Booker Prize-winning author Yann Martel came to Iowa City in February 2011 for a reading at the Iowa City Public Library, sitting down for this On the Fly interview prior to the event.
In the interview, he discusses the spare prose of Coetzee and Hemingway, the ways in which writers seek to capture the fleeting, and the importance of writers as witnesses.
Martel also considers the technical aspects of writing and the occasional need to let them recede: “I think it’s best if sometimes if we lose ourselves a bit when we write, and we just get it down. Because after all, you know, words are just refined grunts. And it’s what is behind the grunts—what you’re trying to communicate, the emotion, the idea—that really counts.”
Martel won the 2001 Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction and the 2002 Booker Prize for Life of Pi. His most recent novel is 2010’s Beatrice and Virgil. In 2012, his list of book suggestions for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was published as 101 Letters to a Prime Minister: The Complete Letters to Stephen Harper.