Paul Harding attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he studied English, and has taught writing at Harvard University and the University of Iowa

This Other Eden, shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2023, is Harding’s third novel. His debut novel Tinkers, was published in 2009 and won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2010 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, among other honours. He published his second novel, Enon, in 2013.  

He has an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and is currently director of the MFA in Creative Writing & Literature at Stony Brook University. He lives on Long Island, New York, with his family. 

Paul Harding

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Paul Harding on writing This Other Eden

I absolutely love writing without having any idea of what comes next. I love having no plan beyond an initial image or tone or sense of atmosphere and just letting everything that comes over the wire into the manuscript, at least for the first couple years or so. I love observing the phenomenon of what physicists call ‘emergence’, where the form of the book, plot, characters takes shape through a process I guess I’d liken to musical improvisation. I love the sense of being the story’s amanuensis. 

Months will go by during which, to all appearances, I’m napping on the couch. Really, I’m writing – riding the updrafts as I like to think of it, letting what I’ve written and what I’ve read and looked at and listened to percolate and simmer together. Then, there will be a sudden burst of activity, like you say. 

I type, write in longhand, whatever means is convenient whenever a sentence or phrase or word occurs to me. This Other Eden was without exaggeration mostly written on Post-it notes. They’d sort of end up shingling the living room and study and office and I’d periodically scrape them up and tape or staple or transcribe them into notebooks and eventually type them into the big manuscript document. I’m like a magpie; I pick up whatever shiny or colourful bit of language that catches my attention and throw it into the kettle. I love seeing how elements that seem disparate implicate themselves with one another over the years.

Read the full interview here

Paul Harding

Based on a relatively unknown true story, Paul Harding’s heartbreakingly beautiful novel transports us to a unique island community scrabbling a living. The panel were moved by the delicate symphony of language, land and narrative that Harding brings to bear on the story of the islanders

— The Booker Prize 2023 judges on This Other Eden

Paterson Joseph reads from This Other Eden

All nominated books

This Other Eden by Paul Harding