David Mitchell was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2013.
Along with many novelists, I’m not a natural joiner-upper or a belonger, but when one of my favourite writers Colin Thubron kindly asked if I’d like to join the Royal Society of Literature at an event in London three years ago, I was too flattered to hum and mumble my usual excuse that I haven’t lived in the UK since the early Nineties. (It’s lucky that Colin doesn’t recruit for Scientology, or I might be writing this from my dorm in Mind Camp Delta several tens of thousands of quid the poorer.) I’m glad to be a member of the Royal Society of Literature, however. As a non-Londoner, I never get to any of the events, but I still find the affinity with all the brilliant names in the members’ list warming and somehow strengthening. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to a trade union.
Usually I publish a new book in a World Cup year, but a new one came out this October after an indecently-short interval of only twelve months. It’s called Slade House, and I’ll say nothing whatsoever about it, because the book changes its spots a few times as it goes along and I don’t want to give anything away. Slade House jumped the queue of other novels-in-waiting because it’s quick on its feet and short (for me), and because it was a fully-formed idea that I didn’t want to leave languishing in my notebook. It felt like a Now or Never, so I went with Now.
I’m about twenty pages off the end of a short novel set in Iceland of a century ago called Heaven and Hell by Jón Kalman Stefánsson, translated by Philip Roughton and published by Maclehose Press. It’s one of the best things I’ve read in ages: poetical and strange and harsh and layered and nuanced and glowing with beauty and wise, too. It’s invigorating to read work that reminds me how high the bar ought to be.
Photo: Here’s me with a oddly-proportioned friend. I’m sporting my experimental beard.