When Edward St Aubyn summoned the courage to write the fictionalized version of his unbearable childhood and describe the horrific abuse he suffered at the hands of cruel and neglectful aristocratic parents, he not only broke a taboo, but he also pulled off a rare act of literary alchemy. He turned the grim material of his life - rape, drug addiction and the ever-present pull of suicide - into a series of exquisitely crafted books (The Melrose novels) that critics rate amongst the finest achievements of contemporary British fiction. The surprise is that they are wickedly funny too. Through his alter ego Patrick Melrose he slays the monsters of his past with witty, elegant rage.
However, this is not therapy; in over 20 years of writing, St Aubyn has taken little comfort from the process, calling it a 'grim obligation' rather than a pleasure - writing under the terms of a psychological contract to prevent him killing himself.
St Aubyn has a new book out - Lost for Words. This time he has ditched the anguished alter ego, and the monsters are the less pernicious demons of the literary world. His writing may still be funny, savage and true, but this time it may even bring him peace - at last.
|Participant||Edward St Aubyn|
|Series Editor||Janet Lee|