Ronan Bennet: from the collectiveness of war towards the individuation of the novelist…

Susan calls my attention to this interview (sound file) with the prize winning novelist Ronan Bennett, with some interesting thoughts about his time in ‘Long Kesh’, and how he abandoned reading fiction, at time when it was seen ‘as a complete waste of time’. It’s a fraught and difficult transformation which Bennett has pulled off to a greater extent than many of his contemporaries. At the heart of it, he cites an extremely troublesome equation: “I was thinking about the wider responsibilities of the artist to the society he or she comes from, and how do you express that role without the politics taking over the art”.In the five novels he’s written, he has always included an interrogation scene:

blockquote>”It is such a raw confrontation. The person being interrogated, is weak, is vulnerable, and is often trying to hide something. Is sometimes innocent. And the person in the position of the interrogator occupies a position of supreme power over the person in front of him. And that relationship I always find full of possibilities for exploring truths about individuals, truths about the relationship between the strong and the weak. It is reliving an experience that was one of the most formative in my life. And has left me with a profound distrust of authority. I think writers should be in an position of tension in relation to governments, power and authority”.

The site also has an extract from his last novel, The Catastrophist: an allegorical treatment of themes from Northern Ireland, in the context and setting of a much bloodier conflict in The Congo.