Document 1588

Interview 21: Suhayl Saadi

Author(s): N/A

Copyright holder(s): SCOTS Project, Dr Margaret Scott

Audio transcription

F963 Okay, well thank you very much for for agreeing to to come along and talk to me today.
M762 It's my pleasure.
F963 Erm could I begin by by asking you about your sort of early influences on your writing and just the kind of the the first sort of ideas that that came to you in terms of writing?
M762 Mm, well everything I read really, or everything I listened to, every film I watched, I suppose, you know, but as a child I had access to a lot of books, both at home and in erm friends' houses. And and so I was, I used to read, you know, obviously "Alice in Wonderland", "Alice Through the Looking Glass", I mean //these are still sort of//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 favourites, you know, //really,//
F963 //Right.//
M762 you know, erm and and classics, Hardy, Dickens, before I was really ready for them, I suppose, you know, //reading the actual original//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 versions,
F963 Right.
M762 from sort of nineteen-twenties editions and things like that, you know, so, //erm,//
F963 //Yeah.//
M762 so erm all of that, Kipling, th- the English classics, //I had access to that, you know?//
F963 //Mm right.//
M762 Er, and a bit of Walter Scott as well, you know? //Erm,//
F963 //Mmhm.//
M762 and Ste- Stevenson, you know, erm yeah, erm, so so books were around me a lot, I enjoyed stories and //I used to kind of erm//
F963 //Right.//
M762 like a lot of children do, I suppose, I used to kind of make up, like, I call them plays, but performances and perform them on my dressing //table, as a stage, in front of all the other kids, so I I don't know what that means, but anyway.//
F963 //Oh right. [laugh]//
M762 Erm so that was, so, I think, I I used to enjoy making up stories I think from a y- //from an early age, just as a lot of//
F963 //Mm.// //Mmhm. Yeah.//
M762 //children do of course, and then it gets kind of squeezed out of them, you know, [laugh] by life, you know, but erm// I l- I lived near a disused railway line, er it was shut by the Beeching, //sixty-two Beeching act, erm.//
F963 //Mm. Oh right, was this in Yorkshire?// //This is, this in Scotland, right, uh-huh.//
M762 //No this was in Scotland, yes, erm,// yeah, and erm, so I used to play on this railway line, well I mean there were no rails any more, //you know, but some of the the sleepers were still//
F963 //Mm mm.// //Mmhm.//
M762 //there, and the and the whole ambiance and so on.// And er, you know, we used to play there, and that was that was now looking back on it, it was a kind of cutting, so nobody could see you, and //n- now now you think about it, you would never let your kids play there,//
F963 //Mm. Mmhm.// //Be quite dangerous now, yeah, mm mmhm.//
M762 //now, but in those days nobody,// //there was no danger, you know, I mean really there was no,//
F963 //Right, yeah.//
M762 and and so you know, we used to play there, and I I, that kind of thing, I was near the countryside, I was always on the cusp, //between the//
F963 //Mmhm mmhm.// //Mm.//
M762 //town and the countryside, wherever I lived,// you know, and I lived in an English village for a while as well, we went back to England for a while, //you know, so there was that//
F963 //I see, yeah, uh-huh.//
M762 I had exposure to that as well as the city, so erm all of these stimuli, looking back, probably did feed into my //writing and and triggered things, you know, and//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 erm,
F963 Are there particular elements of your childhood that you can kind of see in in your own writing, is there anything //that you feel that you're carrying on?//
M762 //Yeah, I mean erm// the passage of time, history, loss, //all of that, of course, you know, human things, you know, erm//
F963 //Mm mm yeah.//
M762 erm you know changes- changing landscape, //places where you've//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 lived as a child have changed now, you know, buildings have been demolished, //you know, the whole landscape has been changed, you know, hills have//
F963 //Right. Mm.//
M762 gone, you know, tha-tha- that kind of thing, you know?
F963 Yeah.
M762 Erm for example the village we used to live in in Lincolnshire used to be a real village, you know, with er, self-sufficient, //you know what I mean? Erm//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 you know, and and buses, nobody had cars, the the vicar had a car, //and the farmer, and that was it.//
F963 //Mm, right, yeah.// //Yeah.//
M762 //Erm, and the doctor, that was it.// //And everybody else had bikes,//
F963 //Mmhm.// //Mm right.//
M762 //or or used to go on buses, you know, so// it was a completely different, and that was //we're talking about//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 the late sixties, early seventies, //we're not talking about the nineteenth century here, so we're not talking Cecil Sharp, you know? [laugh] You know?//
F963 //Mm mm yes, yeah. [laugh]// //It's not really that long ago, yeah yeah.//
M762 //Erm, yeah, no it's not long ago.// And and yet life was completely different, //and//
F963 //Mmhm.//
M762 people really did glo- grow their own and even the local produce came from the county, you //know, so//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 now it's commuter-ville, it's commuter-ville for for Lincoln and Scunthorpe, //and Sheffield and and their//
F963 //Right, yeah.//
M762 four-wheel drives and the whole thing is //completely changed, completely, yeah.//
F963 //Oh totally different, yeah, yeah, mm.//
M762 So erm there were no buses, I mean the //bus service was cut, you know, and so on and so forth.//
F963 //Mm, right.// //Mmhm mmhm.//
M762 //So th- that kind of thing, erm// you know, I draw on that kind of change, //and history,//
F963 //Mmhm mm.//
M762 there were a lot of disused aerodromes around there from World War Two,
F963 Mmhm.
M762 you know, and and and then of course up here in in Glasgow, and and I used to live in, on the on the fr- on the edge of Renfrewshire, //you know, between//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 Paisley and Barrhead and so there was this railway line and and fields and stuff, and and then gradually it got built up.
F963 Right, yeah.
M762 Er, you know, and we used to live in erm the grounds of a psychiatric hospital because my father was a //psychiatrist. So that was interesting, because//
F963 //Oh right, yeah yeah.//
M762 there were people in, now looking back I know that there were people there //who'd been there since they were young, because they'd been put there because they'd had an illegitimate child or something in the twenties,//
F963 //Mm mmhm ah right.// //Oh yeah, for awful reasons, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 //you know, aye, aye, so I imagine they would be there as well, obviously// //I didn't know who they were at the time, but, you know,//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 p- lots of elderly people, elderly at that time, used to wander around the woods, you know, and //you know, of this vast sort of estate,//
F963 //Oh right.// //Yes, yeah.//
M762 //where the ps- the psychiatric hospital// //sat, you know?//
F963 //Glasgow used to build them on quite a// //grand scale, yeah, one or two are [inaudible] yeah, mmhm mmhm.//
M762 //Absolutely, that was the whole p-, it was asylum, you see, this idea of asylum, that you went there and you got, you know, erm and// in a way we, I think we've lost that, //i- some//
F963 //Mm.// //Mm.//
M762 //I mean there's a lot of bad things that happen, but a lot, a lot is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.//
F963 I think a lot of them are luxury flats //now as well, you know,//
M762 //Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, that's right.//
F963 converted the buildings into //yeah, mm.//
M762 //They have, well they have, they've sold them off, haven't they?// So th- there were all these people wandering through that were kind of //inverted//
F963 //Mm.// //Mmhm yeah yeah, yes, they'll be//
M762 //commas "mad", you know, do you know what I mean, in the sort of broadest sense, you know, erm.// //That's right, they were labelled that way.//
F963 //labelled that way, yeah, yeah.//
M762 And so erm, and some of them did jobs, in, they were the paper man, the paper man was an //ex-patient and he still lived there, because he'd been institutionalised, and//
F963 //[tut] Oh right, yeah uh-huh, yes.// Yeah.
M762 you know, er the van man, you know, //the van driver,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.// //[tut] Oh.//
M762 //gardener and they were all they were all// so and they used to they used to ha- grow these vegetables and things and //look after these//
F963 //Yeah.//
M762 parrots that used to talk, that used to sort of bark expletives because that's what they told //them to [inaudible]. [laugh] So you went in and this mynah bird would would swear, blue language at you, kind of, at at these very proper ladies that used to come in. [laugh]//
F963 //[laugh]//
M762 So it was that, I was exposed to all this kind of madness //if you like, you know, in in//
F963 //Yeah, yeah.//
M762 madness in the kind of erm broadest, literary, //sense of the word, as well as in the literal sense, yeah, [laugh]//
F963 //Mm mm and lots of different influences. Yeah.//
M762 you know, the clinical sense, so looking back that was actually quite a stimulating atmosphere //for a kid to be brought up in, quite an unusual atmosphere actually, you know?//
F963 //Mm, yes, mmhm.//
M762 And then the stories of the people that used to work there, um you know, stories from the Second World War that they wanted to do something that because of the war, they couldn't, //a lo-, that was, that happened a lot, you know? So they//
F963 //Mm, right.//
M762 had to accept a lower sort of level of career, you know, //erm,//
F963 //Yeah, yeah.//
M762 you know, and and erm oh you know, all of this stuff, and and just the attitudes that used to pertain then, like divorced women were were bad, you know, th- //that was the attitude,//
F963 //Mm.// //Yes.//
M762 //working women were bad, that was the attitude.// //You know, if women worked,//
F963 //Well mm.//
M762 they weren't looking after their kids, //and so that, this was in//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 nineteen-sixties Glasgow, //you know, erm,//
F963 //Yes, yeah, I know.//
M762 so, as a kid you would get all these vibes from, you know, from the elders and from the people around you, //and so on, and//
F963 //Mmhm.//
M762 and and so ch-, societal change, y- you draw on that when you write, //you know?//
F963 //Mmhm mmhm yeah.//
M762 Erm, whether you like it or not it comes into your characters, //you know, if if they're old enough//
F963 //Right, yeah.//
M762 to have, you know, and and erm, so so history and geography //is really what I'm saying, time and place, you know, have have influenced me. And then of course//
F963 //Mm, aye, right.//
M762 I was exposed erm to music //of various different kinds. My father had//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 a reel-to-reel tape recorder. Er, bu- a valve one with one of those lovely green lights that used to flicker, //you know, erm used to//
F963 //Mm yeah.//
M762 hy- hypnotic green lights,
F963 Mmhm.
M762 erm and it used to warm up,
F963 Mm.
M762 And at the time it was it was fairly state-of-the-art, you know? //Erm,//
F963 //Yeah.//
M762 and, Philips of course, and and he used t-, he had this massive great tape that he used to put on, erm of of er songs from India and Pakistan from the fifties and sixties,
F963 Mm.
M762 erm film songs, //you know,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 and er he used to play these, he had a couple of them actually, and used to play these all the time, //you know?//
F963 //Right, yeah.//
M762 And, so I was exposed to all these songs, //you know, which at the time were hits or recent hits, you know? Erm//
F963 //Mm mmhm mmhm.//
M762 and and so, from cl- from what what became classic films, //because that was the classic period of film-making in India and Pakistan both,//
F963 //Mm. Right. Yeah yeah.//
M762 the the period from er during the forties, fifties, sixties and into the seventies, erm where the best films were made, which, even people //now recognise that, you know?//
F963 //Mm mmhm right, yeah.//
M762 Er where there was some kind of symbiotic thing, between lyricists who were poets,
F963 Mm.
M762 musicians, dancers, //actors, directors.//
F963 //Mmhm.//
M762 And we're talking about accessible, populist films //here, but they were//
F963 //Right, yeah.// //Mmhm mm mm.//
M762 //artistic and they and they strived for excellence, and they did, they were, they were excellent,// if you watched the dancing, //it's better than it is now, you know?//
F963 //Right, yeah, yeah.//
M762 In terms of i- its artistic merit, //you know, it's striving for excellence, and it's//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 erm it's not a slave to the beat, you know? //So, I was exposed to all that stuff,//
F963 //Yeah yeah.//
M762 erm as well as more sort of overtly popular songs and //so//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 and of course my elder siblings used to listen to s- erm sixties music, //o- a-//
F963 //Mmhm.//
M762 looking back now, it must, it was Radio Caroline, I remember that, and //also then Radio 1, you know, so, yeah, I remember all that.//
F963 //Oh right, yeah, yeah the pirate station, yeah, uh-huh.//
M762 So they used to listen to this all the time, //and maybe Radio Luxembourg,//
F963 //Mm.// //Mmhm. Right, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 //on little transistor radios they used to have, you know, next to their desk,// //as they studied, you know, and [laugh] and so I I I don't remember the//
F963 //Yeah. [laugh]//
M762 the songs now, but I I I, except very vaguely, maybe the Beatles and //stuff, you know, I do remember that, but//
F963 //Yeah. Mmhm.//
M762 looking back they were probably listening to the hits but also sort of psychedelic stuff //John Peel, it must have//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 been John Peel's Top Gear, //Perfumed Garden,//
F963 //Right, yeah.//
M762 looking back, my brother probably listened to that stuff. //Erm//
F963 //Mmhm.//
M762 and so, as a sort of five year old, I was [laugh], you know, or whatever I was, I was kind of //exposed to all this, and now looking back//
F963 //Yeah, all sort of [inaudible].//
M762 that was a great sort of environment //y- you know, cause, you know,//
F963 //Mmhm.//
M762 erm and erm and then the sort of voices around me, you know, when when we moved up from England, the the voices in in Glasgow are very different, //you know, and erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm mmhm.//
M762 and and so, you know, my elder siblings spoke in Yorkshire accents, of course //because they were teenagers and they'd already been, you know, erm//
F963 //Right yeah, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 by that time in their mid-teens. And and so erm this was, it was a different exposure, you know, //again and erm//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 so there was that and then erm //then there was TV of course, which we had, erm//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 and on TV it was the BBC, BBC voices, //you know, cause it was basically//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 BBC1 and ITV. //BBC2 opened up,//
F963 //Right.// //Mm mmhm.//
M762 //er had// just opened up, I think, and they only opened for a certain time during the morning, //I think, erm,//
F963 //Right yeah, yeah.//
M762 and and so all of that, and that gradually, and we had a black and white TV for a long time, //so th-th- there were//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 all of these influences I I I mean I'm kind of ra- rambling on, but it i- it is a kind of rambling story //really, you know, you know?//
F963 //Mm, [laugh] yeah. Well it's one of// the things that I liked about "Psychoraag", that, you know, like when you mentioned the music //before that//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 there are all these different sort of genres and times,
M762 Yeah.
F963 that that are coming into it, and and like you said, the the music from the films still seems to be very sort of popular, I mean //I I don't//
M762 //Mm.// //[tut] Yeah.//
F963 //know much about, you know,// the sort of typical erm kind of Asian radio station
M762 Mm.
F963 choices, but I mean is is that typical that people listen to a sort of wide, you know, range of music //from different times as, yeah?//
M762 //I thi-, I I, yes, I I mean// in the sense that they would listen to erm music from South Asia or from the diaspora, //of a broad//
F963 //Mm right, yeah.// //Mmhm.//
M762 //period, then that's// true, or at least that there would be listeners for that for that, //they might not be the same people, of course, just any more than//
F963 //Yeah, mm mmhm.//
M762 people that listen to Radio 1 also listen to Radio 3, I mean, //there wi- there will be people//
F963 //Right, well yes, yeah.//
M762 that listen to both, but you know they're they're targeted at different markets, //aren't they, broadly speaking, you know?//
F963 //Mmhm, yeah.//
M762 So, in in a similar way on a South Asian radio station they will have, you know, programming for, I suppose, aimed at an older age group,
F963 Mm mmhm.
M762 you know, people that moved from from South Asia, //a long time ago, and they'll//
F963 //Yes, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 they'll they'll play, you know, older songs, //and then they'll//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 play sort of more modern songs for //the younger people. But at the same time//
F963 //Mmhm.//
M762 er, you know, when I speak to people, young people, er, you know, when I've been interviewed for example on South Asian radio stations, they've s- //when I've//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 talked about the older songs, they say, "oh yeah, we love that, we love that", you know, from seventy-one or something, //you know, sort of, really sort of//
F963 //Right.// //Yeah. Yeah.//
M762 //before they were born, you know? Erm, so// you know th-th- those songs do still get played //a lot in their houses//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 and they're aware of the ambiance, //you know? Films get//
F963 //Right, yeah, yeah.// //Mm mm. Yeah, yeah.//
M762 //remade, you know, a lot, just as they do here. There's a tendency// //to remake films, and so, people then//
F963 //Right.//
M762 erm, you know, everybody then knows it's been remade and they'll go and see //the older//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 film and, even if they haven't seen it before and //their parents will have watched it for definite, you know, so//
F963 //Yeah. Mmhm mmhm.//
M762 you know, I think they are, a lot of them are exposed to to the older //stuff, which is a good thing, you know, erm//
F963 //Mm mm yeah, mm.//
M762 you know, cause a lot of them are on videos now and //DVDs and stuff like that.//
F963 //Right, mmhm.//
M762 So erm and when they go back to Pakistan and India //they'll be there, sort of wall to wall, you know, literally sort of wall to wall screens and things and they'll be watching them, you know, so erm//
F963 //Mm. [laugh]//
M762 yeah, so there's a broad level of ex- range of exposure in terms of time. //I think//
F963 //Mm mmhm yeah.//
M762 erm though it's quite unusual perhaps to get someone that would be into as many genr-, er, music from as many different cultures //as I'm into, although there are people of course, you know, but but,//
F963 //Mm, right, yeah.//
M762 you know, you'll get people I think that are into world music, //you know, erm, kind of//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 educated people, you know, young people into world music, //and into//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 current South Asian music and cross-overs and all that.
F963 Right.
M762 But they're they're unlikely in general to be into psychedelic British music from the sixties, //and beat groups from the sixties, for example.//
F963 //Mm yeah.//
M762 Although there are people who are, I know one er who who is into that, //you know, having said that, and he always//
F963 //Mm [laugh]// //Mm mmhm yeah.//
