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Emily Fridlund interview

Emily Fridlund interview

In this Man Booker Prize 2017 longlisted author interview Emily Fridlund reveals she heard History of Wolves had made it when in hospital giving birth to her first son and that she has revered many of the longlisted authors her entire writing life.

What has it been like to be longlisted?

I learned about the longlist when in the hospital giving birth to my first son, Eliot. My agent and UK editor tried to get in touch with me while I was in labour, but by the time I returned their emails—between euphoric bouts of holding Eliot, and painful moments of recovering from his delivery—the list had been announced. My husband read a series of congratulatory emails out loud to me on a grey dawn as I nursed, my body hunched over the familiar-unfamiliar child I was just getting to know. My husband also read out loud the other names on the longlist, and, very slowly, it began to sink in that many of those names belonged to authors I’d revered my entire writing life. Both experiences, the baby in my arms and the news about my book, were vertiginous in the best of ways: impossible to anticipate and indescribably humbling.

What are you working on next?

I have just begun a new novel, which seems to be about infertility, climate change, a child who has disappeared—and possibly a changeling.

What are you reading at the moment?

Megan Marshall’s Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast, Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel’s What to Expect the First Year, and Carole Maso’s Defiance.

What is your favourite Man Booker-winning novel?

It is a tie between Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, the Sea and J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace.

Do you need to have experienced happiness in childhood to make a successful adult?

I think we tend to read lives—our own, others’—backwards, in retrospect, looking for confirmation of present states in experiences in the past. Isn’t it tempting to ascribe happy childhoods to adults who seem successful now (and vice versa)? This is the default logic of cause and effect, of Freud, of so many novels. And yet, while I think the consequences of childhood trauma or happiness do matter, I also think that much of the coherence we see between past and present comes from the stories we choose to tell, and these stories usually depend on the ends we seek. What’s increasingly interesting to me are the possible incoherences in a life: the repetitions, the detours, the improbabilities, the gaps. Lately, and perhaps especially as a new mother, I’ve been thinking a lot more about these messier patterns when I try to understand children and the astonishing people they become.

History of Wolves