusive as a writer in that

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

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

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

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

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write no more novels. But I would be astonished

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if I wrote another novel for I do want to write

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a novel for children. It's something I

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

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something that I have I also think that in the world

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as it currently is, a There are writers,

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thinking earlier about Thomas Hardy, who lived

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to the late 20s, but wrote his last novel

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in the mid-1890s, and spent the rest

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

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going to do another novel, another volume of poetry,

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

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writing and with this break, because

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of the circumstances you find yourself in,

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

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

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inhabiting that little sanctum sanctorum and

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creating works of art, which is an alternative to hanging

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out with real human beings things that ordinary

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

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not sitting in that quiet I will occasionally read

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

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in a writer of your celebrity and accomplishment,

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

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about that or is It makes, in some ways

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

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

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

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

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

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socially convenient. But maybe in the future

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

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poetry in the sadness after your wife's death,

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or whether you are contemplating a move to

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

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

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new horizon is to become Because that has been

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

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

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become an alienated It's frightening in a way

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for me to become more connected, because as you become

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

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dweller, you're protected Whereas once you welcome these

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

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

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

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but want to take. Michel Faber, author

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of Undying: A Love

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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.