M762 //pleasantly surprised, you know, and so on. Erm// but, you know, I think that's quite unusual, but //at the same time,//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 what I wanted to do in "Psychoraag" and in some of the other writing that I do is
F963 Mm.
M762 seek out the the common, the common streams that are flowing through all of this music. //Because there are common streams of course. I mean//
F963 //Right, yeah, yeah.//
M762 groups like the Beatles and and and other groups in the sixties explored these areas. //Erm//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 and not just superficially, I mean think about George Harrison //erm for the rest of his life basically, you know, erm,//
F963 //Yes, yeah, mmhm mm mm.//
M762 and and so erm you know, I I think it's important to kind of link link up that period, //you know, where//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 to a small extent perhaps in in London at least, //you know, erm,//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 some people sort of forgot that they were sort of British, inverted commas, and //grey and sort of post-war//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 and became something different for a while.
F963 Yeah.
M762 And no matter how superficial that might have been, //it wasn't//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 for everybody and some of them became much more deeply //involved and it lasted, and it changed them, it changed their lives, you know?//
F963 //Right, yeah, yeah, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 Erm, and it had ripple effects, //you know, society did//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 change as a result of that //period actually, quite fundamentally//
F963 //Yeah, yeah.//
M762 in my view.
F963 Mm.
M762 Erm not in all the ways it could have done //but//
F963 //Mmhm.//
M762 in some, you know, cultural ways and so on, so, erm, you know, erm I I I do think that, and I think also that a key p- point about that period is it it it linked up with politics, //which I think now//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 doesn't seem to happen so much, you know, I think erm i- in a way it's a pity, //you know that that//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 you know, wh- where are where are the rock groups that are singing about Iraq //of the big rock groups, the popular, the top rock, you know, the ones who get into//
F963 //Right, mmhm mmhm mm.//
M762 the living rooms of ordinary boys and girls, //you know? The girl groups?//
F963 //Yes, yeah, mmhm mm.//
M762 Where wh- where are the songs //protesting about, you know,//
F963 //Yeah, yeah, where are the protesters// //half the time? [laugh] Mm yeah, mm mmhm.//
M762 //where, well exactly, you know, so, do you know what I mean? So, no-, it's become corporat-. And I and I think, you know,// erm there was a period when that did happen, //and that did, was significant, you know? And so//
F963 //Mm mmhm yeah yeah.//
M762 erm I mean you had bands that were involved with the White Panther movement in the US, //you know, which was equivalent of the Black Panther, for example, and the Black Panther movement,//
F963 //Right, yeah, yeah, mm yeah.// //Mm mm yeah.//
M762 //I mean, you know, and all that stuff, you know? Erm,// you know, and it was it was of its time, but I kind of like to link into that because //it takes you//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 further back then, because those people were influenced by older older //streams, you know, blues, slavery, all that stuff, erm//
F963 //Right, yeah, mm mmhm, sure, yeah.//
M762 stuff from, you know, erm er you know, the early part of the century, you know, socialism, //you know, all of that stuff, erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 and it kind of triggered the Green movement, didn't it? //I mean that's another very important thing, so//
F963 //Right, yeah, mm.// //You can see that sort of link going all the way back through history and//
M762 //w- which, well well well totally,// and and that linked into kind of, you know, indigenous movements in the //US, the native American movement,//
F963 //Mmhm.// //Mm.//
M762 //black movements in in the US and the UK, and also// er it drew on sort of Indian stuff, didn't it? //I mean the ecology, the whole ecology, that whole//
F963 //Right. Mm mm.//
M762 different view of the universe, //you know, from Eastern religion, from Hinduism and Buddhism that they drew on very heavily, and then Sufism as well.//
F963 //Right, yeah, yes, mmhm. Yeah.// //And the West has got more interested really in//
M762 //Some of them became Sufis.// //I think so, yeah, in in a way that was deeper than before, that was//
F963 //Eastern religions as well, there's a lot of people looking to the East, yeah.//
M762 perhaps less imperialist than //before, you know? Erm, so you know I I//
F963 //Mmhm, mmhm, right, yes, yeah.//
M762 I think it's very significant and I think it's something that's ignored
F963 Mm.
M762 to to their own loss by maybe current South Asian, //you know, radio stations and youth and so on, erm//
F963 //Mm, right, yeah, yeah.//
M762 largely because they haven't been exposed to it. //Erm//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 and so this was m- part of my thing to link all this together //in some sort of seamless narrative, you know? [laugh] Erm,//
F963 //Mm, yes. [laugh]//
M762 galvanised by the music, //you know, and and, because if you think//
F963 //Yeah yeah.//
M762 about the origins of rock music, where did it come from? It came from West Africa, //you know? And//
F963 //Mm mmhm yeah, mmhm.//
M762 th- some people argue that jazz music, which was formed in New Orleans of course //from a confluence of//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 basically African music, erm Latin music erm and erm, you know, erm white white settler //music, basically, the whole thing came together and became jazz.//
F963 //Yeah, yeah, right, uh-huh.//
M762 Erm and and there's an argument, one argument that I've read somewhere that said that actually that confluence came together before to some extent in North and West Africa, //during the the kind of Iberian//
F963 //Mm mm.// //[tut] Right, right, yeah.//
M762 //Moorish thing, you know? And// and so that that's an interesting argument, //and I've seen it, erm//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 erm, and of course there are rhythms in Latin America, in er Brazil which are actually Arab rhythms //because they went//
F963 //Mm mmhm.// //Right, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 //with the S- Spanish people and Portuguese, you know, so erm// I I see music as a great, you know, liquefying //element, you know, that you can//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 kind of seek out streams, not not not construct artificial, you know,
F963 Mm.
M762 politically correct, you know,
F963 Right, yeah.
M762 but you know, thing, but but but but actually dig deep, //so, yeah, yeah, geologically almost, you know, and sort of dig down and and//
F963 //Mm it's a genuine history that is theirs. Yeah, mm.//
M762 you know this kind of Kenneth White's idea of, you know, geopoetics, you know, sort of //dig down into//
F963 //Mm.// //Mmhm.//
M762 //the stratum, strata and// the further you, the deeper you go the long-, furth-, the deeper you get //metaphysically//
F963 //Mm.// //Mm.//
M762 //and also in terms of time and// I try to do that with with with with my writing as //well, which is why//
F963 //Right, yeah.//
M762 kind of spirals down, you you probably noticed it //spirals down,//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 one thing leading to another, you know, //until you you hit bedrock,//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 which is maybe a paradox. //And and then paradox can be a key to//
F963 //Mm mmhm yeah yeah.//
M762 structural symbolic meaning, as they say, //you know, you can see, it's like a mirror, isn't it, you can kind of//
F963 //Mmhm, yeah.//
M762 pass through it into another
F963 Mmhm.
M762 view of things so, music is a good way of doing that and so //erm I don't remember where this, [laugh] where we started with this question, but that's that- that's an example, you know. But erm,//
F963 //[laugh] Yeah.//
M762 so erm. //Yeah.//
F963 //With with "Psychoraag", I mean,// one of the other questions I wanted to ask is that, I I felt, I mean I was I was very interested in in almost the kind of archetypal role of some of the different characters,
M762 Yeah. //They are, they are archetypal, yeah.//
F963 //you know, that that Zilla seems to be such a kind of// //force of nature almost,//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 sort of chaotic kind of //influence.//
M762 //Mmhm. Yeah.//
F963 And yet you can see how how Zafar is still quite interested in her, //you know, he's still sort of//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 she's got a kind of enchanting quality //in a way for//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 him, she seems to retain that. And I I wondered, you know, if she was, is is she more than just a character? You know, is is she sort of, does she kind of symbolise something for him? //You know, on a deeper level?//
M762 //Yeah, I I think so. I mean, one one of my// one of the problems with "Psychoraag", that I saw, was that the female characters in it were were a bit too, you know, erm like ciphers, you know, //to some//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 extent and and some of the o-, the stories in "The Burning Mirror" //they're not//
F963 //Mm.// //Yeah, I suppose there's a s-, there's a kind of//
M762 //erm "The Bur-" the short stor-.//
F963 sort of opposition between
M762 There is.
F963 the very sort of wholesome Babs on the one side,
M762 Yeah.
F963 the kind of, you know, chaotic, dangerous Zilla, //on the other side, so.//
M762 //There is, there is.// Er, you know, and I kind of toyed with that and //worried about it actually, and you know, and//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 and still do to some extent, you know, cause what am I saying here, you know? Erm, but at the same time, yeah, I mean Babs, Barbara, Barbie Doll. [laugh] //You know, erm and Zilla,//
F963 //Mm yeah yeah.//
M762 somebody said it was Godzilla, but I hadn't thought of that when I //wrote it actually.//
F963 //[laugh]//
M762 But Zilla has a meaning, there's, it's an old erm, it's actually an old Hebrew name but it's //also an Arabic//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 name and it means something, and I've forgotten what the meaning was! //[laugh] But I knew when I wrote it.//
F963 //[laugh]// //[laugh]//
M762 //[laugh] And it's deeply significant. [laugh]// //And someone could write an essay about it. Anyway,//
F963 //[laugh]//
M762 but erm it does mean something, and it- //it's relevant,//
F963 //Yeah.//
M762 and you could look it up in a-, in fact I'll look it up when I go home and //let you know. But erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm sure.//
M762 you know erm yeah, it means something and and erm, yeah Zilla's a kind of, I wanted to look at what happens with Zilla and also with Zaf's father, //what happens when the dream doesn't//
F963 //Mmhm mmhm.//
M762 happen, you know, what happens when you don't make it? //What happens when you when you implode, you know? Erm//
F963 //Right, yes, mmhm mmhm.//
M762 what happens when you when you when you go down a very dark pathway, a diabolic //pathway and self-harm and all, which is what she's doing, er very//
F963 //Right, yeah yeah, yes, uh-huh.//
M762 powerful but she's gone. And and so, erm and yet she still does have a magnetism, she's almost vampiric actually, she becomes a sort of vampiric //character, doesn't she? Yeah, yeah, yeah, she's a kind of, yeah, yeah.//
F963 //Yeah, it's almost like she comes and sort of steals his energy at that point, sort of invades the studio and everything, yeah.//
M762 And then there's an issue of, you know, misogyny and vampires and all that stuff, //and I'm aware of all that, you know, and, er, you know, erm,//
F963 //Mm mm yeah, yeah, mmhm.// //Yeah, I I wondered if if there was a sense//
M762 //and and it's a male// viewpoint, //this novel//
F963 //Right, yeah.// //Yeah.//
M762 //is from a vel- very male viewpoint, and I wanted to I wanted to expose that,// //warts and all,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 and not apologise for it, and not kind of re- resolve it. //You know, not say this guy's now a balanced//
F963 //Right, yeah, yeah.//
M762 politically correct individual, who's kind of, [laugh] you know, I wanted to make him as horrendous as he could //be, in his mind, erm, you know?//
F963 //Mm mmhm right, yeah, yeah.//
M762 And and and that was a way of doing it, //you know, and//
F963 //Mmhm mmhm.//
M762 but but in- interestingly enough, just a small diversion, [laugh] stop me when I //erm, you know,//
F963 //Sure. [laugh]//
M762 but one of the other characters in it, who's a supporting character in it, who's erm I think, Ruby, //I think, yeah, erm, she was//
F963 //Ruby, right, yeah, uh-huh.//
M762 potentially a powerful character, //I think//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 Zaf hints at that
F963 Mm yes, //yeah.//
M762 //that she's not been destroyed.// //You know? She has, she has, she has.//
F963 //Well again, she's got that kind of sort of mystic hold over him in some way, hasn't she, yeah?//
M762 And I wanted to have that possibility, //you see, I didn't want to have, you know, this//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 Asian woman who's become a kind of druggie, you know, //and all that, and that was the only, and and I thought//
F963 //Right, yes, yeah, uh-huh, yeah.//
M762 there's gotta be other things in, //so she became//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 this sort of stronger character, but //if she had//
F963 //Yes, yeah.//
M762 become more prominent, she would have become a major character and that would have upse- upset the balance //of the whole book, so I actually//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 erm, she drove a story which appeared in "The Burning Mirror", //"The Queens of Govan". She's the character,//
F963 //Mm, yes, yeah.// //Right, uh-huh.//
M762 //she is the character in that, actually.// So erm, she demanded that story.
F963 Mm mmhm, //yeah.//
M762 //Which is why it's a kind of// I suppose a feminist story really, //"The Queens of Govan", which it is I think, you know, it//
F963 //Mm mmhm.// //Yeah. And she's quite powerful in that, yeah. Mm.//
M762 //takes its o-, female bonding story [inaudible]. She is, she is. So that was a kind of riposte// //in a way, you know? Erm, and you could view it as part of "Psychoraag", but it's a kind of outtake, [laugh] you know,//
F963 //[laugh] Yeah, mm mmhm, yeah.// //Mm.//
M762 //which has become a story in another book, but erm.// //You know?//
F963 //I did sort of wonder if// Zafar is almost sort of being pulled in two different directions by these two different people, you know? That that
M762 Yeah.
F963 there's a sort of, you know, maybe wilder side to him that he's quite attracted to //sometimes, but there's also//
M762 //Totally, yeah, yeah.//
F963 something more sort of stable and reliable that I think maybe, you know, the more sort of [tut] sensible parts of him //kind of are, are drawn//
M762 //Yeah.// //I think//
F963 //to.//
M762 you're right, and and and there's also the kind of theme of acceptance into white society, //which is partly why he goes with Babs, you know, because she's a kind of, you know, and she's a nurse, isn't she?//
F963 //Mm mm, right, yeah, yeah, mmhm yeah.// //Yes, yes, uh-huh, yeah, nurturing sort of qualities, yeah, [laugh] yeah.//
M762 //Which is significant, she's a nurse, you know, she's a mother god or something, mother goddess, yeah, kind of, you know, all that, whereas// the the other one's Kali of course, //it's a it's a kind of idea of a goddess with different faces, isn't it, and one's kind of//
F963 //Right, well, yes, yeah, mmhm.// //Yeah.//
M762 //the lover goddess and all that stuff. Erm,// //you know?//
F963 //I thought it worked quite well really, in in the// terms of, you know, that this was his sort of one long evening, and when you learn that, you know, he- he's been awake for such a long //time in the course of//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 this evening, that, you know, that it's it's a bit like when, you know, when when you have had lack of //sleep, you know, and and//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 things start to take on slightly more kind of metaphorical //meanings, yeah. Mm.//
M762 //They do, don't they, and you start to de- derealize, don't you, things become// a little less real, or hyperreal, //perhaps, you know, and if you if you've//
F963 //Yeah, yeah.//
M762 had too much, well he's had a lot more than coffee but if you //[laugh] clearly, you know, but if you've//
F963 //Mm. [laugh]//
M762 had even too much coffee and you'll start to kind of, you know, //think, "oh//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 I thought somebody said something there" and they didn't, //you know, and this kind of thing.//
F963 //Yeah, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 And and that's what I like though, I wanted to drive him to a liminal state, //you know, where where where//
F963 //Mm mmhm yeah.//
M762 he and also the reader //doesn't//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 quite know whether it's real or whether it's not. //But not quite not//
F963 //Yeah, yeah.//
M762 quite cross that boundary, //I I don't really walk into//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 magic realism. //But it's hovering there, isn't it?//
F963 //Yeah.// //Mm mmhm. There are there are certainly//
M762 //And it's kind of, you know?//
F963 points where I where I was reading it where I was sort of thinking, well, you know, is is this the present time? Is this //him remembering something?//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 Is this him thinking how he'd like something to be, //or//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 you know, especially the part where where Zilla comes and sort of attacks //him, more or less.//
M762 //That's right.//
F963 And there are bits of that where I was sort of thinking, you know, is this how he envisages it? //Or is this how she actually does it, yeah, yeah. And I like that ambiguity, I think it works very well. Yeah, yeah.//
M762 //Exactly, yes, you- you're not quite sure, are you? And that's the whole thing. I mean, um, yeah, did you? Yeah, yeah, oh that's good.// A- and I also wanted to oppose this intense physicality, //cause it is, I mean it's//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 it's almost pornographic in its //kind of depiction of, [laugh] you know? It is very physical. And erm,//
F963 //Yeah, yeah, it's it's very physical, yeah, yeah.//
M762 with this kind of more metaphysical song thing that's //Stravinsky that's going on in the background, [laugh] you know, you know? And//
F963 //Mm [laugh], yeah.//
M762 that's another thing, I mean if you think about films like erm "Performance", you know, the //erm//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 James Fox, Mick Jagger film, //that//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 that kind of thing which, that kind of film
F963 Mmhm.
M762 [tut] erm or even "Vanilla Sky", more recently //in the Spanish version or the American version, I like that kind of//
F963 //Aye right, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 possibility of something else //happening, you know, and and//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 of weird things happening and and so that, th- yeah, there is that, and also people splitting into two, //you know,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.// //Yeah, yeah.//
M762 //or more, [laugh] you know. And doing// something in one, and that's Joyce, isn't it? I mean //in a way, you know, erm Molly Bloom and all that stuff. Erm,//
F963 //Mm, mmhm, right, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 and that's another, I mean, going back to influences, I mean I you know, I kind of read some of the canon stuff, and and and drew on it all really but //erm I I//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 prefer, you know, stuff like, you know, I do Joyce and and Virginia Woolf and //erm//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 you know, erm er Juan Rulfo, erm a Mexican writer, sort of magi-, godfather of magic realism. //before Márquez actually, Márquez actually drew on him.//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 Erm, Calvino, erm, you know, Gustav Meyrink from er, you know, Prague, you know, //erm,//
