« Desert Island Discs

David Mitchell, novelist

2020-11-13 | 🔗
David Mitchell has published eight novels, two of which – number9dream and Cloud Atlas – have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. He has also translated two books on autism from Japanese, working with his Japanese wife: their son is on the autistic spectrum. While his work also includes writing for the screen and opera libretti, his main occupation has been, as one critic put it, “quietly pottering away at the frontier of fiction” for more than two decades. David is the son of two artists, and grew up near the Malverns, where his father worked in the art department of the Royal Worcester porcelain factory. After studying at the University of Kent, he worked in a bookshop, and moved to Japan in the mid-1990s to teach English. Here he met his wife and put his mind to writing. His first two novels were published while still living in Hiroshima. With each standalone novel, David is also adding to what he calls an uber-novel in which all of his books are part of a larger narrative, with characters flitting from one story to another, transported to a different time and place, but bringing a familiarity and a backstory with them. He now lives in County Cork, Ireland, with his wife and two children. DISC ONE: Sunset by Kate Bush DISC TWO: Requiem Op. 33b, For Mixed Choir A Cappela / Fyrir Blandadan Kór A Capella. Performed by Motet Choir Of The Hallgrím's Church, chorus Master: Hörður Áskelsson DISC THREE: Mercury by Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhli, James McAlister DISC FOUR: Un Dia De Noviembre by Zsofia Boros DISC FIVE: Anima by Milton Nascimento DISC SIX: Stylo by Gorillaz, featuring Bobby Womack and Mos Def DISC SEVEN: In a Sentimental Mood by Duke Ellington and John Coltrane DISC EIGHT: Sonata in F minor, K466, composed by Domenico Scarlatti, performed by Yevgeny Sudbin BOOK CHOICE: A book of Chinese characters (Kanji) LUXURY ITEM: A complete archive of Desert Island Discs CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Anima by Milton Nascimento Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Sarah Taylor.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Pvc sounds music, radio broadcasts, hallo unlearned event, and this is the desert island discs. Podcast. Every week I ask my guest to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they want to take with them if they were cast away to a desert island- and for rights reasons. The music is shorter than the it'll broadcast. I hope you enjoy listening. I my castaway this week is the author, David Mitchell. All writers like to imagine they defy categorization. He really does from sci fi epic
I've doubtless to the magical bone clocks via the semi, autobiographical, blacks, one green. His intricately structured story travis time on general, with equal ease, he's noon tomorrow. literary daring with on put damnable storytelling and perhaps the most difficult creative circle to square is critically loaded, as he is popular equally On the book, a prize and best seller lists you'll be surprised to hear he's, also modest growth. Up in suburban worcestershire. He will He says a bug standard, comprehensive kid, though an important part and was elsewhere. His imagination had been captured by sigh fantasy and prague rock he made it is sure to map out a realm of his own and he's been writing ever since he says one right His great your mind is nowhere else, but in this world that started off in the mind of another human being, there were two miracles at work here, one that someone thought of that world and the people in the first place and a second
that there's this means of transmitting it. Just little link marks on squashed. Would fibre amazing The mitchell welcome to desert island discs. Lorries to be her. Thank you. I've always wondered what the departure lounged does it. I did look I can and must have a red like what you ve done with a nice. Well, thank you very much welcomed it gets eat. Of course, you're sharing your music choices with us today. I know you've spent a lot of time with music. Lately. Your recent novel utopia ave, is about a four piece band in the late sixties. How enjoy was that we set our enormous lay in some ways. It's a bit cheeky calling research. It was really my diversion activities for the last two or three books when I wanted a break from them and go onto youtube and see if there was a new interview with David bowe, we fine jones or anyone. I always vote utopia avenues. I could legitimize at all and make an honest man myself as a research from coal, that research and you learn to play the piano tat s right villa,
I needed to know what my characters know about music and I didn't the way to really get inside them was to have at least a few guitar lessons. the piano as well, which have continued with a very long suffering, piano, teachable, tanya and I'm up two basic bark. Even one for structure as well. So today we got one story to tell and aid discs to do it. How did you approach the task of notice ass. The ways choose songs for three broad reasons One is to remind them of people that are going to miss another to remind them of particular times and places that were important to them, and the third reason is for some kind of so students might be spirit shown or intellectual or artistic or maybe just humor, so I have chosen a kind of a metal list. I've got
items from these three categories, and that was my modus operandi. When I was choosing songs. So, let's get started. This number one David. What are we gonna hear in and you chosen this in his sunset by kate bush. I don't they want to live on my island without a little bit of a cape bush on her music blows away, the fog of the humdrum got away of revealing the beauty, that's hiding there in everyday life hiding in plain sight. I even wrote down the first things are so sound. Like a quote. It is who knows who wrote that song of summer that black sing dusk? This is a song of color where sing and crimson red and must then climb into bed and turn to dust, venus, apollo and hades ireland, five lines and if arduous, and not of a pretty damn pleased with myself,
