Hong Kong-born, Australian-based Brian Castro’s 35-year career began with his first novel Birds of Passage in 1983, which won the Australian/Vogel Literary Award and his list of plaudits have only grown since. Castro is the current Chair of Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide and Director of the J.M Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice. His most recent novel Blindness and Rage moves away from traditional prose, written instead in 34 cantos. Castro presents this latest work on the September 13 at 7:30pm at Berliner Festspiele.
Describe your first memory of writing…
Letters. I was 11 years old. It was always letters. I wrote to my German girlfriend since I was being sent away to Australia and we would never see each other again.
The three Ws: Where, When, Why do you write?
I write mostly in a dark room with no view of the outside, early in the morning, because that is the quietest time and the most lucid moment and the most melancholic period.
How do you get started?
With a sentence that comprises the deepest moods, whether it is the weather or the state of the world. Playfully, of course; that is the catch.
Worst praise/favourite criticism about your work?
Best is about the use of language. Worst is taking me literally, about being “foreign” or “difficult” or “tricky”.
Books and politics: What should the connection be? What makes writers good/bad activists?
The best activism is subtlety and ambiguity, never producing a “message”, but simply creating feelings, perhaps of despair and sadness, which connect with the “human” and which is almost entirely missing from politics.
Your favourite literary character. Why?
James Joyce’s Leopold Bloom (in Ulysses) because he is an ordinary person with extraordinary perception.
A book you wish you had written…
Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice.
Best recent read…
Antonio Tabucchi’s Dreams Of Dreams.
Choose an epitaph…
“Where’s my dog?”
A question you wish we’d asked…
“What is literature for?” The answer would be a blank.
Berlin: first thing that comes to mind?
My first bite of a doughnut? Seriously though, it will be a surprise. I have never been there. I see culture and history and literary appreciation – but then, I am always too serious.