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John Burnside

b. 1955

John Burnside was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1999.

I really have no sense of time, so I can’t recall how long I have been a Fellow of the RSL but it has been several years. Part of my problem with time is that so much is always going on at once: last July I moved to Berlin as a fellow of the DAAD artistic exchange and since then I have been working, not just on a new novel, Ashland and Vine, a collection of poetry and a history of poetry and politics in the 20th Century, but also a radio play with composer and director Klaus Buhlert, and an art / sound installation with Klaus and my long-time collaborator, artist Amy Shelton.

Moving to Berlin has been accompanied by a gargantuan feast of reading, as my fellow Man Booker judges and I work our way through a year’s worth of literary fiction. It has proven to be an almost impossible schedule but, (with apologies to gossip-lovers everywhere) I have to say that it has also been a highly enjoyable and amicable experience – so far.

With so much reading to do, I take a break with music. I like contemporary music from a variety of different artists, like Michael Alpert and Julian Kytasty, Mahsa Vahdat, Arve Henriksen, Trio Mediaeval and others. I just picked up Africa Express’ In C Mali, which is an astonishing reworking of the old Terry Riley classic.

Image credit: Helmut Fricke