The Biblio File Hosted by Nigel Beale
Twenty - forty minute interviews with accomplished authors, publishers, biblio people, conducted by an excitable bibliophile.

This past Spring at the Blue Met Writers Festival, Donald Antrim conducted a workshop entitled: Fiction and Memoir: "Writing Ourselves" It was designed to explore the ‘challenging and often frustrating process of reading into one’s own work;’ and to identify aspects of that work which may have been underdeveloped, unnoticed, or even, avoided. As the syllabus put it:

"Fiction and memoir are not, as a rule, brought together in workshops. And yet many of the concerns that are most important to all of us—the technical production of form; the experience of psychological drive within the narrative; and the tangible-seeming, built-from-scratch, moral or immoral world our characters inhabit—are experienced by writers of fiction and memoir. Whatever we write, we may all have cause to wonder about the overt and the embedded evidence of our own experiences, even in works in which autobiographical material is scrupulously occluded. Perhaps, in opening the class to writers of non-fiction and fiction, there will be a fruitful exchange."

Donald Antrim is the author of three novels, Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World: A Novel, The Hundred Brothers and The Verificationist: A Novel. His latest publication is The Afterlife (2006). He lives in Brooklyn, New York. We talked about workshops in general, and what happened in Montreal specifically. Please listen (may have to crank it a bit) here:

Direct download: Donald_Antrim_09.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 9:50am EDT

A.B. Yehoshua was born in 1936 to a fifth-generation Jerusalem family of Sephardi origin. His first book of stories, "Mot Hazaken" (The Death of the Old Man) was published in 1962. He was an important member of the "new wave" generation of Israeli writers who differed from earlier writers by focusing on the individual rather than the group.  Franz Kafka, Shmuel Yosef Agnon, and William Faulkner  were all formative influences. 

Author of nine novels, three books of short stories, four plays, and four collections of essays, Yehoshua has won the Brenner Prize, the Alterman Prize,  the Bialik Prize, the Israel Prize for Literature, the National Jewish Book Award and many, many other international prizes.

His most recent novel, Friendly Fire, explores the nature of Israeli familial relationships, personal grief and bitterness. We met recently at the Blue Met Writers Festival in Montreal to talk about the book.  Our conversation touches on the Jewish diaspora, hatred and minorities, a two state solution, gestures recognizing good, the metaphor of fire, domestic violence, Apartheid, South Africa, solutions, marriage, and marriages between Arabs and Jews.

Direct download: A.B_Yehoshua.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 6:59pm EDT

This from Contemporary Writers: " Zoe Heller was born in London in 1965 and educated at Oxford University and Columbia University, New York.  She is a journalist who, after writing book reviews for various newspapers, became a feature writer for The Independent.  She wrote a weekly confessional column for the Sunday Times for four years, but now writes for the Daily Telegraph and earned the title ‘Columnist of the Year’ in 2002. She is the author of two novels: Everything You Know (2000), a dark comedy about misanthropic writer Willy Miller, and Notes on a Scandal (2003) which tells the story of an affair between a high school teacher and her student through the eyes of the teacher’s supposed friend, Barbara Covett. It was shortlisted for the 2003 Man Booker Prize for fiction, and was recently released as a feature film, starring Cate Blanchett and Dame Judi Dench."

We met recently in Ottawa to talk, ‘companionably’ about her latest novel The Believers.

Please listen here:

Direct download: Zoe_Heller.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 1:09am EDT

Meir Shalev, (pictured above with his sister) one of Israel’s most celebrated novelists,was born in 1948 in Nahalal, Israel’s first moshav. He is a bestselling author in Israel, Holland, and Germany; and he has been translated into more than twenty languages. His novels include A Pigeon and a Boy, Fontanelle, Alone In the Desert, But A Few Days, and Esau. Russian Romance (The Blue Mountain) is one of the top five bestsellers in Israeli publishing history. Shalev is often compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Prizes he has won include the Juliet Club Prize (Italy); The Chiavari (Italy); and The Brenner Prize of 2006—the highest Israeli literary recognition awarded for his novel, A Pigeon and a Boy, published in the US by Random House in 2007.

I met Meir at The Blue Met Writers Festival in Montreal recently. We talk here about, among other things, television, satire, The Daily Show, great sentences, labels, Gogol, gardening and farming.

Please listen here:

Direct download: Meir_Shalev.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 4:07pm EDT

Crime novelist,  film director, children’s author and award winning journalist, Margie Orford was born in London and grew up in Namibia and South Africa. She has studied under J M. Coetzee, and worked in publishing with the African Publishers Network. In 1999 she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and while in New York she worked on a groundbreaking archival retrieval project, WOMEN WRITING AFRICA: The Southern Volume.  She lives in Cape Town, where we met recently to discuss another of her many projects: Fifteen Men, a collection of writing by South African prisoners, all of whom are serving very long sentences, with whom Margie spent a year leading a creative writing course. This book is the result. We talk here about her experience.

