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Strange Here: George Saunders  /  Fiction

‘If we were going to try to write a novel about right now, what’s the equivalent of a god’s-eye-view of right now? I think it’s … every thought going on right now, presented simultaneously.’

American writer George Saunders is one of the world’s most surreal – and most empathic – eyewitnesses to modern life. But quixotic? Not so much. In his writing, he’s generous with his subjects: offering them dignity where consumerism and politics deny it. It’s absurd and heart-wrenching stuff; often farcical, with echoes of despair.

Best known until now for his short story collections (Tenth of DecemberPastoralia) and collected essays (The Braindead Megaphone), Saunders has also written novellas, children’s books, and now, a novel – or something close to it, anyway. Lincoln in the Bardo defies comparison. Born from a kernel of history (Abraham Lincoln’s mourning for his dead son), the book hurls a giddy net of voices into the twilight between life and death, ruminating on love that – like all love – must end.

Having moved from field geophysicist to doorman, roofer and slaughterhouse worker before arriving at writing, Saunders himself is as shape-shifting as his writing. For the first time in Australia, he talks to Don Watson about his hyper-real prose, his simple, methodical approaches to writing, and his redoubled commitment to the profundity of art.

George Saunders speaks with Don Watson at Northcote Town Hall — Photo: Jon Tjhia

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