DBC Pierre e-interviewed by Kerrily Sapet (June, 2006)
Author DBC Pierre caused an international thrill when his first novel, Vernon God Little, won the prestigious Man Booker and Whitbread Prizes. Now, his eagerly awaited second novel, Ludmila's Broken English, has crashed onto the scene. It is a tale of surgically separated adult twins who are suddenly deinstitutionalized. The newly free men are released into a world, 'churning with opportunity, rowdy with the chatter of freedom, globalization, self-empowerment. Sex.'
They meet up with sixteen-year-old Ludmila, a mail order bride, seeking to escape the destitute, war-torn Soviet province of Ublilsk. The story hurtles to a sharp, shocking, and sensational conclusion. Here is what Pierre himself had to say in a recent e-interview:
Q: Throughout the novel I love the twins' connection (no pun intended) and how their personalities diverge and converge at different times. What prompted your use of conjoined twins as main characters?
A: The world we live in is going through a phase of divergence and conjoining, and I was looking for an interesting symbol of two identical yet opposed halves – must say I had an endless argument with myself about this, and about symbolism in novels. Traditionally I think we're supposed to bury our symbols deeper, make them subtle – but there's nothing subtle about the state of the world, so I felt I honestly had to go the other way.
Q: For Ludmilla and her fellow Ubli citizens, you've invented a language strewn with proverbs and curses punctuated with chin tosses. Have you always been interested in the rhythm and sounds of language?
A: Absolutely – especially the little psychological transactions we bury in our vernacular. Also love music, and wonder if there isn't a relationship there.
Q: Tell me more about the title Ludmila's Broken English. At first glance it merely suggests Ludmila's scanty knowledge of English, but the book hints at so much more.
A: Again, as much symbolism as possible. The key to the deeper title comes when, near the end, the foreigners refer to one of the twins simply as 'English' – they are both broken (apart) and at that point broken in spirit. And in the end, all that they symbolise seems broken too.
Q: Liz Jensen of The Independent refers to you as a skydiver or stunt-snowboarder of a writer. She writes that your 'high-risk prose explores and expands the cartoonish, taboo-busting outer edges of literary possibility.' How do you feel about this?
A: Listen, it's one of many things I've been referred to as, and one of the more flattering. I try not to pay too much attention, it seems unhealthy. Will say though that I believe big risks and broad adventures need to be tackled in a novel – no point doing anything that's been done before.
Q: Your first book was set in the aftermath of a Texas high school shooting. Your second takes place in a war-torn former Soviet province and a London reeling from terrorism. Is there something that draws you to write about these settings and the characters around them?
A: Again, they seem representative of a wider state of play in the world – the Texan scene seemed to sum up the pinnacle of affluent Western values, and the Caucasus were the best example of a festering, war-torn aftermath. I won't always do this though – next work focuses on the characters, and has no political barbs at all.
Q: After writing a first novel that took the breath away from the international reading world, did you have concerns about living up to those same standards?
A: Ha! Not at all, because the book was also very lucky, and I can't compete with that. Plus my own life has kicked enough pride out of me that I feel I just have to 'put my best foot forward' and see what I can do. I'm coming from outside a literary background, which, in a way, gives me endless licence to just explore.Find out more about DBC Pierre's background and books at Wikipedia.
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