Direct download: Margie_Orford.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 11:15pm EDT


Damon Galgut is a writer based in Cape Town.  He wrote his first novel, A Sinless Season (1984), when he was seventeen. Small Circle of Beings (1988), a collection of short stories, was followed by The Beautiful Screaming of Pigs (1991), the story of a young white man on military service who suffers a nervous breakdown. The Quarry (1995), was made into a film by a Belgian production company. The Good Doctor (2003), is set in post-Apartheid South Africa, and explores the relationship between two different men working in a deserted, rural hospital. It won the 2003 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Africa Region) and was shortlisted for both the 2003 Man Booker Prize for Fiction and the 2005 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.  His latest novel is The Impostor (2008).

We talk here about national and personal trauma, corruption and realpolitik, the shadow of J.M. Coetzee, South African literature as boundaried by massive inequalities, childhood cancer, ambiguity, the new class system, real world maturity and the need for compromise.

Please listen here:

Copyright © 2009 by Nigel Beale.

Direct download: Damon_Galgut.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 12:38am EDT

This from contemporary writers: One of South Africa’s most distinguished writers, André Brink was born in 1935. Poet, novelist, essayist and teacher, he began work as a University lecturer in Afrikaans and Dutch Literature in the 1960s. He began writing in Afrikaans, but when censored by the South African government, began to also write in English and became published overseas. He remains a key figure in the modernisation of the Afrikaans language novel.


His book, A Dry White Season (1979), was made into a film starring Marlon Brando while An Instant in the Wind (1976), the story of a relationship between a white woman and a black man, and Rumours of Rain (1978) were both shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction.  Devil’s Valley (1998) explores the life of a community locked away from the rest of the world, and The Other Side of Silence (2002), set in colonial Africa in the early twentieth century, won a Commonwealth Writers regional award for Best Book in 2003. He has also written a collection of essays on literature and politics, Reinventing a Continent (1996), prefaced by Nelson Mandela. 

He is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Cape Town. His latest novels are Praying Mantis (2005) and The Blue Door (2007). His memoir, A Fork in the Road, has just been published.

I met Andre Brink recently at his home in Cape Town. (His lovely young wife Karina greeted me at the door and led me into his book-lined study. Before entering the house however, I encountered this in the garden:

). Once seated we talked mostly about his life, about his father, about love and duty, justice, Apartheid, inter-racial sex, J.M. Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer; his love affair with poet Ingrid Jonker, her suicide, her poem ‘Plant me a Tree,’ English as his second language, Picasso, recommended wines and staying in South Africa, despite his nephew having been shot dead by intruders last year at his home just north of Johannesburg.

Please listen here:

Copyright © 2009 by Nigel Beale.

Direct download: Andre_Brink.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 8:07pm EDT

Chris Cleave was born in London and spent his early years in Cameroon. He studied Experimental Psychology at Balliol College, Oxford, and now writes a column for the Guardian newspaper. His debut novel Incendiary won a 2006 Somerset Maugham Award, was shortlisted for the 2006 Commonwealth Writers Prize, and is now a feature film. Chris lives in London with his wife and two children.

We met recently to talk about his engaging, important new novel Little Bee. Topics discussed include masks, truth-telling, trauma, trust, happiness, the struggle to survive, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and its deficiencies, asylum seekers are true heroes, engaging with the developing world, people in transition, life-changing events, sexual adventurousness, making sense of life retrospectively, inane reality TV shows and the need for refugees to tell their heroic stories convincingly.

Please listen here:

Copyright © 2009 by Nigel Beale.

Direct download: Chris_Cleave.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 3:24pm EDT

Photo by NB

Biographer, critic, broadcaster and novelist Victoria Glendinning was born in Sheffield, and educated at Somerville College, Oxford, where she read Modern Languages. She worked as a teacher and social worker before becoming an editorial assistant for the Times Literary Supplement in 1974.

President of English PEN, she was awarded a CBE in 1998. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and holds honorary doctorates from the universities of Southampton, Ulster, Dublin and York. Her biographies include Elizabeth Bowen: Portrait of a Writer, 1977; Edith Sitwell: A Unicorn Among Lions (1981), which won both the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for biography) and the Duff Cooper Prize; and Rebecca West: A Life (1987), and Vita: The Life of V. Sackville-West (1983) and Trollope (1992) both of which won the Whitbread Biography Award.

We talk here ostensibly about her latest book,  Love’s Civil War: Elizabeth Bowen and Charles Ritchie: Letters and Diaries 1941- 1973 but in fact, mostly about the nature of biography,the difference between editing letters and writing lives, fabricating dialogue, compiling data, selecting facts; the importance of place, material and familial limitations, life over art, Virginia Woolf, Vita Sackville West, Sissinghurst, and text versus context.

Copyright © 2008 by Nigel Beale.

Please listen to the Biblio File interview here:

Direct download: Victoria_Glendinning.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 3:05pm EDT

Ross Raisin is a young British author born in Keighley, Yorkshire. He has studied at the University of London, worked as a trainee wine bar manager and completed a  postgraduate degree in creative writing at Goldsmith's College. His debut novel Out Backward (God's Own Country in England) was published in 2008, and shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. It features Sam Marsdyke, a disturbed adolescent living in a harsh rural environment, and tracks his journey from an oddity to a malevolent, insane, psychopath.

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Direct download: Ross_Raisin.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 4:21pm EDT