Nadeem Aslam: I sleep in the afternoon and evening and get up at 11pm

Nadeem Aslam in The Guardian:

1280I am at my desk at midnight and I write until six or seven in the morning. I have been working this way for 25 years now. The quietness deepens at night and everything feels saturated with stillness. From 7am till midday, I read. It is often said human beings don’t come with an instruction manual; but I believe that books – libraries – are the instruction manuals for human beings. To read a great book is to realise that everything is already known. I also look at the newspapers. Many things in my books come from real life; but a novelist has to be careful in transporting a real event into the landscape of a novel. It is patient work, like moving a lake from one place to another with a teaspoon.

I go for a walk in the farmlands and orchards near my house. Insects and birds appear and disappear with the seasons. On the hilltop there are remains of a late bronze age fort. There is a wood full of bluebells in April. I climb down into the valley and enter the neighbourhood I grew up in, a cluster of mainly Muslim working-class streets, here in Yorkshire. It has produced dozens of doctors over the decades, as well as nurses and lawyers, dentists, teachers, drug smugglers, pimps, happy and bitterly unhappy arranged marriages, many of them between first cousins, and there are men and women I went to school with now under arrest for running sweatshops for migrant workers.

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