Will Self on Influences

Conventional prose fiction falls short of the mark, says the English author, who tells us about his modernist novel Umbrella, what the real character of London is, and why he can’t stand the Olympics

James Joyce’s quote “A brother is as easily forgotten as an umbrella” adorns the cover of your new novel Umbrella. The novel could be characterised as modernist, and you clearly owe Joyce a greater debt than just that line.

It’s not modernist enough, I’m afraid. The modernist aspects of it include the refusal to accept the arbitrary divisions of chapters and line breaks. I wrote it like that because life doesn’t resolve itself into chapters, nor is it punctuated by line breaks. Continuous present is all we have, and stream of consciousness – which in a novel is arguably just as artificial as the stilted dialogue that you get in most conventional novels. They’re all stratagems to try to get closer to the texture of lived life.

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Will Self on Influences | FiveBooks | The Browser.


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