Jim Crace is one of the finest English novelists of the past 20 years – so why has he written his final novel?
By Eileen Battersby
Despite having written several of the finest British novels of the past 20 years – including Arcadia , Signals of Distress , the Booker short-listed Quarantine and Being Dead – Jim Crace retains not so much a low profile, as his privacy. He smiles contentedly. This is the way he likes it; Crace has always been in control.
There are no autobiographical revelations, no personal drama, no public histrionics. He does not issue wild statements about banishing the elderly to death camp phone booths, nor does he deliver provocative opinions about plastic princesses. Compact and self-contained, Jim Crace is a practical, determinedly ordinary individual, who lives in an ordinary home on the outskirts of Birmingham. It’s not quite urban and not quite rural, of both and of neither: again, it’s just the way he likes it.
Crace participates in conversations, not interviews. These conversations are so informative and interesting that it is only later that the interviewer can fully marvel at how good naturedly he or she has been kept at a distance by a writer whose vision is both profound and moral, yet who refuses to take himself seriously. Or perhaps he is just good at concealing it? The confident, canny Crace is elusive, make no mistake about it.
There is nothing calm or predictable about his imagination, which resides in a vivid subversive place best described as Craceland – it must be so as he does not believe in researching facts. After all, if you are telling a story, why not make it all up, including the plants and the famous old poets?
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