… talked about The Slap on Friday night, at Kaufleuten, Zürich. This is an extract from that event.
What is The Slap about?
It’s about shining a light on that contemporary bourgeois voice of middle-class Australia. What it is, not what it thinks it is.
Where did the idea for The Slap come from?
A real event. We were having a party at my parents’ house and a little boy was in the kitchen, getting under my Mum’s feet, yanking pans out of cupboards. She turned him around, patted him on the bottom and told him to get on out into the garden. The kid, three or four years old, turned around and said, ‘No one touches my body without my permission!’. This whole concept of rights and respect gave me an idea.
How did you approach a book with so many characters?
I always knew I’d begin with Hector, as he represents the aspects that scare me the most. And I knew I’d end with Richie, but it took some deciding how dark to make that ending. I needed to find some empathy with all the characters and I worked hard at finding that. I resisted writing Rosie because she represents all I hate; self-help books and judgemental attitudes. But when I did begin writing her, I found a surprising tenderness.
What about the younger characters?
The kids are less self-righteous, there’s more gentleness than you find in my generation. We have a distinctive greed and feeling of self-entitlement. Yet I could never have written the character of Manolis in my twenties. I needed to grow up and understand the nature of compromise.
Your eye is sharp. Are your friends and family afraid?
I am a magpie, or maybe a vampire. I constantly observe and record. But when my friends or relatives think they recognise themselves in my books, I’m often surprised how wrong they can be. Sometimes the characters they hate are the closest to them. I also have ethics about how much I can steal and still call myself creative..
Who do you write for?
The reader. Literature is a gift, so I write for the most intelligent, sensitive, enquiring, open-minded reader there is.
Today, I interviewed Christos about continents, sex, criticism, theatre, coffee and the influence of cultural storytelling. Here’s an extract – the whole interview will appear in Words with JAM.
Let’s talk about the shift in style from Dead Europe to The Slap.
I became interested in writing different points of view. And I think I came from a student background and cultural generation which was very nervous about writing outside one’s own experience; gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity and cultural space. I think The Slap is my attempt to resist that. Not to say those considerations aren’t important, but if I can’t write as a woman, a black person, an old man or a teenage girl, what the hell am I doing writing at all?
A brave and challenging author, not to mention a fascinating, articulate and absorbing man.
I am a fan.
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