Wednesday, 24 August 2011
Interview with Geraldine Brooks, author of 'People of the Book'
From your article on the Haggadah it can be concluded you did a huge amount of research. When did you start and how much of it did you eventually use to write the book?
GB: I always research and write simultaneously, letting the story I want to tell unfold to me what I need to know. Ther research was various: it included travel to Venice to get the feel for the ancient ghetto there, a return to sarajevo to interview people who had been involved in the real history of the Haggadah, and to watch a conservator as she worked on the codex, and visits to conservation labs at Harvard to see how conservation scientists investigate stains on parchment.
The Haggadah is obviously a fascinating book, but why and when did you decide to write a book about it?
GB: I was working as a reporter for the WSJ during the seige of Sarajevo. The book was thought to be missing then, and there was much speculation about its fate. That got me started.
Historical fiction can be very tricky because you never know how much liberty you can take in creating characters and events. Did you ever feel limited in what you could do and write?
GB: I try to stick as close to the line of known fact as I can, and when the historical record falls silent I try to bolste the work of imagination with as many shards of history and fact as are useful to the story without getting in the way of it.
For me one of the central themes of your book 'People of the Book' was the acceptance and respect of other religions. From your book I got the impression that especially Christianity was harsh on the Islam and Judaism. Was this something you wanted to express?
GB: It was inevitable that this would be a theme, given the history of the Haggadah and the people through whose hands it passed.
So, what did you think? Have you read the book? And if yes, what would you have asked her?