Naomi Alderman (continued...)

Naomi is very much a Londoner: she was brought up in an orthodox Jewish neighbourhood in Hendon, in the north west of the city, and she based her first novel ‘Disobedience’ in that setting. It tells of two lesbian lovers: one goes to live a secular life in New York; the other decides to stay in the Jewish community and marry a man. I ask her how much of the tale is autobiographical. “There is an element of me in all the characters,” she says, “but none of them is entirely me. I made up the story, none of the events really happened. But the background to the story is very much my own. I come from an interesting, distinctive, marginal background: these are the kind of people I’ve met, and these are the kinds of stories I’ve heard.” Is it inevitable, I wonder, that a short story should be semi autobiographical? “It’s so confusing writing a first novel,” she says. You have to think of so many things: about the textures and the themes and the emotional states of the people you’ve created. Trying to invent a whole new environment would have been too much.” The novel won the Orange Prize for First Fiction Award earlier this year.

Naomi has just completed the first draft of her second novel, which is set in Oxford, where she studied for her first degree. She started writing it the day after she completed ‘Disobedience’. Isn’t this, I ask her, too quick? A bit like leaving one partner and running straight into the arms of another? “It helps with post-book depression,” she says. “I heard a sculptor on the radio say that you can never be lonely while you’re doing creative work. It’s a bit like having a companion. I’d be lonely without a book to work on.” Does she have a companion at the moment? “I’m single. Perhaps that’s why I need a book.” continued overleaf...


Disobedience: Alderman’s Orange New Fiction Prize-winning
first novel