A Drink With Michael Nath

A Drink With Michael Nath

A Note from the Editor

I often say that if people had the insight into books and authors that I have, then our books would fly off the shelves. A lot of this insider knowledge comes in the hours of conversation held with authors in examining and preparing their books. I figured that one way of sharing this privileged insight would be to record a conversation and post it as a podcast. The first one I recorded was with Michael Nath in July 2010. It’s remained in the vault ever since, but working on his new novel British Story inspired me to dig it out and clip it together. So here it is.

It was recorded at our dining table at Route Towers on a typical night with Michael. There was fags and booze aplenty. After the Holsten we cracked a bottle of champagne and then drank calvados through the night. We finished at 7am. Mercifully, we’d stopped recording by then.

Over a few cans of Holsten Pils, Michael gives great insight into the workings of his novel La Rochelle and the plight of the main protagonist, Mark. The conversation meanders through topics that include Shakespeare, Racine, Goethe, T S Elliot, St Augustine, Freud, Milton, Nietzsche, The Fall, Wyndham Lewis, Webster, Céline, Henry Miller, Bukowski, James Joyce, Thomas Hardy, the Russian novelists as well as sex, personal redemption, problems with psychotherapy, contemporary tastes in literature and other subjects. There’s music too. Plus drinking and smoking. The running time is 41:33.


Click here to download an mp3 of this podcast
Podcast available on iTunes

La Rochelle

La Rochelle
by Michael Nath
Published by Route
‘In defiance of current literary trends.’ – The Spectator
‘Original, funny and absolutely spot-on.’ – The Independent
‘Nath has a confidence and attitude that rocks you on every page.’ – Daisy Goodwin
Shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction.

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Kindle edition: UK : US : FR : ES : IT : DE : JP : CA : AU : IN

More from A Drink With… series:
A Drink With Janet Watson
A Drink With Steve McKevitt

I don’t think Modernism is dead

People like saying, ‘X, Y, Z is dead!’ Maybe it makes them feel bold. There’s nothing like a new start, is there? Or a revolution. But what often happens after they’ve said X, Y, Z is dead is that the new start actually consists in settling for less, and making a smaller effort. This seems to have been the case with readers and writers, ever since a smart Alec called out, ‘Modernism is dead!’; which brings us to the subject of a new book by Gabriel Josipovici, What Ever Happened to Modernism? Professor Josipovici argues that the English novel has become caged in recent decades, and that its famous practitioners have been putting on a tame show, for all their swaggering. This has annoyed the literary reviewers and metropolitan columnists, who’re in the habit of making a fuss of certain big names, and don’t appreciate being told they’ve been cheering cows; but it happens to be true. The ranking writers and the prize-winners make it solely because the idea has caught on that ‘Modernism is dead’; the consequence of this is that contemporary writing can prowl about quite safely in its cage, or not prowl at all but just peep through its fingers.

In La Rochelle, you could say I was trying to break out of the cage; I may have failed, but I’ll keep trying. I don’t think Modernism is dead. What is the authority of the claim? I don’t think novels are obliged to demonstrate ‘narrative drive’ either. All this little phrase tells us is how contemporary fiction and the creative-writing schools bow to capitalism; for why is the novel obliged to behave like Grand Theft Auto? Nor do I think the best style for prose fiction is the ‘starve-the-reader’ one they teach you on the writing courses; for why should the novel count calories? Let’s have the baroque back in the novel. Let’s have a banquet on every page. Let us mix it with the philosophers, the scientists and the priests…


La Rochelle by Michael Nath was shortlisted for James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction.

Click here for more details.

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La Rochelle at the James Tait Black Memorial Prize Award Ceremony

I love this book… It’s got a real type of wit… It’s like Proust in Peckham or Hamlet in Holborn… It’s the kind of book that makes you want to importune your friends, ‘read this one’… This guy is going places, this guy is going to come back. Go and read this tremendous book. – Dr Lee Spinks

Michael Nath and a small party turned up at the Edinburgh Book Festival on Friday night for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize award ceremony. Michael’s book was one of four shortlisted titles in the running for the award. The fiction prize eventually went to Tatjani Soli for The Lotus Eaters on the night, but there was a lot to be taken from the event. Not least of which was the fine hospitality of the Edinburgh University English Department and the Edinburgh Book Festival, but also the fine words spoken about the book by Dr Lee Spinks, the chair of the judges panel for the fiction award. Dr Spinks’s appraisal of the book can be seen in the above video.

La Rochelle on the James Tait Black Memorial Prize Shortlist

 La Rochelle by Michael Nath has been shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, one of the oldest and most prestigious book prizes awarded for literature written in the English language and Britain’s oldest literary award.

In response to the announcement Michael Nath commented, ‘The nomination is a terrific compliment, it’s a genuine honour to be shortlisted for a literary prize selected and judged by scholars.’

The James Tait Black Prizes were first presented in 1919. There are two awards, given respectively to works of Fiction and Biography written in English and published in the previous calendar year. Each is worth £10,000 to the winner. The awards were set up by the widow of James Tait Black, one of the founders of the publisher, A & C Black.

The winner is selected by the Professor of English Literature at Edinburgh University, assisted by PhD students. The absence of critics or any other ‘celebrity’ judges, along with the prizes’ considerable heritage, make them among the most respected awards in publishing. Authors may only win each award once; no author has yet managed to win in both categories.

The prizes’ pedigree is confirmed by the many illustrious names who have won. The Fiction Prize has been given to, amongst others, E M Forster, Siegfried Sassoon, Aldous Huxley, D H Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Spark, Iris Murdoch, Beryl Bainbridge, Angela Carter, John le Carré and Bruce Chatwin. Biographers honoured include Lytton Strachey, Antonia Fraser, Richard Ellman, Martin Amis, Victoria Glendinning, Gitta Sereny and Michael Holroyd.

Four victorious authors have gone on to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, William Golding, Nadine Gordimer, J M Coetzee and Doris Lessing.

The four shortlisted novels competing for this year’s £10,000 fiction prize are:

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell
La Rochelle by Michael Nath
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

The shortlisted works for the biography section are:

Fordlandia: the Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin
A Life in Pictures by Alasdair Gray
EM Forster : a new life by Wendy Moffat
Burying the Bones: Pearl Buck in China by Hilary Spurling

The winner will be announced at ceremony at the Edinburgh Book Festival in August. The video clip presented above shows footage from last year’s ceremony.

Full details of the shortlist can be found here. A full list of previous winners and background information on the prize can be found here.

Click here for more details on La Rochelle.