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
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...