the summit also remind me of my daughter, because we want to see the kate bush concept. I hammersmith, where she performed this and may the great songs a few years ago, the cape, and sunset, so David Mitchell have to ask you then about the uber book. Now readers who stay with you will notice how characters in their histories recur in your novels. The later the students to study or work coolies metal abscess. But I think you call it having your cake and eating it
the novel, allows me to do two things. It allows me to fulfil the ambition as a token geek kid, I want to do it to me enormous something as big as middle earth. It was because I was a costume of collective empire was bigger social grins earthy as an adult. I am also interested in favour specific locales in history in the past, the present and the future, and I dont want to write something that you join tonight, something that fully understands the mechanics and electrical circuitry over much smaller localised world, but by also having some characters recur throughout visit of cluster of localised worlds. I simultaneously create something as large as meddler thought. The galactic empire
that's the haven't taken eating. It reason it's also just fun to do you get that. I know you have a form of recognition. And also a note that reoccurring characters don't arrive in the book empty handed they bring luggage with them if you use them from a previous book now. The prime directive is that, if you've never anything else, I've written before and never returning again the books each do and must work independently. I don't want to be installments in some epic cycle. However, as it happens, if you have read by the books, then it might work a little. like an ethic cycle. So that's my having my taken eating it as well. I guess it sounds like count is fully rand. Wherever you go, I think you ve described your mind is a parliament of voices he might find. On the benches there.
My nervous introverted, bookish, stammering younger self, my reasonably comfortable in his own skin middle aged publishers, herself, all the cells in between all the other selves. I could have been for all a parliament of ourselves. No one selfish. who is in charge. This is why we can so frequently pull us homes with what we do and I think that maybe doing that and yes, it was for even the self that saying with me doing. That is also a self, so writer, you then, what's what's large, open all of this problem. To me, maybe to me as I speak the speaker at westminster. It's the one that has to see the bigger picture, and use them all and mobilise them and heard them heard those complaining winging cats with headaches. Maybe that's what the might self does scanty
Second disc today tell us what we're going to hear and wife chosen it. The lodge jews requiem by the icelandic composer, Jan leafs, as is a cold piece. He wrote it for his daughter, who sadly drowned so in my castle, is of why could produce some deadline discs this one comes under sustenance, accept This is a kind of lullaby a by a parent apparent in one world to a child who's in another world, it's a beautiful oceanic and lastly, big piece of music was another. What debit clone No. I don't tell me what the bicycle word. It means pertaining to the deepest parts of the ocean, in a word it away to sink into here we go then the.
I the I yeah it the the! it's, the the pathetic requiem by your life's performed by the hull dreams. Church more tat, quiet day, ritual
You your teenage poet with iron Stand in normandy, plume tell me a secret life as genes oliver. Everybody knows So as James bolivar, I would write poems and slipped in through the letter box of the vicar who printed the village magazine satellite suffering from in light of the recent, was naturally under veil of night. Yes, this was because. if you're young teenage going to a comprehensive school. It wasn't my school's critically rougher anything, but
is deeply unwise to get a reputation as someone who likes either classical music or who, who enjoys poetry, simply Can'T- hopefully it's not so bad these days now the poems were any good, but it was still a good day's work and you have to get through that stage. To then one day write similar is any good, but what it did then, and what to do now, what they have in common. Is this trance like state you go in and it's really nice to be there. You are obviously creative were doing here. That from your parents box, I think that's likely. They were both artists. with its so they'll, both artists, I want to say that people imagine a kind of bloomsbury s swinging, bohemian children. It really wasn't dad worked in the design apartment MR mum was a freelance floral artist for it
as a million were mama. Dad would sit down at the weekend in front who drawing board just a sheet of white paper and a b of oz, of flowers to me from the garden in front of them and ned. Until I suppose that trans state of their own for hours and hours, usually with major for on in the background from shows why I first heard the deadline, discs, music and then I'll come back from water, was doing a few hours later. That piece of white paper I'd been friends, want to know is this thing on, that is justice, thing of beauty, watercolor representation of what was in front of them and maybe without even king from moment it that's what they were doing the work. She teaching me that way. A few things art is about the concentration. It's not about suddenly being kissed by the muse its work. It requires discipline and thoughtful.
