My last event at Hay was an unexpected treat. I entered this talk (to my shame) largely ignorant of the work of Andrew O’Hagan. However as I often discover ignorance can mean no pre conceived ideas or expectations, which in turn can lead to wonderful surprises.
This was certainly my experience of Andrew O’Hagan in conversation with Rosie Boycott. These two clearly go back a long way and so the tone of the interview was relaxed and informed as Rosie interviewed him about his latest novel ‘The Illuminations’ and so much more besides.
O’Hagan is a journalist by trade and as a result his novels are largely informed by journalism. ‘The Illuminations’ is very much about the effects of the war in Afghanistan on one particular soldier; something O’Hagan knows much about having spent time with soldiers in Kabul.
Interesting conversation emerged about the lack of literature that has come out of the conflicts the UK has been involved in for the last 25 years compared to the wealth of stories, essays and novels that draw on World War I and II as inspiration. O’Hagan made that point that “we are living in under described times” . He is clearly bemused by this listing recent events such as the recent vote on Scottish Indepedence as providing enough material to keep novelists going for years.
I could have listened to Andrew O’Hagan much longer than the allocated hour, he was interesting and engaging and hearing him read a particularly tense scene from his novel was for me the highlight as I suspect it was for much of the audience. I stole a moment to glance around and saw an audience listening in open-mouthed rapt attention.
I left this talk feeling thrilled by the power of fiction and excited to have discovered another author I had not read before