My endless interrogation of myself continues...
What keeps you awake at night?
Everything that can wait until tomorrow.
When were you happiest?
When I realized that a congenial monotony is the best anyone can hope for. I'm not sure how old I was or what I was doing — perhaps I was 13 and hiking up Mount Egmont with a heavy load on a beautiful day.
If you would get a free first-class air ticket, where would you fly to?
My youth, and I'd like my seven brothers and sisters to fly there with me.
Do you cross the street at a red light?
Pedestrian controls are for children and blind people. When I walk anywhere I am a private legislator.
Where did you spend your last vacation?
Outside Munich, at my favorite hotel in the world, Schloss Elmau, trying to convince the owners — unsuccessfully — that the place would rather benefit from a full-time writer in residence.
What is the most beautiful text message you've ever received?
"I love you. And can you pick up a pint of milk on the wat home xxxxx"
What's the worst question ever in an interview?
"Who are you?" A young journalist, with great earnestness, once began an interview with this question.
Which sentence have you last highlighted in a novel?
"I had, by moving ten miles away, at last acquired friends: an illustration of that strange law whereby, like Orpheus leading Eurydice, we achieve our desire by turning our back on them."
What book is on your bedside table at the time?
The Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike.
What is the most recent thing that upset you?
A film deal that went sour after five years of effort.
What image do you use as a screen saver?
A sketch of a character in my novel Superhero by a German graphic artist, Peter Popken, who is working on the feature film animation sequences for the upcoming movie.
Tea or coffee?
Tea, administered intravenously.
Does alcohol help your writing?
No, but the anticipation of it can inspire me greatly.
Should one always tell the truth to a woman?
Absolutely not. Truth is seldom appreciated and never understood, whereas a flattering lie is always appreciated and instantly understood.
What would you do if you couldn't be a writer?
Direct films and plays written by others.
Do you have a writing routine?
My routine is to create activities for myself unrelated to writing that allow little time for writing. This means that when I do get the chance to write, it is like a stolen luxury, something clandestine and almost forbidden.
What is your favorite character in a novel?
I was always fond of Mr. Micawber in Dickens's David Copperfield, a man totally useless when it comes to managing his own life but incredibly active and dedicated when he has to help other people: "a thoroughly good-natured man, and as active a creature about everything but his own affairs as has ever existed."
Which book did you recently give as a gift?
Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, given to my partner's 13-year-old daughter who is reading English novels for the first time.
What's the most beautiful love novel?
Love in the Time of Cholera. When, after a life lived apart, two old people overcome their disgust of old people and make love on a riverboat infested with mosquitoes, it is as romantic as romantic novel writing gets.
The most beautiful title for a work of literature?
The Days Run Away like Wild Horses over the Hills (Charles Bukowski, 1969).
Is it possible to read novels on ereaders?
Possible but not congenial.
Are readers threatened with extinction?
Reading is essential to human life. When the last reader dies, humanity will be at an end.
Are readers nicer people?
No murder, or sin, or act of barbarism or cruelty has ever been committed by a person fully absorbed in the reading of a book. By this fact alone we can conclude that readers are nicer people, at least until they put the book down. When we are reading, we are better.
(Read Parts One, Two, and Three of "An Interview with the Author")