And they also teach me that believe it or not. You can earn a living from this fund I suppose they re peaceful. They would, in cooler ground. They will come after an afternoon in front of the drawing board that kind of person anyway, thanks that helps butter. I could see what I did to them and it was a good thing. we're going to take a break some music. This is disk number three david tell me about him. Well, is mercury by civilian stevens. This is one of those time and place songs if you're lucky, you have a few. golden seasons in your life and some three years ago I spent spending cargo working on the screen project with a couple of friends and the sun came out at that time and are so
atlanta. If you listen to this this one's for us, the mercury performed by Sophia Stevens, bryce destiny, nikko mealy and james Mcallister dave mitchell, one of your novels, blacks, one green is semi autobiographical and, like you, it's narrator jason Taylor developed system up when did yours appear secured,
I have it. It's a recessive gene that can have can be triggered by environmental factors, but it's still pretty murky and an unworkable of einsteinian linguists away. I think from really understanding what a stammers it kind of got activated, probably about age, six or seven, a teacher asked I remember this quite clearly a primary school and the answer was napoleon and I knew the answer and put my hand up, and I couldn't say it, and it was the first time life. I couldn't say it. I was very late speaker and not speaking until about five until I was going to speech therapists initially not for this fluency, but for non free woodsy but yeah, I remember that day. I couldn't say napoleon- and I remember kids' faces looking at me as as I blocked, and it still here to this day, you live with them and you can come to better or worse working accommodations with them, but so from sick.
Think about eleven twelve thirteen it was pretty pronounced. I really couldn't say what I wanted to. I didn't I, it drafted on the coping mechanisms that I have drafted on now that allow me to do a radio interview, for example, you ve written removing the about that your experience with about managing and eventually make peace with your stomach. What helped you find that working accommodation, We have already blocks from green, really got me thinking about. It is difficult for me. My guess is about thirty thirty, one of the time, maybe later it was something I didn't really want to think about, because I was afforded to this dear that simply prevalent. If you try hard enough, he won't stammer, it's a question of willpower and I haven't yet Internalize the pleadingly obvious observer
and that no one has willpower like a stammer even to pick the phone of an answer it. It requires ten times twenty times the willpower that a fluent person needs, but already people whose willpower is a soup, Yet there is still the idea that if only we tried harder, we wouldn't stammer, that's a pernicious myth that simply wrong, and so just stopping thinking that really helped. then think about was stem and not as this enemy that without to get me. But as always, the fellow syn and that I was sharing a mind with chairing a body with this is going to sound a bit weird and spoken novelist. It will want to started thinking of my stamina as an enemy within, but as a fellow passengers my mind to needed a bit of time to stop and if he was a half of Heaven knows what recently, because I'm a
if I gave him space and if I let him stammer and didn't hate him for or didn't term feel mortified by him, then he will give me space in return kind of work and it works now, an occasion they'll stammer at an event and not to say hello, isoude. stumbling today. A little bit and fuel cecily, laugh them on my side and relax and then and then I can move on from the block time tee. next piece of music, what you eating to the other, next him. Why so we're gonna hear in dear the november, by chauffeur polish composed by lay about human composer, dismissive guitar? This fits into the sustenance a category it is ultimately mysterious. I love this piece of me The second part, because I can't describe Why or how I love it makes me feel. Things are quite name
and gives me memories. I don't think I've had a which is italy serious, it's all active in music. Listen to it, and I think you know what I mean the the the the an idea didn't know, be embryo, performed by gilles fear. Barouche, composed by LEO brower David Mitchell use
indeed, english and american literature, it can university sounds like a very useful course for a right to take. How did you get on a joint return? Very much? I wasn't particularly diligent student such things on the edges that I think I've benefited from most, so the afternoons and lively wages go down a rabbit, hole and find things all or club I was part of bell ringing club, all things appearing in future books. I've noticed you start, teaching English as a foreign language in sicily and then in london? How serious way you about writing during this period? never really, even then the time, but I didn't want to be a writer, yet it wasn't until Little bit later, my mid twenties when I realized you not young forever, and it's not enough to be talented and is not enough to aspire
You have to be disciplined as well and get rid of whatever social life you might have and the seller tv in those days. This is all free internet. Luckily, for me, get something done something finished that is easily the most useful advice should give to this by right. Just finish something it doesn't matter if it's any good, just finish it then you can worry about making good. I have yet reached which so I was writing as writing on index cards cause. I read that that's how Nabokov wrote his novels and I thought wow. That was good enough for him. It's good enough for me, but I didn't really get organised until a year or so and living in japan on those three five, twenty six, yes, are you move to hiroshima to teach english and ninety? Ninety four will appeal to you about going there. It was just of all of the dice. I was seeing a young japanese lady in london and when she went back, I had another friend who is teaching nodded school in hiroshima when she was able to get me a job there
and it was the last time in my life where everyone I own, I could just put in a backpack and fly out left so too. That's. Why did when you young? Sometimes life, is a bit of a board game and you while the dice and remove account in your land on a square. It sends to another square without that much thought, but of course, where you land could then have a much greater effect where you are and how things turn out further down the line, it's tempt your next. ask. What are we gonna hear and and wisely chosen this today? This is a person so so anima. By milton now she mental. This is a hymn to one. And soul. For me, the rhythm of the song, it's the pulse of blood in your veins, not narcissistic, but it's about gratitude for being here. It sung in portuguese. gillian which, as you will know, load the singer- is possibly the most romantic language on earth and their swirling. In the background when I met the young
hu? I am still married to so it's kind of a song from my wife and of my wife and of this Basically do live. Animal by milton and nasty mental, so David Mitchell that
it's one for your wife of your wife keiko! You met while living in japan, and it was a definitive time because you also wrote your first novel there. Who did you send it to you? However, my first two novels in japan plus a little bit of cloud atlas. In fact, first novel took twenty- was a magic number server, send it to thirteen publishers and seven agents. I got my mum to send me out the writers and artists yearbook again this still being just about pre internet, and I think I got about four replies back but immediately, I was already thinking about the next one, so that didn't matter so the replies. What went positive know they weren't. What I did get back was a friendly reply from an agent at curtis brown. He was gonna, make sure, and he said the next time you're in london just drop in and we'll have a chat, and I did that and he was really nice and I started talking about the book that became my
first novel ghost written at half into it. At that point and descended interested and said, let me see the whole thing so I did and he became a agent and I'm still with the agency to this day. It's tangier sixth desk David. music. What are we gonna hear next and why this is another post in song. This is stylo by gorillas. My son has played this more often than damon Albarn, who actually wrote. The thing has heard it, I'm quite sure he's played it hundreds and hundreds of times, usually in the car, when we're going summer as as a family retained in turns to put a song on the phone and my son's first or second choice is all stay low by guerrillas when he placed it, meaning that
a little bit of your soul, transfers itself into the song. So what about my island of play this and my central magically temporarily appear in holographic form for the duration of the sun. The guerrillas, style, featuring Bobby Womack and more staff, so David Mitchell, that track for your son. You want to take the island refuge
possibly could at least in some form. How has being his dad changed. You well my son's autistic. Does anyone in these shoes cut a test? I think autism parenting is nor typical parenting on steroids times twenty. I can get pretty intense. I hope, however, ultimately it's me I am a better person than I otherwise would have been. It forces you to learn things just to get through to find a and then, when you get certified to get his monday, you've got to be more patient. You have to care about the weird glances which look should be getting from people forget as a meltdown in public, so david them, the growing movement calling for better understanding of new diversity. What would you like to see change or would like to see special needs assistance in schools being provided as a matter of course, rather than something you have to campaign for that should be there for kids who need that help as a right. If we do that,
Then our chances of turning these kids into fully, functioning, fully contributing member of society in the future is massively increased. I suppose a mask, four utopia here, but if We don't have some idea of wait a few days we have no idea of which way to heads I'll. Go ahead. Ask masker utopia! Could you please he's just have a society that is kind of a more tolerant and water. funding that were not all the same Yet we still have value and worth even if we don't count form to the majorities idea of what is normal and what is ordinary, and if we do that, then actually are capacity to vessel that hope you close to where we are gets strengthened, because people who think differently peoples,
it is incredibly have so much to offer, but that potential the moment just isn't being tapped as it should be, it would benefit, is all know typical people included. If we could start doing these things have time to go to the music disk number seven. What is it and why the chestnut, This item seven is innocent mental moved by you coming to the jungle train. I love this. This in the sustenance category. I think it's competitions. are the tortoise. It's simple short and sweet on the outside, but inside is got rooms, and these Previously two more things, I'd really magical, it sounds like two men show an internet called frame, but rosseter, listen out for open jones is drums as well, because they are equally virtue or sick, the
yeah The yeah The and the the duke ellington's, in a sentimental mood performed by duke ellington and john coltrane,
the mitchell, you still have a long career ahead of you at least ninety four years to be exact. Tell me about the book that you wrote that due to be published in twenty one fourteen, this it's all part of a long term outwork by a scottish artists, good katy patterson There is a plan to small forest trees in the outskirts of oslo. That's part, one part two for the next hundred years from twenty fourteen to twenty one, thirteen or fourteen one author will be approached and asked to contribute one piece of writing. This will be stored in the national library of norway in oslo in our purpose, built womb, part three in twenty one, too
all three one: thirteen the trees which will be for events bruce seas by then will be turned into paper and a hundred years worth of books will be printed on them as future ivy project in not very small nutshell. Whereas approach for the idea, I was quite sure how fulfil it was, but then I learnt that margaret tat would have done first serve its good enough about. That. Word is good enough for me. For me, it was great. nation in the future, to hand over manuscript that no one else will ever read that there isn't another copy of anywhere is to believe that will still be readers and still civilization is still culture and still norway and still trees and still libraries, and it is now and a part of me likes to things better. By saying yes, by voting for that future, I make it, ever so slightly fractionally more likely to come about
more time to cast you away. Of course, other any aspects have been ruined that you're looking forward to first three months of it of peace and quiet report. I'd like to do after awhile, though I would start to miss people, are to get back one more disk before we send you that and what it can be while this is a sonata by dominica, Scarlatti k for six six to be precise, I've been fascinated by dominica If he is in his day I was an unknown pretty much run of the mill popsicle tutor for the queen of spain and his dad on a sunday was much more famous for reasons. No one really knows five years before he died: dominican sky, but he sought advice please send out, is far too good at this unbelievable prodigious right. He wrote about five and fifty five in about five years, for
three days or so even the most ordinary of them is to mice at least really good, and the best one sound is transcendental. I'd love to write about him. One day under Heaven was disk on the oil, would keep me pudding, would on the risky fire and keep the s S. Shell patten well maintained because I want to live. enough to get off the island and write my dominica, scarlatti novel. Yeah the
the, hmm the scarlatti sonata enough f minor k for six six played by give gagne superman. So David Mitchell, I'm going to send you to waste the island and I'll, be giving you, the bible and the complete works of shakespeare to take with you and you can take one other book. What would it be? I'd like to take a book
chinese candies accordingly, these data characters that you need about three. Four thousand of to be fully litter in japanese. I've got a few hundred, so I can read them the basic stuff. But I would like to use my time on the island to fully master, the chinese characters so that when I'm rescued I be able to read the japanese classics and ass, my wife, with my beautiful flowing, beautifully colleague, roughed renditions of the chinese character? So that is the book I let's take place. You can also A luxury item: what would you like your stable, pleasurable, a cable. I thought about this foremost lungs of about the songs. What
miss the seven deputies encounters with strangers, and people and their language it'll be a bit like locked down, but worse, lock them without zoom and in that many years of its history desert island discs husband, this library of babel of human stories. Experience in language so I'd like to, the all kinds of all episodes of deadline in disks. That is this hunger for company into voices it out? My own will be switched while David. is a very cheeky request on your part, but on the basis that we have in the past had castaways who ve taken archive recordings of tests, much better let the arches and programs like not to the island in our time very recently as well. I'm gonna do allow it I'm going to allow it The softness of my own heart, thankyou fist, pump
might drop Pineau moon walk out of the room and finally, which track? Would you saved from the waves if ya, to rescue? Just one of the eight discs that you share with us today? I would like to keep animals by milton measurement. Open, David Mitchell, thank you very much for letting us here. Your desert island discs and you can do happen. I feel a desert island disks, I really hope you enjoy that interview with the writer David Mitchell. We have, of course, cast many authors away over the years. They include an end right, ali smith, kingsley AMOS and in banks. You can hear that programme and many more from our audio library. If you search the bbc sands,
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Transcript generated on 2022-06-06.