Posted by: jbwuk | December 1, 2011

The JBW interviews

We have sent our speakers 10 questions and will, between now and the festival, to post their answers in the blog. The questions themselves were met with various reactions from silence to annoyance but also, yes, really, polite excitement.

Dennis Marks was the first to respond and we are very thankful to him for showing the way. He will be at Jewish Book Week on Sunday 19 February to talk about Joseph Roth with Michael Hoffman. His book, Wandering Jew: The Search for Joseph Roth,  is a very personal journey on the traces of the great author published in a lovely volume by Notting Hill Editions, a new publisher to watch.

Here is his interview:

–       If you could escape to another world, what would there be that is missing here?

I am very fortunate. I have another world to which I regularly escape. It is the Italian Mezzogiorno, anarchic and ancient and full of Hellenic beauty. Now that Berlusconi is no longer the capo dei capi, the principal drawback has been removed, one hopes for the forseeable future.

          What is the book you “inherited” from a parent or teacher that made a profound impression on you?

My Russian teacher at school introduced us to Lermontov’s Hero of Our Times, the most radical and atmospheric novel written in Russia before Tolstoy. I have never forgotten it and hope next year at last to fulfil my promise to myself to follow the novelist and his hero along the Great Georgian Highway.

          What is the book you would like to pass on to the future generation?

It has to be If this is a Man by Primo Levi, which encapsulates the 20th century at its best and worst.

          What is the most Jewish thing you have ever done?

I married a shikse – not once but twice.

          What is the most important Jewish book of the last 60 years?

See above

          When did you know you would become a writer?

I am not a writer but someone who writes. I also make films and broadcast on the radio. I sometimes say that my radio programmes are films for radio and vice versa. I don’t think I ever “knew” that I would become a writer but the moment I stopped being a producer and arts executive I knew that writing was what would matter most to me.

          If you were not a writer, what would you be?

If not a writer, or a producer or a director, I would be most content and fulfilled as a permanent traveller.

          What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

Whether as a writer or a film-maker, go through the draft or roughcut, find the section you like the most and remove it.

          What would your superpower be?


          Who (living or dead) would you invite to your ideal Friday night dinner?

Anton Chekhov

          On the very distant day when you will make it to the other side, what would you like God (assuming there is one) to say to you?

I was only practising


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