On the occasion of his debut novel ‘Selfishness’ being published as an E-Book on Amazon, here is Matthias Krug’s first author interview. The interview is conducted by Professor Robert Wurz D’Monei, who has agreed to become a regular guest contributor to this blog on the topic of Economic Philosophy.
Here, though, Professor D’Monei takes up his secondary specialisation in contemporary literature to interview the author and examine the intricacies of a novel that deals in innovative fashion with recurrent global themes like the unpredictable nature of love, marginalisation of immigrants and religious discrimination.
Q) First of all congratulations on writing a sizzling debut novel which is well crafted, intelligently written, and simply entertaining. Your setting of mid-crisis Madrid is masterfully painted.
A) There is an homage to the well-crafted settings of Hemingway here, for when he describes a place it is as if you are truly there, not only reading but also seeing, feeling, smelling, even breathing it. In one scene of my novel the Norwegian speech writer Hugo is looking for his lost dog, and the city melts under his hurried footsteps into a mosaic of haplessly lost humanity. And who can be more humane than that Michael Jackson imitator near the climax of the novel? For him, half of the city stops rushing. I believe fiction, good fiction, should have the power to transport the reader in a way that is immediate and touching.
Q) Exactly my point. Was Hemingway a key influence in your debut novel, considering that he also spent a great deal of time in Spain – and that his debut novel ‘Fiesta: The Sun also Rises’ was set there too?
A) Surely. Fiesta was the first Hemingway novel that I came across as a book hungry youngster reading books in a hammock in Doha. All the others soon followed; ‘For Whom the Bells’ was then also one of the novels examined in my doctoral thesis in Madrid. Hemingway has always been an inspiration for the incredible, entirely poetic clarity of his writing. But there is also Virginia Woolf, for example, whose style in ‘Mrs Dalloway’ is so wonderfully intense and clean. If some of this aura – or what the critics refer to as style – has been achieved here in Selfishness, then the reader will have a clear impression of Madrid in the midst of the financial crisis of the year 2010. People sleeping on the street. Beggars in front of every supermarket. Children sliding downwards in the park where the homeless man with the cardboard hat sits haplessly on the bench.
Q) All these impressions are described in intimate detail in your novel, making for a humane individual examination of the monstrous collective of ‘La Crisis’, as the economic downturn is known in Spain…
A) Yeah, I felt it needed this individual touch. More than anything to portray an ever-widening social divide in the midst of a beautiful, fantastic city. That’s the social critique I bring to the writing. Most essentially it’s a humane stance against hyper-capitalism which steadily builds throughout the novel and climaxes to challenge prevailing attitudes towards Muslims in the aftermath of 9-11.
Q) There are these powerful, meaningful passages in the novel. But equally you have managed to incorporate highly humorous moments at regular intervals. What was the secret to finding this balance? How important is humour in your writing?
A) Humour is essential to me. Not just in writing, but in life. There is the social critique in Selfishness, but I think it’s also a really positive novel. All great novels have a deep meaning floating like a black mass just beneath the surface. But the entertainment factor is equally important. Just look at ‘The Great Gatsby’, which is more entertaining to read than any one of Jay Gatsby’s frivolous parties. A pure delight to read and re-read. But then there’s young people. How do you capture them to take part in these delights? Of course I’m conscious that I’m writing in a modern world where literature needs to fight for its time and place alongside internet, social networks, television, and all the other quick-paced developments. So making a novel entertaining can be absolutely crucial. Time seems to be disappearing. Not for nothing, then, does one of the principal characters, the funky Iraqi psychologist Mo, label Madrid a ‘mad-rush society’.
Q) You mention young people. Is this the main audience for this debut novel? At times the quickness of the plot, the reluctance to stop, to bore, to dwell on anything for more than a moment before producing another surprising turn, seems to indicate this notion.
A) Sure, you want young people to share the passion for literature. But I think it’s an ageless novel. A novel for all those who see that there is a serious problem with the way this hyper-capitalism is taking the world; opposing people rather than creating cooperation, which I believe is essential to the progression of humanity. So no, the novel is aimed at a great many people. Because of its universal themes; young people of course for their influence in shaping the world of our future; married couples for the humorous approach it takes to the modern love; those thinking of getting married and also people of a more mature age who can appreciate with a dash of humour the contradictions of love and life in our time.