F963 //Mm mm.// //[laugh]//
M762 //all kinds of weird, [laugh] writing, I mean I I've read, you know, "Middlemarch" is a great//
F963 Mm.
M762 I-, it's the quintessence of of that kind of English novel. //And and//
F963 //Right.//
M762 I think that's, it's a wonderful //novel.//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 Erm.
F963 And yet you've got the the sort of Casaubon characters with their own //kind of madness as well. [laugh] Mm.//
M762 //Well I I mean, I feel very much like [laugh] I feel sometimes like a mixture of Lydgate and Casaubon, constantly, you know, it's like, you know,// erm, sometimes, you know, so that-that- that's, so I drew on that as well, //you know, and and//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 so I I think juxtaposing all that, //you know, erm, er, it's//
F963 //Mm mmhm yeah.//
M762 together with stuff, stuff that I've read from South Asian translation as well, //you know like, er//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 Manto, Hasan, Saadat Hasan Manto, who's probably the greatest short story writer in South Asia, //d- dead now, erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 sort of er mid-twentieth century, er, pre- and post-partition. //Erm,//
F963 //Right.//
M762 and er you know, er more recent ones like Anita Desai, and all all of these people, you know, obviously I've read er books from all of, //a lot of them anyway, you know?//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 Erm, I've read Rushdie as well, you know, I'm not I'm not, I've read him but I'm I'm not consciously, conscious-, I'm not consciously influenced by //him, maybe subconsciously. That's right, that's right, I have, you know, wha- what I've deliberately//
F963 //Mm mmhm. Because you've been compared to him, in some of the reviews, mmhm.//
M762 [exhale] it's not me anyway, I I've deliberately eschewed, it's that kind of upper-class //Oxbridge//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 erm way he he kind of writes, looking down his nose //at people, you know? And I really I really, that puts//
F963 //Mm mm mmhm.// //Mm.//
M762 //it gets my goat up, that kind of, you know,// you know, erm, it it damages his writing, I think. //I think his//
F963 //Right, yeah.//
M762 best writing is when he when he doesn't do that, when //he lets go, when he lets fly, you know?//
F963 //Mm mmhm.// //Yeah, yeah.//
M762 //Erm,// his stuff in "Shalimar the Clown" about erm Kashmir was very moving and //it was very moving because//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 he forgot that he was up- an upper-class English twat, //basically, and [laugh]//
F963 //Mm. [laugh]// //[laugh] Right, yeah, yeah.//
M762 //and you can put that into the, [laugh] I don't mind, you know, I've said it, I've said it in reviews of his books, you know erm// //well in a different way, but erm//
F963 //Yeah, I// suppose that's true of quite a lot of writers, that there's there's an element of sort of contrivedness that they sometimes use, //that doesn't really help and when//
M762 //Yeah.// //I I think so.//
F963 //like you say when when when they stop,// you know, sort of put all the baggage to one //side and just just//
M762 //I think so.// //I thi- I think some of- some writers are//
F963 //do it, it's different.//
M762 hidebound by the class that they have assumed, //or that they've been born into, and it stops them.//
F963 //Mm. Mm. Right.// Or they feel they have to represent //themselves in a particular way, yes.//
M762 //Yeah, yeah, and and they they've looked// so long through these specs that they //can't look though any-//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 it's become lenses and they can't look through anything //else any more, you know, and they've never had an experience, I think, possibly,//
F963 //Mm mm, yeah, yeah, mmhm mm.//
M762 which would allow them to tap into anything different, //you know, and it's be-//
F963 //Mm mm right.// //Yeah, mmhm.//
M762 //it's almost like programming, I mean it seems that way anyway, the way that they [inaudible]. So,// I'm always keen on the other hand to try recognising that I'm a limited being, //you know, it's being a man in the twenty-first century//
F963 //Mmhm mmhm. [laugh]// //Mmhm, yeah.//
M762 //you know, whatever, you know, and we're all limited. At the same time,// I try to step into different psyches //with everything that I write.//
F963 //Mm mmhm, yeah.//
M762 So, that's evident in "The Burning Mirror", I think, //you know, it comes out, you know, in the stories in "The Burnin-".//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 And and what I'm writing now is quite different from "Psychoraag", and it's from a female point of view and it's quite different, //slow pace, different.//
F963 //Right, yeah.//
M762 [NOTE: pause in interview owing to technical problems]
F963 [NOTE: interview resumes] So you were talking about erm the the ideas of of characters and
M762 Mm.
F963 and the different sort of roles that they they took on, I think that was where we'd we'd left off.
M762 Yeah, that's right. Erm, yeah, it's almost like erm I suppose method acting in a way, //when you're writing, you know,//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 you're doing it vicariously, okay, but //yo-yo-//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 you're really trying to get yourself into the physical being almost of a p- of a character, //you know and and the thought patterns and the whole thing and//
F963 //Mm mmhm. Right.//
M762 and that only happens through the act of writing, I mean you can't just imagine it, you know, //it's got to really//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 got to actually be typing away or whatever you //do, you know?//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 Because one thing leads to another, I mean in the linear sense but also in the character building sense, because they //they,//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 you know, they build themselves, you know, er it just occurs to you, you know? //Erm,//
F963 //Mmhm.//
M762 and and so I think there must be some some consciou-, subconscious thing going on that you're constructing a character and you don't know you've constructed it //yet, and, you know, this kind of thing.//
F963 //Mm mmhm yeah.// Do you feel as if the characters almost sort of come to you, you know, that that //they sort of tell you how they want to be, in a sense? Right. [laugh]//
M762 //Sometimes. Well, if it's working they do, [laugh], you know, if the story's working.// //Or if the part of the story's working, then they do erm, you know, and and//
F963 //Mm mm mm mmhm.//
M762 like, if you're writing a novel then of course they they they begin to do that and //and that's brilliant, you know?//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 Erm and often they'll find ways out of things that you've, you're stuck in an impasse, //you know, you- you're not quite sure where you're going,//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 where you go next and er and and something will just occur like that, because you've been thinking about it as you do your shopping or whatever, //[laugh] without thinking about it, you know? There's a lot of subconscious stuff goes on.//
F963 //Right, [laugh] yeah, there's a lot of subconscious material.//
M762 Er, I always scribble things down in notebooks and things, ideas and, probably won't use some of them but that's fine, //er,//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 and erm, you know, yes, so characters, and then other characters behave in ways that you don't realise that they would have behaved and divert //your main characters and stuff like this, you know, people sort of decide//
F963 //Mm, right, yeah.// //[laugh]//
M762 //to die, you know, it's like [laugh] "Oh hang on, okay", [laugh] you know, erm,// and and then you've got to watch it doesn't become a Lorca thing and sort of everybody dies, //you know, [laugh], you know, it becomes very tempting, anyway, but erm//
F963 //Mm mmhm, right, yeah. [laugh]//
M762 yeah, so i- in the context of different voices,
F963 Mmhm.
M762 you know, I I obviously kind of read, you know, more recently, read people like Kelman and //and so on, you know, contemporary Scottish writers and so on,//
F963 //Mm mmhm mmhm, right.//
M762 from working class origins who are kind of writing in that //voice, those voices,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 erm and and found that very powerful //music, you know, erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 and that sort of in a sense galvanised my writing in urban realist Scottish //parlance, you know?//
F963 //Mm mmhm, right.//
M762 Erm so erm.
F963 Do you feel that you draw on those authors or on them as well as people that you've you've met, or //you know?//
M762 //B-// //both, I think, I mean I-I- I'm drawing on people that I've met, and obviously the voices that are in my head from listening to people talking, you know and my, my day job as a doctor obviously, I I//
F963 //Mm, mmhm. Yeah.// //Mm mm.//
M762 //encounter all different social classes and// all kinds of extreme situations of intoxication //[laugh] and everything, you know, all kinds of things, so//
F963 //Right. [laugh] Yeah.//
M762 you know, you you really get, you know, the whole //gamut, you know.//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 Erm, and that's good for a writer, I //think, you know, cause you've got access to those voices, I think, you know?//
F963 //Mm mm, right, yeah.//
M762 And obviously I grew up, you know, among different social, a a variety of social classes, //you know, I wasn't//
F963 //Mm.// //Mmhm mmhm.//
M762 //you know, clos- er erm cosseted in in that way, so// you know, which was, l- looking back that was actually good for me, you know, //because you could//
F963 //Yeah.//
M762 become very very specialised, especially in the modern economy you be-, you tend to become very specialised, //you know, you know, sort of angels on the head of a//
F963 //Mm mmhm mmhm.//
M762 pin, type of thing, and you become //a specialist of th- about that particular pin, you know, do you know what I mean, and not just in//
F963 //Right, yes, [laugh] yeah, mmhm.//
M762 I I mean academia, you know, but in //everything, you know?//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 Er, and we we're sort of almost driven towards that, aren't we, you know //in all walks of life actually, so erm//
F963 //Yes, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 it's quite good to be a generalist, you know the //generalist has gone out of//
F963 //Mmhm.//
M762 fashion, but actually I //quite like the//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 generalist idea, you //know? That kind of//
F963 //Yeah.//
M762 almost kind of eighteenth, nineteenth-century idea that you would be //you would be lots of things, and you would, you know, erm//
F963 //Mm yes, mmhm.//
M762 explore, you know, the the the genealogy of leaf forms, at the same time //as being a kind of cosmonaut or something.//
F963 //Mm.// //[laugh] Yeah, yeah.//
M762 //Do you know what I mean? You know? And so// I I see myself as as a generalist, //actually and and//
F963 //Mmhm mmhm.//
M762 and I think that's what I draw on, I draw on this very broad can-, //canvas, it's very broad, you know?//
F963 //Mm mmhm yeah.//
M762 And then I try to kind of go deep by doing research and by kind of reading factual books and reading fictional books, //and reading poe- poetry around what I'm writing.//
F963 //Mm.// //Right.//
M762 //So all these different voices pour into my head, you know,// //from different places and//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 times and so on and and points of view and and then I hope that what comes out, [laugh] I'm quite an organic //writer, so I I I//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 I really start from a point of energy and then go.
F963 Mm mmhm.
M762 I mean I do, I think about structure and stuff, particularly in novels more than short stories, but, //you know, erm,//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 because you kind of have to, obviously, //you know,//
F963 //Yeah.//
M762 before I start, you know, and I have this mind-map that I, you know, and I have this idea of where the novel might //go, in terms of s- in spatial terms, you know, wh-wh- where are the//
F963 //Mm mmhm. Right.// //Yeah, mmhm mmhm.//
M762 //characters going to go, you know, physically.// It might not work out like that but that's what I had, but it's //quite vague, I really don't know what//
F963 //Mm. Yeah.//
M762 what is going to happen to those characters, how they're going to resolve, //if they're gonna resolve,//
F963 //Mm.// Mmhm.
M762 that's part of the fun of it for me, of novel writing, //you know, erm,//
F963 //Yeah, yeah.//
M762 and so I I erm, you know, read, as, and I do research as I as I write as well as doing it beforehand, //and I continually do that, and then as it goes through draft I do some more research and I kind of//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 it's layered, //it's a layered thing, you know, it's a//
F963 //Right, yeah, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 if if I can use a musical parallel it's er, and without being, sounding grandiose, but, it- it's a, it's more like Beethoven used to do it, you know, Beethoven used to s- bash it down,
F963 Mm.
M762 presumably, you know, he had some ideas and he bashed them down,
F963 Mmhm.
M762 and then he used to go over it and over it and over it and over it and over it, //and layer it//
F963 //Right.// //Yeah, mm.//
M762 //till it was perfect, or as near as you could get.// //Erm,//
F963 //Mmhm.//
M762 whereas Mozart didn't, he just kind of, allegedly, [laugh] had it in his head and bashed it down and it was perfect. //So, that was him, you know, but but//
F963 //Mm. [laugh] Yeah.//
M762 I'm much more of that, the former kind, //you know, I I like layering it, because I think it//
F963 //Mmhm. Yes.//
M762 it acquires diff- different l- levels then.
F963 Mm mmhm. //Mmhm.//
M762 //And and and you're a different person// //when you come to the end of it, because, [laugh] fr- from when you began it, because you're kind of half-mad, you know, but also, you know, y-y-y- it may span years,//
F963 //[laugh] Right. [laugh]// //Mm mmhm.//
M762 //I mean, this// "Psychoraag" spanned five years of my life, //although I didn't only do that, thankfully, you know,//
F963 //Right, yes, yeah, mm.//
M762 erm but you know I was a different writer //at the end of it, you know, partly because I'd written other things.//
F963 //Mm mmhm, yeah, yeah.// And time is such an issue //really in that in that book as//
M762 //It-. Yeah.//
F963 well with with the whole sort of
M762 Course.
F963 it's almost a sort of cosmic journey of his parents coming //over from//
M762 //That's right.//
F963 Pakistan, and //you know, thei- their sort of//
M762 //Mm.//
F963 you know, adventures along the way, //and yet it's all in the course of one evening.//
M762 //Yeah.// //It is, well that's the compression effect I wanted, I wanted a pressure cooker effect.//
F963 //[inaudible] Yeah. Mm mmhm.//
M762 I wanted all this six days of history distilled into a single six-hour //period in one man's head, you know? Erm,//
F963 //Right. Yeah, yeah.//
M762 and that's what would give it the the kind of frisson, //the drive, and and and the dramatic tension, if//
F963 //Mm mmhm.// //Mmhm mmhm, yeah.//
M762 //you like, you know the kind of erm, cause it is a stage really,// //in a sen-, well he is performing, I mean//
F963 //Mmhm.// //Yeah, yeah.//
M762 //he's broadcasting, erm,// and and so, you know. //i-.//
F963 //It's almost like// he's going through some kind of, you know, overnight sort of maturation process, //himself, that he's he's digesting all this stuff, and all this//
M762 //Yeah, yeah, I think so.//
F963 history's coming back to him because of the, you know, the different things that have happened to him, leading up to that //night.//
M762 //Yeah, which are coming// //together or co- or falling apart,//
F963 //Yeah.// //Mm mmhm yeah, mmhm.//
M762 //in his life, you know, it's a dark night of the soul, and and// erm, you're right, and it's through the music, //you know,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 that that was my point, the music was, if there's any redemption it was through this music. //This stream of linkages//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 across different cultures and different //times you see, and across//
F963 //Right, yeah, yeah.//
M762 getting out of reality in some way, //you know?//
F963 //Mm.// Something's being created although things for him are breaking //down, I suppose, yeah, yeah.//
M762 //That's right. Absolutely, yeah, and and erm,// Yeah, so he's, he's drawing on all these different voices that I //have talked about, you know, and and//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 and in a way it was a kind of licence for me to kind of explore all that as well, you know, there //was a bit of th-, there was a bit of indulgence//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 going on, I think. //But Zaf's very self-indulgent.//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 He's he's irritatingly self-indulgent, //actually, [laugh] at at points in the novel you perhaps//
F963 //Mm. [laugh]// //Yeah, yeah. [laugh]//
M762 //say "G- get yourself together", you know, slap slap slap.// //You know? Yes, yes, [laugh] you know, so it's like that.//
F963 //Think about somebody else for a while. [laugh]//
M762 But that but that's the way kind of he is at that point, //I suppose, and and it enables him to do that, and//
F963 //Mmhm yeah yeah mmhm.//
M762 hopefully carry readers with him //into places//
F963 //Yeah.//
M762 where they might not otherwise have gone, you know? //Erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.// I think his state of mind sort of justifies a bit of self-examination //as well so, yeah yeah.//
M762 //I think so, yeah yeah, you know?//
F963 It doesn't jar, I don't //think, no.//
M762 //No, er and there is that male maudlin thing, you know, that,// //you know, that//
F963 //Mm mm.// //Yeah.//
M762 //er as well you know, so// erm, you know, in a sense he sort of deserves to get sort of beaten up when he //does, [laugh] you know, and maybe that's his guilt, you know, but this is guilt, isn't it?//
F963 //[laugh]// //Mm mmhm yes, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 //I mean he's guilty about Zilla, isn't he? He's terribly guilty about// er er introducing her to drugs and then abandoning her and //so on and so forth, and//
F963 //Yes, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 you know, er, moving on to this white woman, you know, //who'll give him, you know, and she's//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 left there in in the kind of festering, almost mythical East End of Glasgow, //you know, where she's getting//
F963 //Yeah.//
M762 holed up somewhere, you know, //on this awful street, you know, and and erm,//
F963 //Yeah, yeah, it is, it's// very, it's very powerful actually, that whole sort of image of her kind of wasting //away, and//
M762 //Yeah, yeah.//
F963 not quite knowing where she is or even if she's alive, you know, //she's almost like a ghost sometimes in his memories.//
M762 //Yeah, mm.// //She's be- almost be- I mean it becomes like that almost at the end with, doesn't it, with, and and er//
F963 //so, mm, mm, mm.//
M762 there's this kind of street, I I read a book for for my O Levels, oh, years ago, //you know,//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 called "The Child of the Jago", //erm set in a kind of//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 London-like place, //in the nineteenth century.//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 And it was like "Oliver", but it was far darker than "Oliver". //And it was it was erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 the Jago was the worst street in the worst area of the worst part of the //worst city, you know, it was like that, you know? Erm,//
F963 //[tut] [laugh] Yeah.//
M762 and, you know, it it, obviously the enlightened English teacher that tau-tau-tau- taught us this book
F963 Mmhm.
M762 must have realised that there were parallels between that and Glasgow, //mythically speaking, and and and reality too, you know, I mean obviously//
F963 //Right, yeah yeah, [laugh] mm mm.//
M762 so and the way it had been portr- portrayed over the years, //and so on and so forth, and so//
F963 //Mmhm mmhm.// //Yeah, mm.//
M762 //that stuck in my mind actually from sort of// //nineteen seventy-seven, [laugh] kind of, you know?//
F963 //Yeah. [laugh]// //Yeah. Mm. Yeah.//
M762 //And erm, I don't know who wrote it, I'll need to look it up on the web, but that// kind of idea of this vortex where the centre is the most festering place //on earth, you know, almost, you know, and where there's//
F963 //Mm, mm, yeah.// //Mmhm mmhm.//
M762 //no hope, you know, and erm// //generations of no hope and of course//
F963 //Right, yeah.//
M762 th-th- there are streets like that in every city //of course in the world, you know, and and Glasgow's//
F963 //Mm mmhm mmhm.//
M762 no exception and //erm//
F963 //Yeah.//
M762 and without kind of totemising it into this mean place, you know, and //th- there is that, you know.//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 A-a- and erm I wanted to kind of, what would happen if somebody kind of gravitated towards that er //you know?//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 A- and didn't move out into the suburbs and become //bourgeois, you know, which is the aim of//
F963 //Yes. Mmhm.// //Right, yeah.//
M762 //the immigrants and all that, erm// //you know, upwardly mobile stuff, which is fine,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 erm but but what happens if that didn't happen //to you, you know, and you got on the wrong roundabout. [laugh] Exactly, yeah, you went//
F963 //Mm mmhm, yeah yeah, how far can you fall, I suppose. Yeah, mmhm.//
M762 erm and and so, erm, and and Zaf's father is also, I'd I'd I'd wanted to portray this man as a fragile person, //erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 with hopes and dreams.
F963 Yeah. //Mmhm mmhm.//
M762 //that collapsed, and// that's why I made him work in the sewers, //because I thought, what's the most//
F963 //Right, yeah.//
M762 potentially degrading i- //you know, job that you could think about having,//
F963 //Yes, yeah, mmhm.// //Mmhm yeah.//
M762 //is working in the sewers, underground, in the darkness, you know, all that.// //I-.//
F963 //And the whole the whole// sort of, you know, his whole sort of metaphorical state, you know, that, you know, describing, I think there's a phrase where he sort of describes himself or people in his situation as "the shit of Empire", //you know, that they they really are the//
M762 //Yeah yeah, that's right.//
F963 sort of detritus //so, yeah, mm.//
M762 //Yeah, th- that was my idea, that// you know, he had all these hopes and dreams and he was a qualified engineer or whatever, //and he came here and he and he//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 got a crap job, and you know, //literally, [laugh] you know?//
F963 //Yeah, mm well. [laugh]// The idea that he sort of came home smelling of it //as well, it's so, yeah, it's it's so much under the skin, in that sense, yeah.//
M762 //Yeah, yeah, that was the idea, I wanted to make it as extreme as, exactly, I mean I don't know any// Asian people who have worked in the sewers, //maybe there are none, you know, but that wasn't//
F963 //Mm mmhm yeah, yeah.//
M762 my point, I I know people that have worked in equally degrading jobs and, //you know, erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 and and, or who have been wasted by the experience of //emigration and by//
F963 //Right, yes, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 the drudgery of
F963 Yeah, or they can't get //something comparable with their previous job, yeah.//
M762 //Yeah, yeah, totally, and you see them walking about the streets,// people that are obviously in their fifties but look like they're in their eighties //and they're hobbling about on sticks and you think//
F963 //Mm mm.// //[inhale] What's it done to them, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 //you know, erm what's happened, yeah, exactly.// Er you know, it's the long hours, all that stuff, so //erm,//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 i- it's a kind of, each of them is like a Zola epic, you know? //You know? A- and it's, it is isn't it, you know, and//
F963 //Yeah, mm. [laugh] Yeah.//
M762 Zola wrote about the peasants coming to the city, //and and all that stuff, and flows and all that stuff.//
F963 //Mm mmhm mm.//
M762 Well, it's happening and it still happens and so on and //so forth and so//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 you know, I wanted to encapsulate that, and I //also wanted a man who was not//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 a patriarchal macho monster, //because Zaf's father isn't that, you know?//
F963 //Right, yeah, yeah, mmhm.// //Mmhm.//
M762 //And and so erm// I I again I think that while those people exist, and it's a real problem, patriarchy is a real problem //in South Asian society and in diasporic society as well, and//
F963 //Mm mmhm mmhm.// //Right.//
M762 //I spend sort of// at least a quarter of my life fighting it, //erm, and//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 so I know all about it, //you know?//
F963 //Right, mmhm.//
M762 But I wa- I wanted, I see a lot of portrayals of older Asian men, middle-aged, older Asian men, particularly first generation Asian men, who talk in a South Asian accent //as patriarchal monsters, you know, and and they're not [inaudible]//
F963 //Mm right, yes, yeah.// //[laugh]//
M762 //you know?// //Er, and it is, it is, it is.//
F963 //It's too much of a stereotype if that's the only view, yeah.//
M762 Er and so I wanted to portray a man who was broken, //you know,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.// //Yeah, mmhm.//
M762 //by his own talent and fragility, and he was broken,// //you know, and//
F963 //Yeah. Yeah.//
M762 and and now he'd lost his, he was losing his mind, //you know? Yeah yeah yeah.//
F963 //Mm, mmhm, yes the whole thing was sort of crumbling, yeah, mm.//
M762 Although at the same time in his loss of mind, he's seeing times compress into parallel //which they are in a sense.//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 And and you know his his son that he's kind of abandoned some time ago in Pakistan is now haunting him, and the figure of Zaf //and he keeps wanting, you know, and so//
F963 //Right, and he, yeah.//
M762 that's another ghost in the //story that's there, you know, and and and his son's name is//
F963 //Mm mmhm mmhm.//
M762 Qaisar which means Kaiser, //Caesar, Emperor, King, it comes from the Roman Caesar. It's a common name in//
F963 //Mm, oh right right, yes, mmhm, yeah. Mmhm.//
M762 in erm India and Pakistan. //Qaisar, yeah yeah, Qaisara's the//
F963 //Oh I see, it is a a genuine name.// //Right.//
M762 //female which is "The Queens of Govan" is Qaisara.// //Yeah, so Emperor, so erm,//
F963 //Ah, I see, right, mmhm.// //Yeah, he's still got that status, right, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 //in his mind that that perfect son, yeah, perfect son, so erm// that was another, you know I wanted to kind of break a few you know, erm, //stereotypes and things and things that hadn't//
F963 //Mm mm yeah.//
M762 perhaps been done before in //that way, you know?//
F963 //I I think with with// the father, as well, in a way by sort of dealing with the whole kind of empirical fall-out, if you //like,//
M762 //Mm.// //Yeah.//
F963 //with him,// Yo- you kind of separated that off //as well, it//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 stopped it from sort of, you know, in some ways that, you know, stories about people who have emigrated and so on, it can be too too dominant, //if you like, but//
M762 //Yes, yes.//
F963 by sort of making that such a focal point with his job and so on,
M762 Totally.
F963 I felt that you kind of, you sort of put that in its place without having it take over the //whole story.//
M762 //Yeah, it could have taken over the whole// //I, what I didn't want to do was write an epic,//
F963 //Yeah, mm.//
M762 about immigration, //because I ho-, well that's been done//
F963 //Mm mmhm.// Yeah.
M762 ad nauseam, and //there's always,//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 there are always, there's always a place for it, you know, I mean I'm not saying, you know, if somebody, you know, sh- shouldn't write about what they want to write about, //but, you know,//
F963 //Mm mm.// //Yeah, mm.//
M762 //I didn't want to do that again, you know, and I wanted to add something different to it, and// er explore it slightly surreally //and differently, you know, and//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 er not have this realist epic, that, you know, a thousand pages long that, you know, explored three generations //of, you know, Asian women or something, and blah blah blah. Erm,//
F963 //Right, yeah, mm, mmhm, yeah.//
M762 you know, I I I wanted to have this different thing going on, //you know, erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 and and move it on a little bit.
F963 Yeah.
M762 Er and and and get drilled into it's, into it, you know, deeper than just surface //things, you know, and//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 and and and what's a journey, it's an epic thing, and I wanted to get into that. That's why I made them go by land.
F963 Right. //Yes, yeah, mm.//
M762 //You know, that's why I made them drive, by car, all the way// from Lahore to Britain. //And//
F963 //Mmhm.//
M762 which in fact you could do in those days. //Er, and and a lot of people//
F963 //Mm mmhm, yeah.// //Yeah.//
M762 //did the reverse of course, the hippie trail was the reverse of// //that, i-, you know, it went to, you know?//
F963 //Right, yes, yes.//
M762 Er, and and so people did drive. //Erm,//
F963 //Mmhm.//
M762 and and a few people did actually drive from Pakistan to Britain, actually, a a a //a very few people.//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 Erm,
F963 I've actually heard of somebody making that journey by land, not //so//
M762 //Mmhm.//
F963 terribly long ago. It was quite a dangerous //journey by that point, so yeah, mmhm.//
M762 //Yeah, yeah, yeah, I mean you could still, you could still, you could do it, I mean, now in fact, but// erm you know but erm yeah, erm so I wanted to do that because, er, again there's an epicness, there's a sort of permanence //about it, isn't there? This idea of land,//
F963 //Mm mmhm yeah yeah.//
M762 migration of p- tribes, //it all goes back to//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 the past, doesn't it, when all the tribes migrated West //and so on and so forth and//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 you know, you change if you travel and //blah blah blah and your protective//
F963 //Yeah, yeah.// //Mm.//
M762 //thing around you is much more fragile.// //You know?//
F963 //I think movement within living memory as well// or within a few generations, you know, like like you get in in North America, //people are//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 nearly always sort of hyphenated in some way, //whether they see themselves as//
M762 //That's right.//
F963 Scottish-Americans or Irish-Americans or //whatever, and//
M762 //They are, aren't they? Yeah.//
F963 you know for for a lot of people, I suppose people like myself that have sort of grown up, you know, with generations all being //Scottish as far back as they could remember,//
M762 //Yes, yeah.//
F963 I suppose if if you went far back enough you'd end up being Norwegian or //Irish or something but but when it's within//
M762 //That's right, a combination of things, probably, yeah.//
F963 living memory, it does something different //you know, it has a different power over people//
M762 //I think so, because it// //oh oh yeah, i-i- it's a spell, I mean//
F963 //I think, you know, mmhm.//
M762 i- it's a source of, it's oral history, it's a source of, I mean i-, //you listen to tales, parents,//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 or grandparents or older people, //you know,//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 erm and and you read stuff and you read accounts of other people's ac- experiences, //and so on,//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 and all of that is literally, it's oral history, of course, that's what //oral history is,//
F963 //Mmhm yeah.//
M762 so in a way you're sort of writing down all th-, which is the process, isn't it, //that people have gone through, peoples have gone through, you know? Erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm yes yeah.//
M762 er and it's like the myths of of of travel and so on, //and and//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 and the- and then once those myths starts becoming infiltrated by sort of real myths, if you like, I mean //and real legends from, you know,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 then it then it changes again, you know, and //erm and and there are//
F963 //Yeah, mmhm.//
M762 a lot of references in there to the o-, the Ancient Greeks //and other peoples, you know, that that kind of crossed the path of this journey.//
F963 //Mm mm, yes.// //Mm mmhm. [tut] Right. Yeah, yeah.//
M762 //You know, cause Alexander of course in his journey was was, you know? Erm,// and and and all of that, and it's also a way of evincing the fundamental links between different cultures, //that are actually//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 define those cultures. //They aren't peripheral; they're central, you know and in a way,//
F963 //Mm mm right, yeah.//
M762 a de facto way, it debunks this kind of clash of civilisations idea, this idea //of discrete civilisations that are always at war with one another, which is a//
F963 //Mm mm mmhm.//
M762 political construct which is flawed I think, //you know, deeply flawed, in fact,//
F963 //Right, mm.//
M762 er and and erm you do just have to scratch the surface to find that out, //you know? And so in a way that was another//
F963 //Mmhm mm.//
M762 exploration that I wanted to evince in this novel, //this link between//
F963 //Right.//
M762 and and of course the the landscape and the liminality of Scotland itself is //kind of//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 lochs and mountains and //er, you know?//
F963 //Yeah.//
M762 Er up North and there's a lot of that. There's a Celtic rock band in there and, //who's ce-//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 central to the central to the p- er piece as well. //Erm you know?//
F963 //Mmhm.// //Mm.//
M762 //I wanted to get that as well, without kind of being twee or or, you know, kind of// //er Ossianish about it, [laugh] you know, you know? Erm,//
F963 //Yes, yeah, right, [laugh].//
M762 you know, I I wanted to get, there is something very deep in that, //you know, and and which has been forgotten by a lot of people that live in metr-//
F963 //Mm mmhm, yeah.// //Mm mm.//
M762 //metropolises, metropoli, whatever they're ca- [laugh] me-// metropolitan, no that's the patriarch, isn't it, orthodox patriarch. Anyway, erm, I'm drifting, er, it's been forgotten by a lot of people //who live in big cities and so on, you know, they don't, erm,//
F963 //Mm, yes, yeah, uh-huh.//
M762 and I think it's very close here in Scotland still, //I do think that. You realise//
F963 //Mm mmhm yeah.//
M762 that when you go to the Midlands, or, //of England or something, you realise actually how close//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 it still is. //You know?//
F963 //Mm right.//
M762 You just have to talk to people,
F963 Mmhm. //Mmhm.//
M762 //you know, and and and and they tell stories,// they tell stories about, you know, their grandmother who lived in a black house, //something, or a croft or, you know, in some//
F963 //Yes, yes, uh-huh.//
M762 weird place in, you know, Lothian, that was ki-. //Do you know what I mean? And and//
F963 //Mm mmhm, yeah.// I suppose the Clearances as well was one of //these sort of evocative things that//
M762 //That's right!//
F963 even if your family wasn't directly //tied up//
M762 //No.//
F963 in anything like that, there's still this //sort of, yeah, it still has an effect, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 //Oh, it echoes down, down history, doesn't it? Oh yeah, it echoes down history.// And the kind of lack of confidence, that I think to some extent does still per- pervade within Scotland, //although it's be- better now than it was, no doubt about that, but//
F963 //Mmhm mmhm yeah, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 there is still that certain lack of confidence, //you know, that I can detect, and and and people//
F963 //Yeah, mmhm mmhm.//
M762 from, that come from outside can detect //more readily, you know?//
F963 //Oh yes, I mean even when I was// in school there was very much a sense that you spoke when you had something relevant //to say.//
M762 //Yeah yeah yeah.//
F963 And if you had something stupid to say, you would be told in no uncertain //terms how//
M762 //Correct.// //Absolutely, absolutely, you know, well, exactly.//
F963 //stupid it was, [laugh] and so// //it's quite hard coming up against that.//
M762 //You know, if if, because if you listen to people,// //[tut] in England talking, of a similar social class,//
F963 //Mm.// //Mm mm.//
M762 //they'll// talk, they're much more garrulous, they'll talk //a lot more, in general, you know. Erm,//
F963 //Mm yeah, right, yeah yeah.// //Mm mmhm.//
M762 //often about nothing in particular actually, but// you know, that that that that, you know, that there is there is that, and I //think it's this kind of antisyzygy thing, you know, you can make too much of this, but I think it does exist, I think it does exist.//
F963 //Mm mm right, well, mm, yes yeah, uh-huh.//
M762 And I think, you know, this idea o Scotland sort of as the kind of colony, again it can be overplayed, and it's much //more complex than that. I mean it's not//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 the situation that Ireland was in,
F963 Mmhm, yeah. //Yeah.//
M762 //by no means, but at the same time there were elements of it.//
F963 Yes, yeah. //Again that's something else actually about "Psychoraag" that I meant to//
M762 //I mean the Clearances, you know? Yeah.//
F963 ask you, because, there's a there's a lot of emphasis on on the family coming to England,
M762 Yeah.
F963 even though they're in Scotland, and sometimes it's put in sort of, you know, those //terms. I I wondered if//
M762 //Deliberately.//
F963 you know, is there a sense that England is kind of the seat of the Empire,
M762 Yeah.
F963 and Scotland's sort of, you know, almost like part //of England, in a way, or is it//
M762 //Yeah. Well, you see// I deliberately did that, //because, for people of//
F963 //Yeah, yeah.//
M762 an older generation, //Asian people or, from outside//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 when they talk about Britain they talk about England. //"Angraise", "Angraise loag" means English people, it means British people, right, there wasn't//
F963 //Mm, yes, yeah, mmhm, mm, right, yes, yeah.//
M762 a word for Scottish,
F963 Mm.
M762 even though ha-, most of the administrators and the Briti-, the Residents, you know, with a capital R, you know, the //colonial administrator, colonial agents,//
F963 //Mm mmhm, yeah.//
M762 were in fact Scottish //i-i- in the British Empire.//
F963 //Right, yeah, yeah. I think// that's true of quite //a lot of other languages,//
M762 //A lot of them were.// //Yeah.//
F963 //actually, cause there was somebody// I met recently from Luxembourg, //who was saying//
M762 //Oh right.// //Mm.//
F963 //the same thing, that// the word they used for the whole island actually meant England. //They didn't they didn't really have a term for for Scotland, so [inhale].//
M762 //Yeah yeah we-we-we- well of course it did, you know, cause it I mean it was the dominant it was// populace-wise and //population-wise and//
F963 //Yeah yeah.// //Mmhm.//
M762 //politically and and all that.// Er, and so, you know, England was the place, and it still is if you talk to people out there, in in //you know, South Asia, it's it's it's England, you know, it's England this, England that//
F963 //Yes, mmhm, mmhm yeah.// //And all these all these//
M762 //erm,//
F963 English authors like James Joyce and //George Bernard Shaw, [laugh] yeah. [laugh]//
M762 //Well e-e-e-, precisely, you know, precisely, erm, so that's the thing, so// erm so for people, and that's internalised in their mind. //So when they come here//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 even if they're living in Scotland, //they'll talk about "Angraise loag",//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 you know, and and it'll be England. //It might have,//
F963 //Mm mm.// //Right.//
M762 //be changing now, but deep down in// England is the dominant, you know, //so when they talk//
F963 //Yes, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 particularly when they're looking back, they talk about "coming to England". //you know, erm//
F963 //Mm mmhm.// //Yeah.//
M762 //quite a lot of the time, so// that's the thing, so that was, I wanted to get that difference between the generations. //Zaf is is very obviously Scottish, you know, and//
F963 //Mm mmhm yes.// //Yes, yeah.//
M762 //and whereas his parents came to England,// //[laugh] and they may have moved up from England, or whatever they did, you know,//
F963 //Mm mmhm, yeah, yes, yeah.// But that was the the important //aspect in a way, that was//
M762 //That's right.// //It was, it was, they didn't know about Scotland.//
F963 //thing that was, yeah,// right.
M762 The idea is that they moved to the periphery because they wanted to get as far away //from other Asians as possible because of this//
F963 //Mm mmhm yeah.//
M762 history of theirs of adultery and all that stuff. //Erm,//
F963 //Yes, yeah.//
M762 but you know, erm th- they came to England, //that was the point, you know? And so//
F963 //Mm mmhm mm, yeah.//
M762 and it's ironic, isn't it? Because //as as I said earlier, a lot of the administrators//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 in the Empire were actually Scottish. //But in a sense must have sublimated their own Scottishness,//
F963 //Right, yes, oh, very true, yeah.// //Mm mmhm.//
M762 //whatever that was,// because they w- they w- they were //educated in//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 Ang-Ang- Anglicised public schools. //And and and and kind of went there and, you know.//
F963 //Yeah, I think a lot of that as well, there's a// kind of elements that still go on to an extent, that //a lot of//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 Scottish people, you know, they they can speak Standard English if they choose to do //so.//
M762 //Yeah of course, yeah.//
F963 And yet they can speak a lot of //Scots, and most//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 people kind of use both. //But//
M762 //Of course, yeah, yeah.//
F963 th- there is a sort of erm it's as if you you can kind of, if you want to be, if you want to assimilate and sort of disappear, //linguistically,//
M762 //Mm.//
F963 then you go towards Standard //English, and then people//
M762 //Of course, yeah, of course.//
F963 looking at records later on or whatever, you know, th- they would have to know where you were from, //or you'd have to//
M762 //Correct.//
F963 have a Mac surname or something that gave you away.
M762 Yeah.
F963 cause you can just sort of disappear and blend //in, and things just all.//
M762 //Totally, totally. Well I think that's what happened in the// //the nineteenth century.//
F963 //Mm, yeah.//
M762 I mean I think that was a deliberate, I mean clearly it was a deliberate //policy, I mean,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 public schools were set up, and you know, erm, ones in Scotland as well as the ones in England, //er and they would, it was like//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 fac- factories would churn out //administrators for the Empire, and and they would they would go in//
F963 //Mmhm yeah.//
M762 whatever they went in as, you know, Scottish or whatever they were, //you know, and they would come out, sort of like, do you know what I mean?//
F963 //Mm mm. [laugh]// //And been processed! [laugh] Yeah.//
M762 //English clon-, well essentially, you know, and// and maybe that's a generalisation, I mean I'm sure it is, but
F963 Mm.
M762 whate-, you know, //to the, well to to to the subject//
F963 //I'm sure it's true to an extent anyway, yeah.// //Mm, yes, yes, it was the voice of authority or whatever, yeah, mm mm.//
M762 //peoples, they would appear English, do you know what I mean? So, of course it was. And that was the thing. And the last thing they would have wanted to do was// er show up any divisions within the dominant group, //you know, cause they were in the minority there and, you know,//
F963 //Mm mmhm, yeah.// //Right.//
M762 //do you know what I mean? So// erm you know, and and so, I I I think that's an interesting thing because South Asians were used as middle men as well in //East Africa, er,//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 you know, and and South Africa.
F963 Mmhm.
M762 And that that's the way Empires work, and they always have, I mean the Roman Empire sent Syrian legionaries to the Ha- to Hadrian's Wall and the Antonine Wall, //and British legionaries to//
F963 //Yes, yeah.//
M762 to to Palestine. //[laugh] It's the way it's always worked, you know? So, erm//
F963 //Mm. [laugh] Right.//
M762 I I th-, that's all very interesting to me, //you know, and that kind of mu- that//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 l-l- layered //quality to Scottishness, whatever it is,//
F963 //Mmhm yeah.//
M762 and it and it and its fluidity, //you know? Erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm yeah.//
M762 and and you know this idea of this tweeness that that that developed, //you know, deliberately, this, yeah, all that stuff and Walter//
F963 //Mm yeah, sort of kailyard idea, I suppose, yeah.//
M762 Scott and and all that stuff. //And the kind of//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 appropriation of Burns and //blah blah blah and, you know?//
F963 //Mmhm mmhm.//
M762 And and you know, erm, you know, I always think, th-th- they have a thing in Glasgow called the Burns-Iqbal supper, Iqbal being the premier poet of Pakistan, //in the twentieth century, and Burns//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 of course Sc- of Scotland, //so the Burns-Iqbal//
F963 //Right.//
M762 supper, which is great, //you know, it's a wonderful thing to have, and I'm all for it, and I go to it, and everything, but it's interesting//
F963 //Mm yeah, uh-huh.//
M762 because [laugh] I sometimes want to stand up and say "Look, both these guys were alcoholics, //both these guys were womanisers", and, [laugh], you know and and that, they have that in common too you know, they weren't these pristine national symbols that you've made them into, do you know what I mean? Right? They were raving, you know, sort of//
F963 //[laugh] Mm, [laugh] Yes mm, yes, oh I know, yeah.//
M762 loud, you know, whatever they were, //er as well as all those things, and so//
F963 //Yes, yeah, mmhm mm.//
M762 let's let's humanise it a little //bit, let's let's//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 scratch under the skin and get get wh-wh-wh- what drives flesh and blood, //here, you know, and and and and yes, it's all, it's myth and it's//
F963 //Yes, yeah.// //Mm mmhm yeah.//
M762 //but it's myth in many different directions and that way you can// stop it from being fossilised, I think. //And the more fluid it is,//
F963 //Right, yes, yeah.//
M762 the more dynamic it is, and and the less essentialist, //you know?//
F963 //Mm mm mmhm.//
M762 And and and that's what I was to some extent trying to do in "Psychoraag", er particularly with Zaf of course, //you know? Erm,//
F963 //Right, yeah.//
M762 I mean he's all fluid, isn't he? He's all kind, //you know, he's all kind of, you know, he's he's everywhere, isn't he, that, that's the thing.//
F963 //Mm [laugh] yes, yeah.// //And his use of//
M762 //And and//
F963 language as well is so interesting, //to me that, you know that//
M762 //Yeah yeah.//
F963 There's, there are times where he'll intersperse bits of of Urdu, //and other languages in//
M762 //Yeah, yeah.//
F963 in what he's saying, you know, //he does the greetings in//
M762 //That's right.//
F963 sort of several different //languages one after the other, and//
M762 //Yeah, yeah, well that's right.//
F963 erm also the fact that he, you know, that bits of the narrative are pretty much Standard English but other bits are much more Scottish,
M762 Yeah.
F963 and have a lot more Scots //in them, and it sort of comes in and out.//
M762 //It kind of flows and it's it's unstable, it's unstable.// //I mean it's deliberately unstable, I mean it's not that I was//
F963 //Yeah, mm mmhm.//
M762 shoddy about it, it was i- //or anything, I mean, and I//
F963 //Mm mm yeah, yeah.//
M762 you know I I if we if we talk about the poet that er, I can't remember if it was Keats or, you know, he added //a comma in the morning and he took out//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 a comma in the afternoon, that's all he did. //Erm,//
F963 //Mmhm mmhm.//
M762 well I kind of understand that, you know, cause I //I I changed words//
F963 //Yeah.// //Mmhm. Mm.//
M762 //so many times in "Psychoraag", I mean, I don't know how many words are in it, but lots anyway, a hundred and// //forty thousand or something, anyway, erm,//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 and and eventually I kind of had this idea that I I wouldn't have fixed boundaries and I would just //let things flow, and so//
F963 //Mm mmhm yeah.// //Yes.//
M762 //you would have very Scottish bits, where he's broadcasting,// //almost deliberately artificial,//
F963 //Mm.// //Mm mm mmhm, yeah.//
M762 //you know, broad Glaswegian.// Erm or where he's very sort of emotional, //er, you know?//
F963 //Mmhm.// Yes, there's there's a bit where he's, I think, is it is it where he's talking about Zilla? //There's a bit where he gets//
M762 //Yeah, that's right.//
F963 very very worked //up and it gets//
M762 //That's right.//
F963 extremely Scottish, //at that point, yeah, yeah.//
M762 //Exactly, cause that's again// her ambiance, isn't //it? Her, sh- she also//
F963 //Right, uh-huh,// //and she is Glasgow as well, in a lot of ways. Yeah.//
M762 //talks like that, yeah, she is, she's completely, erm,// and and yet when when we have the the romanticised vision of nineteen fifty-nine Lahore and the parents' love affair, //that's completely Standard English.//
F963 //Mm mm.// //Mm right, right.//
M762 //And it's very// //very sort of compartmentalised.//
F963 //Mmhm mmhm.//
M762 Pretty, almost. //You know, cause that's their//
F963 //Yes, yeah.//
M762 vision of it, //you know, as people do have a romantic vision of their romance, [inaudible] hopefully, from the past, you know, and//
F963 //Yes, yeah, mmhm yeah, and and, and yet with// with the Empire tied into //that as well, and so, mm mm mm.//
M762 //Ex- exactly and all of that, the social class division, the whole thing, and so// and and and then when Zaf is erm thinking talking, you know, internal monologues, //it's a kind of//
F963 //Mmhm.//
M762 what you might call educated middle-class Scottish person, //so it's it's basically Standard English//
F963 //Right, yes, yeah.//
M762 but with some of the Gs cut off at the end. //[laugh] So, you know, so it's like that, so//
F963 //Yes, yeah, [laugh], yeah mmhm mmhm.//
M762 he he he has these three voices, //a very Standard English voice when he's, and the other thing is//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 he becomes subsumed into the subject matter of the place and time that he's talking about, //or thinking about.//
F963 //Mm, yes.// //Mm mmhm.//
M762 //That was another thing, cause when he's thinking about// Glasgow in the nineteenth century, early twentieth century, //where where//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 underneath the Botanic Gardens where the s- the "Light Empress" is riding the rails,
F963 Yes.
M762 it's a different voice again, //and he'd//
F963 //Yeah, yeah.// //He's quite sort of porous in that way, isn't he? Yeah.//
M762 //he's he ha- it is, he's completely porous, he has no fixed// persona. //Everything is flowing through him, and and my idea was that the//
F963 //Mm mmhm yeah.//
M762 place you're in, the time you're in, the context you're in, and even the history about which you're thinking //will influence your physical//
F963 //Mm.// //Mm mm mmhm yeah.//
M762 //the sound of your voice, the song you're evincing,// //and that was my whole point about this. And then what//
F963 //Yeah. Mm mm.// //Mmhm.//
M762 //you speak is what you are, the way you talk// influences your mind and how you see yourself, //at that moment, course it does, right?//
F963 //Yes, yeah, mmhm mmhm.//
M762 Erm it influences your facial structure, because your muscles //act differently, you know?//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 Because if I talk very very posh English, //I have to move my mouth in a certain way,//
F963 //Mm.// //[laugh], yeah. Yes, yeah.//
M762 //with no lips. Do you know what I mean? And if I did that all// //day, it's a physical change, and it//
F963 //It's a physical change, yes, yeah, mmhm, yeah.// //Mmhm mmhm.//
M762 //becomes a psychic change, so this was the idea,// so I didn't want, you know, I I, and it wa-, it was it was kind of taking Kelman and and injecting some LSD or something, you //know, I don't I don't know how quite to put it, quite how to put it, but it was a bit like that, you know, I wanted to//
F963 //Mm. [laugh] Yeah, mmhm.//
M762 take that very powerful //possibility and political thing that he does,//
F963 //Mmhm, yeah, mmhm mmhm.//
M762 and take it, I don't know if you'd call it a stage further, but but just make it different, //you know,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 transform it in some way,
F963 Yeah.
M762 again, you know? //And and utilise Standard English//
F963 //Mmhm.// //Mm.//
M762 //but make it into a kind of// to massage it and use it as as a music //which it is, you know?//
F963 //Right, yes, yeah.//
M762 And not regard it as a kind of erm decorum thing. //But actually use it, and and and, you know,//
F963 //Mm mm mmhm right.//
M762 put it on the same level and and //use it in different ways, so we have//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 the standard Imperial English, we have th-, we have everything in there,
F963 Mm.
M762 dancing together
F963 Right, yeah. //Yeah, mmhm.//
M762 //Do you know what I mean? Which// to me is the ultimate sort of leveller, //you know?//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 I mean I didn't think about all this before I wrote the novel, //"Now I'm going to write a novel that's very//
F963 //Right, yeah, yeah.// //[laugh]//
M762 //we're going to level everything, you know, [laugh], including myself",// //but but I didn't think that, you know, I I basically just kind of erm//
F963 //Yeah, [laugh] yes.// //Mm mmhm, yeah.//
M762 //that's what happened, you know, and I I did want to use// the Glaswegian idiom.
F963 Mm mmhm.
M762 And I did want to use some Standard English, //because I'd explored that in some of the earlier stories that I'd written.//
F963 //Yeah mmhm.// //Mm mmhm.//
M762 //But I didn't know h- quite how it would pan out,// //you know?//
F963 //But I think it fits// very well for places like Glasgow as well, where, I mean, you know, smallest differences like, you know, when do you say "yes" and when do you say "aye" when you're talking to //somebody, you know, that that//
M762 //That's right, yeah.//
F963 people are constantly switching from one sort of style to //another, and, it it I think//
M762 //Completely, yeah.//
F963 it really sort of reflects that //in in very good ways, yeah.//
M762 //Mm totally totally, you don't you don't erm// you know, people are not fixed //in their orbits, thankfully in a way. I mean, and of course it's//
F963 //Mmhm mmhm yeah, yes, yeah.//
M762 driven though by by class //and class expectations and people, when you//
F963 //Mmhm mmhm yes, yeah.//
M762 when I talk to you, they, immediately in Britain //erm we we we ascertain someone's class//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 by the way they talk, //right? Subconsciously we do it.//
F963 //No, very much, still yes, yeah, mm.//
M762 And then we pitch our own voice towards that level depending on what the dominant, //you know, it goes up the way, you know, [laugh] do you know what I mean? So, erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm right, yes, yeah mmhm.//
M762 if someone is meeting someone from an upper class, they'll they'll they'll they'll elevate //their, right, and and erm rather than the other person//
F963 //Mm mmhm, yeah .// //Mm.//
M762 //coming down, if that that's the right way of putting it, you know, in terms of the social class// //hierarchy, right, generally speaking, erm,//
F963 //Yeah, yeah, the way that people adjust, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 unless somebody's kind of in a situation like a football match, where they think it's, //you know, appropriate to do that, so//
F963 //Mm mmhm yes, yeah, uh-huh.//
M762 there are all these little k- negotiations that //go on, unspoken, you know? Erm,//
F963 //Mmhm mm, yes, yeah.//
M762 and and I think that's s- that's very interesting cause it leads, it gives you insights into character and into history, //and history of class in this country, which is very, crucially important I think, you know, clearly, er and remains so. Erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm, mmhm, mmhm, mm, mm.//
M762 and and also of course, you know, erm, you know, erm history in terms of, you know, population movements within Scotland, //and within the British Isles and and, as well as//
F963 //Mm mmhm, yeah.// //Mmhm mmhm.//
M762 //from outside, erm,// and and so on, and historical things, so, yeah, erm, I think it's great fun, I find it gre- //great fun. But it's very difficult, I mean,//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 I th-, it's not easy, //you know, erm//
F963 //Mmhm.//
M762 to do all this and to make it effective and //to make it, you know, and and yo- and it's never//
F963 //Right, mm.//
M762 I know it's now a cliché, text really is never fixed, //you know, cause if I had//
F963 //Mm mm mmhm.//
M762 to rewrite "Psychoraag", God forbid, you know, //[laugh] you know, erm,//
F963 //[laugh]//
M762 if I, I would probably write it differently.
F963 Yeah, yeah.
M762 And and and the voices would change again //in some way, you know, and then//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 there are, so there are as there are as many possible versions of "Psychoraag" as there are readers actually, //you know? And then some. There are versions that//
F963 //Yes, yeah, mm, mm.//
M762 will never be written, but but exist in potentiality. //You know, it's very sort of//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 Borgesian idea, that, you know, that, isn't it? Or or erm Derrida or something, you know, that //there are all these//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 and it really is, er it isn't a cop-out //to say that, I think it actually is quite a fluid//
F963 //Mmhm yeah yeah, mmhm.// //Yeah.//
M762 //thing, you know?// //And there are stories that I've written tha-.//
F963 //And there have to be different ways of reading it// //really, so yeah.//
M762 //Th- there are, more than just the average// //story I th-, you know, I've written stories say in Standard English,//
F963 //Mm mm mmhm.//
M762 where there, okay, all these things apply, but that that the language is fairly fixed, //you know, and and//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 but in that in that book it's not, //you know, and and erm,//
F963 //Mmhm mmhm.//
M762 I I always see things that I I can I can change, that I could change again, you know, //and then I would change them back, and I was like [exhale],//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 agonise over them and //you know, and there might,//
F963 //Yeah, mm.// //[laugh]//
M762 //the editor would agonise over them, and [laugh] erm you know, and// er and now I'm writing a book er which is actually erm, although it's in Standard English,
F963 Mm.
M762 in other words it's not exploring this kind of vigorous, //you know, demotic thing, erm//
F963 //Mmhm, yeah.//
M762 but, you know, [laugh] I'm pouring in different words from different languages, as //as appropriate, yeah, not//
F963 //Oh right, right, uh-huh, yeah.//
M762 not so much in the kind of erm thought-speech of the person //but as is appropriate, er//
F963 //Mm mmhm mmhm.//
M762 you know, in the place they're in, or or the situation they're in, //or in historical terms, erm,//
F963 //Right, yeah.//
M762 and I'll start to kind of erm, //break down//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 I like following etymologies to their source of origin, //so I'll look up the dictionary and I'll//
F963 //Right, yes, mm.//
M762 or I'll look up the Web or I'll do something with, you know, and I'll look up the etymology of a simple word like, you know, "Beryl".
F963 Mm.
M762 The name Beryl //is a Persian word//
F963 //Mmhm.// //Mm right, right, yeah.//
M762 //for the stone of course, beryl, semi-precious stone, but th-// it's actually a Persian word. //So,//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 not many Beryls know that, I can //vouch for that, you know? They'll know it's o- it's obviously a//
F963 //Uh-huh, I'm sure. [laugh]// //Yes, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 //a a semi-precious stone, but they won't know anything beyond that.// And I think this is interesting,
F963 Mm mm.
M762 you know? And and you kind of break it down and you follow it back in time //and place and you see where it came from and how it's evolved and//
F963 //Mmhm, yeah.//
M762 all the different meanings that it possibly //has, and that gives//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 a frisson, a charge to that word that it didn't have //before, and my knowledge of that and my use of it in the text.//
F963 //Mm yes, yeah.// Mmhm mmhm.
M762 And so if I'm in a place I'll try and project to another place by using it in a certain strategic way, //or a tactical way,//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 that will take you to that other place, //but//
F963 //Right, yes.//
M762 importing a legend or importing //something else, do you know what I mean? And so//
F963 //Mm, mm yeah, yes, yeah.//
M762 I'm doing that, and I I I enjoy doing that //because it's like playing across space and time,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 and thought and stories wi- with no, potentially no boundaries, //you know, except//
F963 //Mm mmhm right.//
M762 the story that's driving you on. //Of course it//
F963 //Yeah.//
M762 it leads to sort of l- large baggy monsters of books, //potentially, [laugh], which is the way I do it, you know. But erm//
F963 //Mm [laugh] yeah.//
M762 it's fun and I I think it breaks down barriers that sometimes aren't broken down too much //in literature, you know? Erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 and and and somebody's er commented about one of the the things I was writing that "Oh, there are too many foreign words in it", you know, [laugh] //that's the whole point, [laugh] you know? I mean,//
F963 //Mm [laugh] yeah yeah. [laugh]// //Mm yeah, mm.//
M762 //you know, they've missed the whole point, you know, it's like, you know,// and and erm they should have read "Psychoraag" then, then they would have realised what a book with lots of foreign words is really like. //[laugh] You know? Erm,//
F963 //Yes. [laugh] Yeah.//
M762 so erm and and and the all the, as we all know, all languages are fluid and have been formed through fluidity and through hybridity and and //and they're and they're and they're evolving as we as we//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 you know, er I read somewhere that the Queen's English is not as posh as it was fifty years ago, //yeah yeah, it's true, isn't it? Right? So so, well exactly,//
F963 //Oh that's true, her accent's changed quite a lot, yeah, you listen to the nineteen-fifties broadcasts, and// //it's all very plummy and [laugh], yeah.//
M762 //exactly, right? So that's one person,//
F963 Mm.
M762 living in a very closeted environment, //[laugh], you know, you know? Erm,//
F963 //Yes, yeah. [laugh]// //Mm. Yeah, yeah. Mmhm.//
M762 //and her accent has changed, so// a- anything is possible, actually, //you know, in reality.//
F963 //Yes, yeah, mmhm.// //Mm.//
M762 //And therefore in fiction it's even more so, so// erm yeah. I've come to the end of that stream. //[laugh]//
F963 //Right. [laugh]// Did you want to say something else about the the the book you're writing just now, what you're working on?
M762 Erm well, I I I don't want to talk about it actually, because it's //still happening and//
F963 //Mm mmhm, right.//
M762 er erm, [laugh] //I th- I, superstition and also just//
F963 //[laugh]// //Mmhm mmhm, right.//
M762 //the energy's there, you know, in in my notebooks and in my head and I I I, until I really// you know, once I've written it and it's kind of out there, //then I'll talk I'll talk ad inf-, ad infinitum, but it's just I don't//
F963 //Mm yes. [laugh]// I'll maybe come back to you then. //[laugh]//
M762 //Yes, absolutely, [laugh] need even longer tape!// //Erm [laugh] erm,//
F963 //[laugh]//
M762 but erm but some of the areas that I'm exploring are are erm, perhaps I could talk about, //and that is erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 er history, of course, as usual, er I love history, that's one of the subjects I loved at school and I've loved it ever since and I //er history's the the the well-spring I think,//
F963 //Mm.// //Mmhm mm.//
M762 //you know, erm,// the stories of people and knowledge and all that. Erm, and I'm exploring ideas of patriarchy and war and the link between the two, //erm and from a female//
F963 //Oh right, uh-huh.//
M762 er point of view again. //I I seem to be writing a lot of that just now.//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 Er to do with South Asia, //particularly, erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 and how, the k- the knock-on effect of one war leading to another war, leading to another war, //leading to another war, in an endless spiral, you know, it just goes on and on and on.//
F963 //Mm mm, yeah.//
M762 Erm and how do you break that, //you know, how do you finish it, you know, and and//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 within people's heads as well as //you know, I mean we all know about the arms thing, and I know all about that, but also in people's heads, you know, because//
F963 //Mm mm yeah, yeah.//
M762 ordinary people, you know, kill one another,
F963 Mm.
M762 if nobody did that, then it wouldn't happen, //and it's simplistic but true, I mean these massacres and things occurring, you know, ordinary soldiers,//
F963 //Well, yes, yeah, mmhm mmhm.//
M762 you know, our boys or //their boys or somebody's boys, [laugh] go out there and do these things,//
F963 //Yes, yeah, mmhm, mmhm, yeah.//
M762 erm and and and inter-communal violence and all that stuff. //So,//
F963 //Yeah, and it does, it// does involve everybody participating, //it's like there there was there was a//
M762 //Of course it does!//
F963 programme about the Holocaust not long //ago, I don't know if you//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 remember the trailer was sort of saying, you know, "I drove the trucks, //I opened the gates and//
M762 //That's right!// //That's right, people, exactly, exactly, and//
F963 //you know, ordinary people who were all contributing to that, so, mm.//
M762 you know, some- somebody makes a decision at some point, //erm,//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 and not everybody's having a gun pointed at their head, //making them do it, erm, you know?//
F963 //Yeah, yeah.//
M762 And some people don't do it, //and therefore you have to ask, why did//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 those people not do it, and //those people d-, you know, what what was, you know?//
F963 //Yes, mm.//
M762 And how do they then live with it? //And what are the//
F963 //Mm mm.// //Right, yeah.//
M762 //consequences for the victims, for the generations// and so on, and all that, and how, you know, //and so, and looking at that//
F963 //Mm.// //Mmhm.//
M762 //very sort of light topic, [laugh]// //and and [laugh], you know, and all that,//
F963 //Well it's very topical, yes. [laugh]//
M762 er, very, you know, //and and very dark topic, and and erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 and and I'm also looking at, on on the other hand, in a different way, //in different things, different kinds of work that I'm doing,//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 at, you know, folk tales, //erm legends,//
F963 //Mm mmhm, right.//
M762 er you know mythologies, it's always fascinated me //that, you know, and and//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 and and and the commonalities, of course, folk tales have travelled all over the place, you know? //And and erm//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 people also tell similar stories, you know, and erm and and landscape and history in the present, you know, its relevance in the present, //you know, and how//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 it might [?]inspissate[/?] into the present, //in ways that we don't realise//
F963 //Mm right.//
M762 and and and and that kind of thing, //which which//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 kind of follows on from kind of what I'm writing, but it //backgrounds//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 the kind of, you know, race, and kind of erm immigrant stuff //that's backgrounded,//
F963 //Mmhm mmhm.// //Right, yeah.//
M762 //now, you know, and I want I want to kind of// explore other areas and //as I've done in//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 "The Burning Mirror", //the short story collection and//
F963 //Mmhm mmhm.//
M762 "The White Cliffs" and, you know, I wrote about medieval France and and and the sixties at Eastbourne //er in England, and and I've written about other things as well,//
F963 //Mm mm.// //Mmhm.//
M762 //posted on the Web, novellas and things, you know?// //Erm, and so i-i-//
F963 //Right, mmhm, yeah.//
M762 my interests are kind of legion and I kind of follow my //nose really, kind of [laugh], you know?//
F963 //Mm. [laugh]//
M762 And so I'm I'm doing that at the moment, //I'm writing several different things, erm,//
F963 //Mm right, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 a novel and a stage play and some miscellaneous things //exploring these areas, you know, and//
F963 //Mm mm mmhm.//
M762 erm I I don't know what I'll do after that but I'll I'll let that come when it comes. Erm, and erm, you know, erm again I'm always trying to do something different, A, from what I've done before,
F963 Mmhm.
M762 write about what I don't know, //to turn the, the cliché on its head, you know?//
F963 //Right, yes, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 Erm and something different from what I think other people might have done, //although I I'm not,//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 don't have access to the whole //panoply, er the whole er//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 you know, canon of literature in every different language, but //you know, erm//
F963 //Right, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 something different //perhaps from what//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 has been done before, //you know, I don't see the point of reinventing the wheel or re- repeating what other people have done, erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm, right, mm, mmhm.//
M762 I think I have quite an original voice,
F963 Mm, yes, I would say //so, yeah.//
M762 //right,// and quite a strong, so I I want to use that and take it in different //directions, you know,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 erm and directions that don't pander to anyone's kind of preconceived ideas, even my own, //especially my own, you know?//
F963 //Mm mm, [laugh], right.//
M762 Just try to kind of puncture the balloon, //you know?//
F963 //Yeah, yeah.// //It's very refreshing,//
M762 //Erm,//
F963 I find, to read things that that sort of get away from stereotypes and do //surprise you and bring something fresh and that's//
M762 //Yeah, yeah, yeah.//
F963 one of the things I enjoy very //much about your own writing.//
M762 //Yeah, yeah, I mean it's rude, isn't it? I mean// "Psychoraag"'s a very rude book, I mean //[laugh], not just in terms of expletives, I mean there are neolog-//
F963 //Yeah, [laugh], mm, mmhm.//
M762 neologistic expletives, //but also//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 in terms of the fact that it really does, you know, it talks about horrible things, and it kind of talks about //discomforting things, and and it doesn't resolve them, it//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 doesn't resolve people's prejudices, it it just kind of //takes them as far as it, do you know what I mean?//
F963 //Yes, yeah, mmhm.// And sometimes laying them bare as well is is quite //refreshing in a way, I remember one, one of//
M762 //I think so, I think so.//
F963 things that that, you know, I sort of, it kind of took me aback when I was thinking of my own childhood when I read it, there was a a reference to er er, you know, things like, you know to television programmes or, maybe it was you who mentioned it to me on a //previous occasion that erm,//
M762 //Mm.//
F963 you know things like "It Ain't Half Hot Mum" //were on the TV, and you know I sort of//
M762 //Oh yes, yes. Yes.//
F963 think "Oh, yes, I remember that from my childhood", //you know,//
M762 //Yes.//
F963 watching when, you know, //watching it while I was having my dinner//
M762 //We used to watch that.// //Yes, we used to do that as well, yeah, yeah.//
F963 //that kind of thing, and I just thought, you know,// what, what can that be like from an immigrant's //perspective?//
M762 //Yeah, yeah.//
F963 You know, suddenly you sort of think there are things in your own culture that you've taken for //granted,//
M762 //Of course, yes.//
F963 and you think "Oh my God, //you know, what was that really doing?" you know?//
M762 //Well it's I mean it's just, well it's just like being a man,// //and and and taking things for granted, and//
F963 //Yeah. Mm.//
M762 yo-yo- you know, until somebody, until you become aware enough, //or//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 till somebody else points it out to you, //you didn't realise that//
F963 //Mm.// //[inhale] Yes, yeah.//
M762 //you know, and it's the same,// in a way it's the same, //you know, that erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 and I didn't re-, I mean at the time I internalised it all, I was //watching it, I enjoyed it too,//
F963 //mm, right,// //Right, yeah, yeah.//
M762 //right, and we used to watch it every Sunday// //or you know whatever it, you know, watched it, enjoyed it, laughed at it and everything, and then//
F963 //Mm [laugh], yeah.//
M762 it was only kind of later that I sort of realised, God, //you know, it was like, [laugh] you know, and and and obviously I internalised all that stuff, you know, and, but//
F963 //Mm, yeah, yeah, right, yeah yeah.//
M762 all of that stuff, negative as it was, of course, //you know, and it could have//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 could have been different, you know? But erm in a way, I wouldn't be the writer that I am had it not been for all that stuff, it's //a funny way of looking at it really but, pardon me,//
F963 //Mm mmhm, right, yeah.// //Yeah, mmhm.//
M762 //i-i- it's not a justification for it, but it's// but it is, it all fed into it, //and in a way it's kind of getting back in a sense, isn't it? In a sense,//
F963 //Yes, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 you know, I'm getting back at those //those i- images, and it and it//
F963 //Yes, yeah.//
M762 the actors who never got the roles, you know? //Do you know what I mean? You know? And all that stuff.//
F963 //Mm yes yeah yeah mmhm.//
M762 Erm, //you know?//
F963 //I suppose it- it's revisiting// things with a more informed
M762 Yeah.
F963 view as well, which I think everybody does to some extent, that //you look back on things that//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 you thought were totally sort of mild and, //you know, inoffensive,//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 you know, y- you see it with a different //perspective and suddenly it's not the same thing altogether. Mm.//
M762 //You do, you do, you do, and as a writer also, through your characters, by// definition, almost, yo- if you're writing from the s- the soul, if you're writing from the the depths and not holding anything back, //erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 then you are exposing your own deficiencies, //you know, who-, par-//
F963 //Right, yeah, yeah.//
M762 the characters have your deficiencies but also they have deficiencies that you have heard other people ta- //say about you, or think about you, because//
F963 //Mm mm mm, right, yeah.//
M762 that's a good way of, you know, because if you can if you can kind of deal, deal, you know, //expose your own deficiencies, then you can make them run, you know?//
F963 //Mm mmhm yes.// //Yeah, kind of exorcising that in a way. Mm.//
M762 //Do you know what I mean? Cause you'v-. Of course! And it's looking at yourself.// //It's a kind of psychotherapy, in a way, you know, it's [laugh] a very sick psychotherapy, but it's a ps-, it is, in a way, you know, you're looking at yourself in a mirror, you know, you're holding yourself up//
F963 //Mmhm mmhm right [laugh] yeah, mm, yeah yeah.//
M762 to the world and and and erm and exposing //yourself in a way, erm//
F963 //Mm mmhm yes yeah.// Maybe that comes back to what you were saying about, you know, people writing in a more natural, instinctive sort of a way, //that, you know, if//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 if you can sort of just just be vulnerable to that, if you like, //and just just run with it, then you can//
M762 //Yeah, I think so, I think so, yeah.//
F963 produce something more //genuine, yeah.//
M762 //Yeah, yeah, and then even if you are writing in a// kind of artificial //and all writing is artifice,//
F963 //Mm.// //Mm mmhm, yeah, mm. [laugh]//
M762 //all fiction is artifice, it's all lies, you know, [laugh] that's what it means, you know, but// erm even if you're writing, and I've written some stylised stories as well, you'll see that, you know, sort of, erm and yet if there's that kind of internal power coming through //even in the most stylised of//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 stories, it will come through //in the same way that power comes through in Homer.//
F963 //Mmhm mmhm.// Right, yes, //yeah yeah, mmhm.//
M762 //Right? Or the Book of Kings, the Shahnameh, in Persian.// //There's a power about it,//
F963 //Yeah.// //Mm yeah yeah mmhm.//
M762 //isn't there? A visceral power which comes through.// Erm,
F963 It's the mythology I suppose, I mean it's it's //er//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 I've I've always liked erm both C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, //always liked their writing, and they they had this sort of whole debate,//
M762 //Yeah well, yeah, totally, totally.//
F963 you probably know about this yourself, but they had this whole debate //about what what myths were,//
M762 //They fell out, didn't they? Yeah.//
F963 and and C.S. Lewis had said that myths were lies, //even if//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 lies breathed through silver,
M762 Yeah, yeah. //That's a good way of looking at it.//
F963 //and Tolkien had a totally different view,// he was saying that, you know, every every word that we use, you know, every time we we label something, we're kind of creating something, //you know, sort of//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 sub-creators ourselves, //you know, if you call//
M762 //Mm yeah.//
F963 a tree a tree, //and so on,//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 and I I always, I was always sort of drawn to that kind of dichotomy, //you know, is it//
M762 //Mm.//
F963 is it another, is metaphor just another expression of something real, //you know, whereas other people would sort of//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 take the view that it's all kind of made up and so, you know, it's it's trivial. But I I like the whole sort of thing that it's //it's real, and that, you know,//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 the metaphor can be //real, so//
M762 //Oh, yeah, I mean I I// I mean I I I think both their views are correct, //actually, I don't I don't think they're mutually exclusive actually, erm and and//
F963 //Mm mm yeah yeah.// But it's an interesting debate //[inaudible] between the two, yeah.//
M762 //It is an interesting debate, I c-, I certainly don't// think it's trivial, //er, you know, because//
F963 //Mm mmhm yeah.// //[laugh]//
M762 //well I, that's what I do so, [laugh], er, but also er I mean// I don't think it's trivial, because, you know, otherwise nobody would ever bother telling any stories or writing //any stories and p- since they've been in caves before writing//
F963 //Yes, yeah, mmhm.// //Yeah, well, I mean "trivial" is//
M762 //was even invented, people have been making up stories.// //Yeah.//
F963 //probably the wrong word, but somehow if// if you call it a lie you are sort of demoting //it to an extent, [?]process[/?] of separating them out, but//
M762 //Yeah yeah yeah, to an extent yeah, I suppose, yeah, yeah.//
F963 yeah, maybe I'm not //putting it very well, [laugh], mm mmhm.//
M762 //But but you're trying to get to a deeper truth, aren't you, and that's the point, you know, and// you know, erm and I forgot to say at the begi-, C.S. Lewis was another //erm,//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 again another enlightened teacher, erm er gave us "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe", //in primary school to read and I//
F963 //Mm yes, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 enjoyed that and I read a-, the who-, the entire series, //then, and then I read Tolkien, the entire, everything,//
F963 //Mm mmhm, right, yeah.//
M762 erm and and you know, it was a wee boy thing, you know, //as well, you know, Tolkien,//
F963 //Mm.// //Mmhm.//
M762 //you know, obviously and in a way, you know, and erm,// so that that was, I kind of from "Alice in Wonderland" it kind of, //you know took off, erm and and//
F963 //Mm mmhm mm.//
M762 all of that stuff, I I think that's where I I I l-, I I developed a love for //fantasy, I I don't mean "fantasy" in the//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 Dungeons and Dragons sense, //you know, in the genre sense, there's nothing wrong with that genre, but does-, I don't mean it in that way, I mean I mean it in the kind of//
F963 //Right, yes, yeah, mmhm mmhm, mm.//
M762 Alberto Manguel sense, fantastical literature, //which is basically surreal literature where you, you know, erm you look//
F963 //Mm mm right. Yeah.//
M762 into the black mirror and you see something on the //other side, you know, it's it's very much, erm, again Scottish//
F963 //Mm mmhm yeah, mmhm.//
M762 er, you know, that, oh wh-wh- what's that guy that erm [tut], James, they're all called James, aren't they, //[laugh] erm,//
F963 //[laugh]//
M762 what's that writer, erm away ahead of his time, he wrote about this dop- doppelganger, //what are they called, erm//
F963 //Erm.// //I can't remember.//
M762 //God I've fo- I've forgotten, you know who I mean, he wr- erm// this murderous doppelganger that was a bit like "Jekyll and Hyde" but he wrote it before "Jekyll and Hyde", //erm,//
F963 //Oh// //Oh I'm not sure I know that.//
M762 //I think he pushes the guy off the cliff.// //Erm [tut]//
F963 //Right.// //Oh yes, yes, James Hogg.//
M762 //"Confessions of a Justified Sinner".// //Right, James Hogg.//
F963 //Yes, yes.// //Uh-huh, yes I do remember that. [laugh]//
M762 //That's that's an interesting novel, isn't it?//
F963 Yes.
M762 Because that that is a fantastical //novel, in that sense.//
F963 //Yes, yeah, and again// there's that sense of sort of unreality, //and when is this really happening and when it is his imagination and all that kind of question of identity.//
M762 //Completely, completely, completely, yeah, yeah. Absolutely.// Now, I I hadn't read that novel before I wrote "Psychoraag". //Erm,//
F963 //Right, yeah yeah.// //Mmhm, yeah.//
M762 //I've read it since, you know? Erm, and and er// a- and in fact a lot of stuff I I hadn't read, and then somebody said "Oh it's like, some of the stuff he writes is like Calvino", so then I went and read //Calvino, [laugh] "Oh some of the stuff he [?]likes[/?] like this"//
F963 //Mm right. [laugh]// //Yeah, yeah, mm.//
M762 //so then I went, do you know what I mean? So a lot of the stuff, actually I wasn't drawing on// //I I I, in retrospect I've//
F963 //Mm mmhm.// //Yes, yeah.//
M762 //drawn on those writers and since then, but, in fact// I hadn't read Alasdair Gray till nineteen ninety-five. //Erm and I hadn't//
F963 //Mm mmhm mmhm.//
M762 read "Lanark" till then and I read it //because I//
F963 //Yeah.// //Mm.//
M762 //somebody said [?]oh you should[/?], and so I read it.// Erm so a lot of my stuff comes I think from reading epics,
F963 Mm mmhm.
M762 like the Shahnameh, the Persian epic, //and just, you know, folk tales and and, you know,//
F963 //Right, yes, mmhm mm mmhm.//
M762 I'm k- I'm kind of going back to the same sources that these guys probably went back to, //actually, you know, in a way.//
F963 //Yeah, well again this// sort of Tolkien idea of going back to the kind of Germanic //mythology and all these things for for, you know?//
M762 //Yeah, yeah, that's right.//
F963 I remember reading Beowulf and finding little bits about, you know, the the the item being stolen from the dragon's //hoard and thinking//
M762 //Totally.//
F963 "Oh, yes", you know, and //I'd met that first in Tolkien and so//
M762 //Yeah, that's right.//
F963 in a way, I don't think it matters sort of where you come in, at which point in //time, as long as//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 as long as you get there. //[laugh] You know, it sort of sucks you in to the whole history.//
M762 //Yeah, yeah I I agree with that. Mm.// //I agree, I agree, completely, erm//
F963 //Yeah.//
M762 you know, er yeah I I mean I can't remember whether I started to get into urban realist Scottish fiction after I read Kelman, or b-, before I read Kelman, actually, //but I think I read him in order to kind of//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 develop the voice a bit, //you know, erm and just to//
F963 //Mm mmhm yeah.// //Mmhm.//
M762 //to enjoy the writing but erm,// [tut] I think I was exposed to a lot of writers early on in my writing career in the late eighties and early nineties, who wrote in that mode //because they'd been influenced by people like Kelman and Leonard and all that, so that was all, it was a thing,//
F963 //Mm right, yes, yeah, mm mmhm.//
M762 er and people get up and there's poetry, you know, and //and and some of it would be better than others obviously, and, but//
F963 //Yes, yeah.//
M762 so I was exposed to all of this //stuff at that point,//
F963 //Mmhm, right.//
M762 without fully knowing where it had come //from at that point, you know, cause I wasn't//
F963 //Mm mmhm, yeah.//
M762 I was literate, but I wasn't fully literate, //in that sense, do you know what I mean,//
F963 //Mm yeah yeah.//
M762 as someone who had done an English or a Scottish degree or whatever //you want to call it, you know, would have done,//
F963 //Mm right, uh-huh, yes.// //Yeah.//
M762 //and in a way,// that was my deficiency at that time. But I'd read things that they would never have read, //of course, I had read things. But also//
F963 //Mm mmhm mmhm.//
M762 that was also good for me, //because I came into it kind of//
F963 //Yes.// Mm mmhm yeah.
M762 with my, from my gut, //you know? If you know what I mean. Yes, yeah. And I kind of//
F963 //Yes, yeah, it gives you a more natural reaction to it, yeah, yeah.//
M762 tried to kind of incor- tried to transmute reality from a position
F963 Mm.
M762 without being influenced by all these different writers at an early //stage, which I think is quite good actually, l- in retrospect, you know, and then I I kind of incorporated//
F963 //Yeah yeah mmhm mmhm mmhm yeah yeah mmhm.// //Mmhm.//
M762 //some of their stuff in my mind, you know, obviously// erm, you know? Does that make sense? I I don't know if that makes sense. //Yeah yeah.//
F963 //I think so, yes yeah, mmhm.// I mean th-th- there's a sense I suppose when you're when you're sort of erm learning something, you know, on a course, //as such that,//
M762 //Yeah.//
F963 you know, that you're maybe sort of driven in the direction of particular critics or particular schools of criticism, //but there are times//
M762 //At an early age.//
F963 where I've I've found that quite sort of difficult, you know, and it's sort of, it's maybe been useful to have that as one of the choices //before you, if you like, but it's//
M762 //Yeah, yeah.//
F963 it's not necessarily been what I really wanted //to do with that text.//
M762 //No.// //No, no.//
F963 //And so in in a way, you know,// maybe yes, those things are are good to dabble in for a while, but not to be totally overwhelmed by. //So.//
M762 //I I think so, and// //I th-, I think you're right, and I think also//
F963 //Mmhm.//
M762 to be honest, erm I didn't, I wasn't overly intimidated by the Western canon, that was another crucial point, //even though I'm effectively monolingual,//
F963 //Right, mmhm.// //Mm.//
M762 //my knowledge of Urdu is// er basic, //er and and//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 obviously my knowledge of Scots is is fragmentary and transient //and depends,//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 I mean Scots as in deep Scots, you know, //as opposed to Glaswegian accents and things, erm,//
F963 //Right, yeah, mmhm, yeah.//
M762 but erm, and French likewise, but erm, you know I I didn't, I I I'd read other things from other parts of the world, //in a sense,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 you know, almost at the same time as I read Dickens and all that, //you know? Erm,//
F963 //Right, yes, mm.//
M762 and so I wasn't intimidated, you know, I //I I didn't think,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 this is the gold standard //or this is the, do you know what I mean?//
F963 //Yes, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 I'm not saying that would have happened, you know, but I think there is that tendency //perhaps, you know, and//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 er and and so, you know, I I I tended to incorporate that kind of thing from an early stage, //you know, and also because it was m-//
F963 //Right, yes, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 kind of me, //[laugh], it was my life, it was, you know, erm//
F963 //Mm yeah, mm mmhm.//
M762 and so I, you know, I I didn't see it as, you know, I I never saw these things as compartmentalised, //separate, and one as being better than the other, or,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.// //Right, yes, yeah, mmhm mm mmhm.//
M762 //you know, I never actually, you know, honestly never saw that and so, erm// I think my sort of lack of literary training, //if you like, whatever you want to call it,//
F963 //Mm yeah.//
M762 in that sense has served me in in good stead. //Erm,//
F963 //Mmhm, yeah, yeah.//
M762 and I've read widely obviously since then, //but perhaps//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 differently from perhaps some other people would have read, you know, who //come along that path, you know, and erm//
F963 //Mm mmhm, right.//
M762 and I I'm always interested to talk to people, you know, and share sort of things that we've read and //and then//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 get recommendations from them and give them recommendations, and //erm,//
F963 //Mmhm mmhm.//
M762 I remember being on a on a BBC thing called erm [tut] can't remember what it was called but it was like the top twenty books or something //I think//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 listeners had to, it was a radio thing, listeners had to vote for their top twenty books of all time, it was one of these slightly silly things, //you know, er, you know,//
F963 //Mmhm, yeah, yeah.//
M762 and er I stepped in at the last minute because one of my pals was there, er wasn't well and so, //I ha-//
F963 //Mm.// //[laugh]//
M762 //didn't really know what it was about, so there I was sitting there,// in the Mitchell Library, being taped and God knows what, //by the BBC with this audience.//
F963 //Yeah, mmhm.//
M762 Erm we ha- we had to talk about books that had influenced us and books we liked,
F963 Right, mmhm.
M762 so I literally just pulled books off the shelf at home, //and put them in a big knapsack, you know, it was like Christmas-time and I was like Santa, you know, with this big knapsack, you know?//
F963 //[laugh] Right. [laugh]//
M762 And er some of the books that I'd got out of libraries over the years, I'd put, I'd written them on my hand, //you know, so that,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 didn't have them any more. //And and//
F963 //Yeah.//
M762 you know, there were two other writers there, very good writers, and they they had obviously prepared stuff for it, //they they'd read these//
F963 //Yeah.//
M762 wonderful things, one about erm "Treasure Island" and another one //about something else and it was fantastic, and I thought "How am I going to follow this?" you know, it was like, [laugh], you know, and erm//
F963 //Mm mm mmhm, [laugh].//
M762 and so I just started talking about the books that I enjoyed and //pull- pulling out the books out of the hat, like rabbits out a hat, you know, and talking about them, and//
F963 //Mm yeah, [laugh], yeah.//
M762 because the people hadn't heard of a lot of the books //before, not that, I didn't engineer it that way, it was just, you know, erm they were//
F963 //Ah, right, uh-huh mmhm mmhm, yeah.// //Yes, yeah.//
M762 //really interested and "what, what's that book?" they were// coming up to me afterwards, saying "What's that book, let me get the title, let me get the title".
F963 Mm.
M762 And it was books, some of them I've mentioned just now, //books from different parts of the world, you know, different times, erm,//
F963 //Mm right, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 and and then somebody, erm a professor actually put his hand up and said "What do you think about the top twenty?" it was called something else, and I can't remember, but it was like the top twenty and I said //"What what is//
F963 //Mmhm.//
M762 that?" and he said it's behind you! [laugh] //And it was the list on big billboards behind me of the top twenty books.//
F963 //[laugh] Ah. [laugh] Yes.//
M762 And, looking at the top twenty books that had been allegedly voted for by the listeners,
F963 Right.
M762 they were all erm an- anglophone //books, right, they were all//
F963 //Ah, mmhm mmhm.//
M762 from the British Isles, //or America, North America,//
F963 //Yeah, mm, yeah.// //Mmhm.//
M762 //but mainly from the British Isles.// erm they were m- mainly current popular books, //you know, populist books or nineteenth-century novels, erm,//
F963 //Mm mmhm, mm mmhm.//
M762 the only thing that was from another was was "War and Peace", //Tolstoy. I think that was it. All the rest were//
F963 //Ah right, yes, yeah, mm.//
M762 and I thought, you know, I thought, [exhale], //you know?//
F963 //Yeah, almost// as if they're sort of voting for them because they're iconic rather than, //yeah.//
M762 //Yeah, or because they're enjoying that book at the moment, and it and it's// //been plugged and i-, you know, yeah, yeah, it was like, you know, but it wasn't like they were thinking "What is?"//
F963 //Well yes, I'm sure, I'm sure they're enjoying them in many cases, but but they've also got that kind of canonical status. Mm.// //Mm.//
M762 //and it, first of all it's a silly// thing to draw up anyway, actually, //but//
F963 //Mm.// Mm.
M762 if you're going to draw up key books that have influenced you or that that you love as a reader, //instead of thinking about that//
F963 //Mm mmhm, right.//
M762 erm, you know, whatever, //so//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 there was that, and I I sort of went through them, and I said, "Well, you know, okay, you know, this is," but //you know, it's fine, you know, but I wouldn't call it,//
F963 //Mm mmhm.// //Yes, yeah.//
M762 //if you're gonna, you know, if you're gonna say what are the best// or most significant
F963 Mm. //Mmhm, mmhm, ah right, yes, that is a different//
M762 //because of the question, I don't think it was the be-, I think the question was the most significant books, and that's a different, I mean.// //It is, then really, you know, you're not going to include, you know, erm//
F963 //thing, mm.//
M762 y- some twenties romance, //you know, do you know what I mean, really, you know, to be honest,//
F963 //Mmhm, yes, yeah, mmhm mmhm.//
M762 so, that's not to say you don't like it, //but that's different from saying it's significant. So erm//
F963 //Mm mmhm. Yeah, yeah.//
M762 I kind of went, and and talk-, and it seemed to go down really well and I thought "well, that's interesting", because I naïvely thought that kind of everybody sort of had this, you know, //sort of, but not everybody does, you know, er with, you know, people//
F963 //Mm mm, yes, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 are sort of led by, you know, obviously the con- consumerist //plugging of books and things, and and fine, you know,//
F963 //Mm mmhm, yeah.// //Mmhm.//
M762 //that's part of their lives, you know, and and// but, you know, it's quite refreshing perhaps to get a a different window, //into literature for people. Er I, whenever I've talked about this, people have always been really ordinary people. By that I mean//
F963 //Yes, oh yes absolutely, mmhm mm mm mmhm.//
M762 you know, people that are not writers themselves, //you know, that they're just readers, when I say "just"//
F963 //Mmhm mmhm yeah.//
M762 you know what I mean. //erm [laugh] you know, just readers, you know, [laugh], erm and, you know, but//
F963 //[laugh]//
M762 you know, who are often more, better read than I am, //because//
F963 //Mmhm mmhm.//
M762 as a writer you don't always have time to read //that much,//
F963 //Yeah.// //Yeah, mm.//
M762 //you kind of read the research you have to do, you read// maybe something that you you think you'll like, but you really don't sort of spend too much time, reading reading reading, //as as as just//
F963 //Mm.// //Yeah, yeah.//
M762 //readers would, you know, because// frankly, you don't have time. //[tut] So,//
F963 //Mmhm.//
M762 and also there's a panoply of voices, there's a a critical panoply of voices that you need, //and beyond that it//
F963 //Mm.//
M762 becomes intrusive, I think.
F963 Right, yeah. //Yeah.//
M762 //You know? It's a bit like, you know,// I g- I go to see plays, but I don't get to see them very often, //and//
F963 //Mmhm.//
M762 partly the way my life is, but also I think if you're actually churning out stuff,
F963 Mm.
M762 the input doesn't have to be enormous, //you know?//
F963 //Yes, yes.// //Mm yeah, yeah.//
M762 //Over the years, yes, but not all at once, you know, [laugh], so// you know, if I went to see ten plays in a week, I couldn't write a play then, you know, //I couldn't write, you know, I I'd be sort of//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 completely filled up with, //you know, other people's stuff, so//
F963 //Yes, yeah, mmhm.//
M762 there there is a kind of fine balance, //so I often find//
F963 //Mm mm.//
M762 readers who are actually far better read than I am. [laugh] Which is great, you know, it's fine, I learn from them, you know, and I say "well, tell me about this, tell me about this".
F963 Yeah.
M762 Erm, so, you know, erm, and we were all readers before we were writers and still are, although once you become a writer you can never b-, you can never read a book in the same way ever again, //cause you're always thinking//
F963 //Mm mm.// //[laugh]//
M762 //"Oh I wish I'd written that paragraph", [laugh] or// "he didn't do that so well", //that's that's okay, so I could be better than him, you know, and you're always thinking in this silly petty way, you know, or you're thinking kind of//
F963 //Mm mm yeah, yeah mmhm. [laugh]//
M762 or you're getting ideas, you know, //from people in the sense of, you know, erm//
F963 //Mm yeah.//
M762 y- you get a wormho- hole down which you can explore, //you know, some some little//
F963 //Mm mmhm.//
M762 re- reference to some legend, you think "Oh, I'm gonna explore that", //you know, a little bit and kind of//
F963 //Right, yeah mmhm.// //Mm yeah, mm.//
M762 //and that's what it's about, it's a kind of conversation in many different ways, you know,// erm polyphony really, //you know, erm//
F963 //Mmhm, yeah, yeah.//
M762 we've reached the end of that track.
F963 We have. Maybe we should //I think we may have reached the end. [laugh]//
M762 //Do you think we've reached the end of of all the tracks? [laugh]//

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Information about Document 1588

Interview 21: Suhayl Saadi


Audio audience

Adults (18+)
For gender Mixed
Audience size 1

Audio awareness & spontaneity

Speaker awareness Aware
Degree of spontaneity Spontaneous

Audio footage information

Year of recording 2006
Recording person id 963
Size (min) 82
Size (mb) 395

Audio setting

Recording venue Hired room at Glasgow University
Geographic location of speech Glasgow

Audio relationship between recorder/interviewer and speakers

Known via mutual acquaintance
Speakers knew each other Yes

Audio speaker relationships


Audio transcription information

Transcriber id 718
Year of transcription 2007
Year material recorded 2006
Word count 23059

Audio type



Participant details

Participant id 762
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1960
Educational attainment University
Age left school 17
Upbringing/religious beliefs Islam
Occupation Writer and medical doctor
Place of birth Beverley
Region of birth Yorkshire
Country of birth England
Place of residence Glasgow
Region of residence Glasgow
Residence CSD dialect area Gsw
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Medical doctor
Father's region of birth Uttar Pradesh
Father's country of birth India
Mother's occupation Teacher
Mother's place of birth Lahore
Mother's region of birth Punjab
Mother's country of birth India / Pakistan


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes Home and work and everywhere
Scots No No No Yes As long as it's not too broad
Urdu Yes No No Yes A little, basic only


Participant details

Participant id 963
Gender Female
Decade of birth 1970
Educational attainment University
Age left school 17
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation Editor
Place of birth Reading
Region of birth Berkshire
Country of birth England
Place of residence Glasgow
Region of residence Glasgow
Residence CSD dialect area Gsw
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Research Chemist
Father's place of birth Ayr
Father's region of birth S Ayr
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Teacher
Mother's place of birth Fyvie
Mother's region of birth Aberdeen
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes All
French No Yes No Yes
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes