Friday, 11 June 2010


Of all the questions regularly put to authors by journalists and readers, it seems to me that the most important one is why they bother in the first place.

A number of years ago the French newspaper
Libération published a special supplement in which they asked some of the great writers of the day to express themselves on the subject 'Pourquoi ecrivez-vous?' I remember Samuel Beckett's contribution was by far the most concise, reading in its entirety: 'Bon qu'a ca.', which could be translated as 'Good for nothing else.'

I thought it might be enlightening to ask some of the Roving Editor’s favourite writers to address this question under the heading ‘Why I Write’, after George Orwell’s famous essay on the subject, published in 1946. Orwell’s is an honest, revealing attempt at an answer, but ultimately he admits: ‘All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.’

In dusting off this question and putting it in front of a new set of writers I am not expecting responses as terse or as self-deprecating as those of Orwell and Beckett. However I’d be surprised not to detect some echoes at least of how they felt. So, in what I hope will be the first in occasional series on the blog, I am delighted that Donald Ray Pollock has agreed to tell us ‘Why I Write’. Watch this space.

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