“IT’S A colossal story,” says author Robert Harris of the global economic crisis, which forms the backdrop to his latest novel, THE FEAR INDEX. “In its way it’s a much, much bigger story than 9/11. But because it lacks, as it were, the burning towers and the iconic images, we tend to underestimate it. The governor of the Bank of England said yesterday that it’s possibly the worst financial crisis the world has ever seen. So I’m pleased to have written this book, because I’ve always seen myself as a political writer above all else, and it seems to me that this crisis is where politics is right now.”For the rest, clickety-click here …
Harris began his career as a political writer as a journalist and BBC television reporter, publishing a number of non-fiction titles between 1982 and 1990. “All I’ve ever wanted to do in life is write,” he says, “but I needed to earn a living.” It was his work on SELLING HITLER (1986), an investigation into the hoax ‘Hitler diaries’, that led him to write his first novel, FATHERLAND (1992).
“In the course of researching [SELLING HITLER],” he says, “I came across all the plans Hitler had for what the world would be like in the Third Reich, and I thought that would be interesting to explore as a non-fiction book. Imagine taking all the sketches and the maps, and the architectural designs, and creating a kind of ‘guide’ to a world that never existed. And then I realised I really couldn’t answer fundamental questions about this world — if one assumes that the world would have settled down to a Berlin-Washington axis, what would have been said about the fact that all the Jews had disappeared? How would that be handled in international relations? Would it be treated the same way as all the people killed by Mao, or what happened in Stalin’s Russia? Would détente have triumphed?
“So I ended up walking through the looking-glass into a fictional world. And when I got there, I enjoyed it so much that from that moment on, that was all I wanted to do. But it all came through the desire to use fiction as a tool to explain the politics of now and history, and in a way, I’ve always gone on doing that. I’m interested in power, that’s my furrow to plough, as it were.”
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
We Have Nothing To Fear But The Fear Index Itself
I sat down with Robert Harris (right) a couple of weeks ago, to interview him for the Irish Examiner about his latest title, THE FEAR INDEX, and a very enjoyable conversation it was too, incorporating, among other things, the global economic crisis, the Third Reich, his relationship with Roman Polanski, and wayward neutrinos that appear to be travelling faster than the speed of light. It kicks off a lot like this: