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Updated: January 6, 2014 20:41 IST

Intensely beautiful

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Time traveller: Adam chooses to set his novel in historical times
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Time traveller: Adam chooses to set his novel in historical times

British novelist Adam Foulds says he is exorbitantly and artistically ambitious

“People misuse the term poetic,” says novelist and poet Adam Foulds. “Poetry is about the intensity of perception. William Wordsworth is not poetic; he has a chunky, impactful style, it’s not a flowing, melodious thing. There is intensity to the language and perception of D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf,” said Adam at an enlightening talk held recently at Christ University by British Council.

Adam’s first book The Truth About These Strange Times, a tale of friendship between Saul, a brilliant 10-year-old boy, and Howard, a Scotsman, was published in 2007.

His second book The Broken Word, published in 2008, is a narrative poem with searing imagery, set during the 1950s Mau Mau uprising in Kenya at the end of British imperial rule, is written from the perspective of Tom, a young man visiting his family in Kenya, before going back to University in England. Adam has written the poem from the point of view of a white settler; from the eyes of the oppressor.

“Had I written it from the viewpoint of the oppressed, it would be a different writing process. My writing would have been different. I do think as human beings we are capable of empathising with everyone.”

Selected by Granta last year for the Best of Young British Novelists, Adam’s ability to set his novels in lesser-known historical events that speak to the present is among his strengths as a writer. “Writing from your own experiences is extremely limiting. I don’t write in the commercial sense. I would be writing thrillers, then. I have always wanted to write novels that are intense and beautiful. I am exorbitantly artistically ambitious—I value that kind of artistic experience.”

Adam’s novel The Quickening Maze was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2009. The novel is based on real events, set in and around the High Beach Asylum of the 1840s, and revolves around the life of the famous nature poet John Clare.

Adam read English at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford and received a Masters degree from the University of East Anglia in creative writing, but he doesn’t believe that writing can be taught as such. “But a lot of parts of writing can.” As for Adam’s individual writing style, he says he prepares and researches before he begins writing. “I have a sense of what the end will be before I begin to write.”

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