From Russia With Love

 

Written for The Guardian:

 

In the weeks before our lives changed for ever, my grandfather disappeared and my grandmother became seriously ill. We drove the length of the country through snow and ice to fetch her. Already much reduced by arthritis, she could walk only with great difficulty. She would be staying in the room we called the music room, because she could not negotiate the stairs and because there was a log fire by which she could sit.

My grandmother was perpetually cold. It was the task of the children to fetch fresh wood from the log pile and then to keep her company through the endless winter evenings, talking of tigers, of elephants and the Raj. I was 13, my brothers and sisters all younger; we did not realise that she had come to our Cheshire home to die.

As a child, you consider your world to be the only possible world; and as we understood things then, my mother’s family story was interesting, though without secrets. My grandfather – a man who had given his entire life to building a fine career in the army: the subcontinent, the second world war, Berlin, Africa, Hong Kong – had met my grandmother in India. My grandfather’s family was an old English one – soldiers all, and proud of it.

My grandmother, meanwhile, was a Brahmin, a wealthy and high-caste Indian (also proud of it) from near Hyderabad. She had fallen in love with her soldier and married him against the wishes of her family. When they left India for postwar Germany, she was cut off. She carried with her only her multicoloured saris and her jewellery. She never returned.

Death bed confession is inspiration for new Edward Docx novel

Taken from The Ham and High:

A death bed confession about his origins led author Edward Docx to the idea for his new novel, Bridget Galton writes

Edward Docx didn’t know his publishers were entering him for the Booker Prize until the longlist was announced.

Now, the 34-year-old’s second novel, Self Help, is rubbing literary shoulders with a Booker “dozen”, including four debut novelists and established writers Ian McEwan and AN Wilson.

On the morning we meet at Troika in Primrose Hill, his phone has been ringing constantly with friends offering congratulations and journalists seeking quotes.

Considerately (and unegotistically), he switches it off to spend a couple of hours talking about writing, family, Heath swimming and… book prizes.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s more than nice, it’s amazing,” says the former arts editor, from Belsize Park Gardens. “It’s way beyond anything I had hoped for. If I was lucky I expected to get reviews.

“The problem is these prizes are so arbitrary. All 13 books are on the list because they are good novels. Once you get to a certain level it’s a test of whether people like it.”

Each publishing house submits two novels by an author from the British Isles or Commonwealth for the annual prize. This year, judges had to whittle down 110 books to a longlist of 13, reduced to six by September 6.

Docx (pronounced dox) has the surprised air of a man emerging from three years living in his own head, to find the rest of the world shouting in his ear.

Booker Prize: Edward Docx – a Lothario to love

 

 

From The Telegraph:

At 35, Edward Docx is the youngest hopeful on the Man Booker longlist. He tells Cassandra Jardine about the family secret that inspired his novel 

On her deathbed, Edward Docx’s Indian grandmother made a shattering confession. Propped up on pillows at the family’s home in Cheshire, she began talking about the past to her daughter Lila, Edward’s mother. Many of the tales of tigers and elephants were familiar, as were the stories of her peripatetic life as the wife of a British Army officer.

But the narrative became increasingly strange as she drew towards her conclusion: “And so I am not really your mother,” she said. “You are not my daughter. And you are not half-Indian. You are half-Russian.”
Edward is explaining the impact this had on his family to me, leaning urgently forward in a Russian café in north London. “More or less everything my mother assumed to be true about herself – her roots, her heritage, her very nature – turned out not to be true,” he says, taking another sip from his cup of tea.
“My mother’s ‘grandfather’ was her real father. He had conducted a short relationship with a Russian woman, then asked his son to bring up their child. So the man whom my mother thought of as her father was in fact her half-brother.”

Aside from their explosive effect on his mother, the revelations had a huge impact on Edward, who was 13 at the time. “It started me questioning whether you can ever rely upon anything being true.” Thus began years of soul-searching. But, right now, he has reason to be grateful to his grandmother for undermining his trust in apparent reality.

Taking a similar parent-child revelation scene as his starting point, he wrote his second novel, Self Help, about an Anglo/Russian family. It has made him, at 35, the youngest of the 13 novelists on the longlist for the Man Booker Prize.

It has meant an instant sales hike. Before the list was announced, reviewers had likened Docx to Julian Barnes, Martin Amis and even Charles Dickens. That was heady enough to guarantee him a continued income from writing, but this is far better. Inevitably, however, it comes with a sprinkling of envy from other writers who yearn to be considered for any prize, let alone the Big One.