Q) What about the choice of launching the novel on the 1st of September 2011 – just ten days before the 10th anniversary of 9-11? Was that symbolic, relating to the Muslim character Mo?
A) Journalists and anyone related to that profession always seem to find symbolism everywhere. I was responsible for creating it in hundreds of articles for many years myself. No, it was launched when it was ready to be released to the readership. But of course ten years after 9-11, an Iraqi Muslim psychologist is an interesting character. Have reader attitudes become entrenched? What have those 10 years done to the character’s identity? Ripped it apart? Glued it back together? I would say enforced his crazy personality and sense of national and religious pride, in this case, because Mo has been forced to abandon his home country due to the American invasion of Iraq. Of course 9-11 changed everything; being born and raised in the Middle East made me entirely aware of its significance on both sides of the great West-East divide. What’s fascinating is to see how quickly attitudes changed. Can they be changed back? Can this novel contribute to that? These still shifting personal attitudes are magnified in Selfishness.
Q) You chose to publish your first novel as an E-Book. Why? Isn’t that risky for a young author like yourself?
A) Yes. There is the risk factor involved, but no one ever made it big as a writer without taking risks. And there’s no doubt that I feel I can be a big, important writer in these testing times. Speed was essential to me. So the potential advantages seemed greater to me than any risks. An E-Book is environmentally friendly. It’s light; you can store many books in one cover. And I was interested in the immediate nature of publishing through this E-Book form. There seems to be something futuristic about it. Many of my short stories have a futuristic touch to them, and it is indeed one of my next projects to make my short story collection available as an E-Book. That will be followed by my upcoming novel, ‘The Dream Sweeper’.
Q) No shortage then of future projects by Matthias Krug?
A) No, as a writer I feel the need to continuously produce, improve, and relate intimate and important stories like that at the heart of this debut novel. For those who like Selfishness, these will be two new E-Books to look forward to. Of course, if we are all still reading mainly paperback books in 30, 40, 50 years time, I’ll be proven wrong. But somehow I don’t think so.
Q) You were born in Doha, Qatar, to German parents, lived in the Middle East until you went to study in England, and later moved to Madrid to concentrate on your writing. How have you formed your writing style and identity?
A) Growing up in Qatar gave me plenty of perspective on the importance of a multicultural upbringing. That was great for my personal outlook and for the essential humanity of my writing style. The drawback perhaps was that there was a slight lack of opportunities to expose your fiction writing. That is changing fast now. Young writers in Qatar are growing up with a wider array of opportunities. They just need to be persistent. A writer has to be incredibly stubborn. I perfected my own writing style writing journalism. First for all the Qatari media, from the local newspapers to the Al Jazeera network. From there I started writing for international media like the BBC, Art Monthly Australia and ESPN, or prestigious newspapers like The Providence Journal in the USA or El Pais in Spain. Then came the point where I said to myself; hey, I need to focus on my fiction now. The journalism has been a fine ride, but fiction is what I’m really supposed to be doing. There lies my passion. The published and praised short stories and novel soon followed. That’s been the journey so far. But I still feel that there is much to be written. A day without writing is really difficult for me. It makes me feel lazy.
Matthias Krug is a fiction writer born in Qatar amidst the flowing deserts of the Middle East and currently living in Madrid. His first novel is entitled ‘Selfishness’ and is available on Amazon as an E-Book. Matthias has written journalism and photographed for prestigious newspapers and publications across six continents, as well as having his fiction published in literary magazines including Bartleby Snopes, The Furnace Review, The Potomac Journal, Danse Macabre and Abode Magazine. His distinctive writing style has been praised by the likes of The New Yorker (USA) and Carte Blanche (Canada), and compared to all time great writers like Roald Dahl and V.S Naipaul. See his novel at: http://www.amazon.com/Selfishness-ebook/dp/B005KN8388/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1315253163&sr=8-1 or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org