An interview with Lawrence Osborne
Lawrence Osborne is a British novelist currently residing in New York City. He is the author of four novels, The Forgiven, The Ballad of a Small Player, Hunters in the Dark and Beautiful Animals. He’s also written several nonfiction books including Bangkok Days. He is a frequent contributor to Newsweek International, The Daily Beast and The Wall Street Journal Magazine.
You are one of the speakers at the Dhaka Lit Fest this year. How do you feel about visiting Dhaka and joining the festival?
Even though I live only two hours away in Bangkok, it is my first time in Bangladesh. Therefore, I am very excited and curious …
Are you familiar with the works of any Bangladeshi writer?
Monica Ali is well known in the UK because of Brick Lane. Tahmima Anam, too. I am curious to read Humayun Ahmed and maybe see his films too, if they are available. I’m also curious to read Zia Haider Rahman’s In the Light of What We Know and Kazi Anis Ahmed’s The World in My Hands. Right now I’m reading Ahsan Akbar’s The Devil’s Thumbprint.
You have been leading an expatriate life for a long time. This aspect of your life certainly informs your nonfiction books. But does it also affect your fictional works?
Even more so. I see myself more as a migrant, or emigrant, than an ex-pat. I actually loathe the latter word and I usually loathe the people who accept it for themselves.
How did you conceive the idea of Bangkok Days and what kind of research did it require?
It’s a book I wrote 10 years ago – I suppose you could say in the spirit of Henry Miller and his books about Paris. Bangkok had struck me as rather like the Paris of the 30’s, and in some ways it still does. I wanted to write something free and anarchic, and I suppose something that would express my love for the city and its people. Needless to say, such impulses are often misunderstood.
Do you enjoy writing both fiction and nonfiction, or you prefer one to the other?
I don’t really write non-fiction any more. I am not a historian, and would be at best an amateur one if I ever got round to trying my hand at it. Others are more learned and more exact. Besides, for me the supreme pleasure is the telling of stories that disturb me enough to give me nightmares. I don’t know how other people read them. Hopefully with the same effect.