‘I hope that it adds up to a new way of thinking about who we have been, and who we are now’
Andrew Marr’s new book, We British: The Poetry of a People is out now, published by 4th Estate Books. The British have never had a musical tradition to rival that of Russia or Germany; or the gloriously exuberant architecture of Paris or Rome; or the coherent worldview of classical China. What they have had is the richest and most remarkable tradition of poetry of any major culture. This book is an attempt to use British poetry as the framework for a kind of alternative epic, the story of what it was like to be British, told through poetry, and sometimes through the stories of the poets.
ONE DOOMED PRIME MINISTER.
TWO WOULD-BE SUCCESSORS.
BUT WHO’S PULLING THE STRINGS?
This Christmas we’ve decided to make your present buying a lot less stressful by asking the 4th Estate team to hand-pick books for all your relatives. Hopefully this will mean less umming and ahhing in the bookshop, and more oohing and ahhing on Christmas Day…
You’re well known to booklovers already for your brilliant history writing – what made you want to take the leap into fiction?
The great thing about writing fiction is that you can just go for it – you don’t need to worry about the libel lawyers or the expectations of good taste demanded by a serious work of history. After my stroke I didn’t want to spend my time hanging around in libraries, but I did want to spend my time reflecting on some of what I have learned in over 30 years reporting on politics. Head of State is the result.
In Head of State, Britain is on the verge of an in/out EU referendum. When you began writing the novel, did you have any idea how relevant this issue would become?
I thought that the idea of an in/out referendum would be impossible for British politicians to dodge for much longer. It has slightly surprised me that this issue has certainly been pushed to the front of current the news agenda by events taking place now inside the Conservative party and UKIP. There is going to be a referendum, it will come sooner or later, and many of the issues discussed in Head of State will arrive at the forefront at that time. I just hope for all our sakes that we’re not led by the same kind of characters you find in my book – but I may well be wrong! Read more…