May 14, 2010

Christos Tsiolkas: "The luckiest bastard on earth"

“I think Australian writing has been locked up in the shadow of the English and the Irish,” he says. “In the sense that Australians don’t want to write the Australian novel, they want to write the perfect English novel or the perfect Irish novel. What I love about the Americans is that they have found an English that is distinctly theirs.” He could as easily be talking about his own declaration of independence with The Slap, a tremendously vital book in every sense. Completed at a gallop, it fairly crackles along, juiced up with novelistic license and peeled-eyeball candor, the characters driven by their appetites into a thrilling, vital approximation of what it is to be alive. After handing the book into his editor, she got back to him in just three days, which should have told him something.

“I had no idea it was going to take me to Lexington avenue in the writing of it. I really didn’t. Trying to stand back I’m interested in why it has proved so popular. I wonder what it says about contemporary writing? Can you be popular without being populist? Can you write for a large audience in a way that allows you to do the best work you can that is not condescending?”

He takes another look at that deep cloudless sky as if expecting an answer. None forthcoming, he sits back in his chair, smiles, shakes his head.

“I’m a very lucky man,” he says. “The luckiest bastard on earth.”

— my interview with Christos Tsiolkas in the Sunday Times


  1. ‘Swarthy, handsome features… lustrous black hair’. Yay, it could be me (though the locks are getting rather grey of late). But why do you refer to him as Tsiolkas throughout the feature and not his Christian name. Didn't you meet any Bubbles back in the UK?