I suppose, when starting out, I’d have imagined my future workspace to be a little more ordered than this. A bookshelf, maybe, made of oak or something. A swivel chair. Stuff stored away in cupboards. The odd ornament, perhaps.
The flat was nearly bare when I took it. I just wanted something bang in the centre of Seville, and it was cheap enough. I’ve acquired most of the furniture from the street. A bar round the corner was throwing out the blue bench with flaking paint. I found the pallet next to a skip.
I mainly write at the weekends, as I teach flat out during the week. First up is clearing some space: by Friday, you can’t see the desktop for an accumulation of coffee cups, loose papers, and cigarette ash.
I’ll often write to classical music. Digging around the local flea markets for vinyl, I’ve found Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.2, and Shostakovich’s Fifth. For me, it’s got to be Romanticism or beyond: I’m after those heart-rending collapses of chords as they fall in on themselves, not some tweely constructed counterpoint by some Baroque composer.
Most of the junk lying around the flat comes from flea markets, as do most of the photos on the wall. Seville’s biggest, El Charco de la Pava, consists of at least two kilometres of stalls – by my estimation, anyway. Amongst the piles of broken phone chargers, the racks of stolen bicycles, and the crates of forgotten technology, you find the odd gem. Once, I came back with a pile of typewritten love letters, spanning the 1940s; another time, a battered old notebook, detailing every play performed in Seville’s theatres between 1944 and 1951. Most of the photos are from the 1960s or 1970s: family portraits, scenes of city life, a bit of amateur photography.
Up on the wall, I mix these photos in with my own, of my own friends and family. A bit like how I write, I guess: flecks of lives that were never mine, threaded into my own memories and experience.
Publication date: 15 November 2017 | Paperback, £8.99
“One can either do this or do that … do it or not do it – you will regret both.” Søren Kierkegaard
A bench looking out onto the harbour on the French-Spanish border; a cash-strapped existence strolling the sunbaked streets and promenades of Seville, or the cold embrace of the daily grind back in hometown USA; Granville, cut adrift in Europe, has a choice to make.
His solution is not to.
It is a life here, or a life there. As some semblance of one emerges, another grows across the Atlantic, until these two lives Granville never had both collapse around him.
This daring and experimental novel addresses the existential dilemma of location; how the regret of a choice not made overpowers the satisfaction of one taken; an antithesis on taking decisions, yet a manifesto on living them.