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'The people who don't read, who are they?'

4 September 2017

‘There are things about writing that can be taught. I would say there are fewer people who want to read seriously now, and more people who want to write. But if you can use writing to get people reading, that is exciting...

In the last few years I have come to feel that maybe in 50 years there won't be novels, that people won't have the attention for it. Then you feel it's like the last trace of a culture, like the Lascaux paintings or something. When I am teaching, I first give out Tolstoy's Childhood, his first published book. It is so transparent. It gives you exactly what it was like to be on a Russian estate on 1830. You are there. And that is the hope when you sit down and write still, I think - that you can transmit something of what life is like now...

If you took my reading and writing out of my head, I don't know who I would be. The people who don't read, who are they? How do they make sense of things?

Claire Messud, author of The Emperor's Children and just-published The Burning Girl, in the Observer