Small talk: Anna Funder

What does it mean to be a writer? It means you try to represent what it is to be alive

Anna Funder was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1966. Before becoming a writer she worked as a lawyer and a television producer. Her first book, Stasiland: Stories From Behind the Berlin Wall, was published in 2003 and won the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction. She lives in Sydney with her husband and three children.

Who is your perfect reader?

There are a lot of perfect readers. Wherever I go – whether it’s literary festivals or school readings – I am amazed at how much people bring to my books.

What books are currently on your bedside table?

The Naive and Sentimental Novelist by Orhan Pamuk. The White Album by Joan Didion. Voluptuous Panic: The Erotic World of Weimar Berlin by Mel Gordon.

What book changed your life?

The Emigrants by WG Sebald. The things he does with language and memory are fascinating.

When did you know you were going to be a writer?

I was six years old and I attended a school in France where I was overwhelmed by the language barrier. At that point I realised the power of language and writing.

Where do you write best?

Out of the house.

What book do you wish you’d written?

Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. I think it’s magnificent, kaleidoscopic.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

Anywhere with my husband and three children.

How do you cure writer’s block?

I start with the easy bits first and I lower my expectations.

Who would you most like to sit next to at a dinner party?

Barack Obama. I think he’s charismatic and inspiring, and we would have a lot to talk about.

What keeps you awake at night?

Reading, mostly.

What novel would you give to a child to introduce them to literature?

King Solomon’s Mines by H Rider Haggard.

How do you relax?

I torture myself in the gym. Or, failing that, I read in the bath.

What does it mean to you to be a writer?

It means you try to represent what it is to be alive.

Anna Funder’s novel ‘All That I Am’ is published by Viking

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