Q&A with 'Danubia' author Simon Winder
How does it feel to reach the longlist for the Samuel Johnson Prize?
I feel stunned but also vindicated. While Danubia was often fun to write it has also been a severe physical and mental effort, so to be on the longlist in the week of the book’s publication is like having some surprising and friendly messenger from God coming down to say it was all worthwhile after all.
What research did you do for writing your book?
The research was pure pleasure – several years of repeated visits to fascinating places coupled with endless reading of superlative novels and histories. I feel deeply sad that it is all over and was feverishly wondering about writing the same book again, but with a different array of places and sources, and possibly quite different conclusions.
How do you feel about the status/ popularity of non-fiction books in general?
Looking at the longlist clearly non-fiction is in very good health – we are living in a golden age of non-fiction, with a happy combination of excellent authors and a willing reading public.
What is your favourite non-fiction book and why?
It is a long way from the Danube, but every year I find myself re-reading chunks of Alfred Russel Wallace’s The Malay Archipelago – it is an inexhaustibly curious, enjoyable and painful book – a great Victorian biologist wanders from island to island, revelling in extraordinary people, societies and creatures.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on spending more time with my family and less time in Transylvania.
Simon Winder is the author of Danubia (Picador).