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By writing about characters who are morally dubious and unlikable, are you challenging readers to study our own consciences?

Do you think about the politics of a book as a whole when writing? Mostly I was just so bored of people saying they would have liked my first book more if the characters hadn’t been so unsympathetic that in this case I decided to make my protagonist a borderline-paedophile borderline-Holocaust denier. These people who want sympathetic characters in their fiction – do they think of themselves as sympathetic characters too? In other words, do they believe that if a novel was written with complete access to their inner lives, a reader would finish that novel feeling nothing but warmth and fondness for them? I mean, maybe most people do think of themselves in those terms, and so it would be totally unfair for me to call them narcissists. I have no idea. But in that case, for instance, when they’re repelled by Loeser’s disregard for the human torment going on across the Atlantic, they can presumably look at their own lives and find no black marks whatsoever with regard to conflict minerals, sweatshop labour, factory farms, carbon emissions and so forth? (Not to get too Occupy about it.) I’m not sure this book has any politics, in the sense that I was never trying to make some sort of argument about how we are all like Loeser most of the time. On the contrary, the fact that we are all like Loeser most of the time seems to me so obvious that it’s simply part of the background against which all the other arguments are made.

the full text of a interview i conducted with ned beauman (author of boxer, beetle & the teleportation accident) is over at review 31.