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Tibor Fischer Interview

Posted on 20 January 2011. © Copyright 2004-2021 WriteWords
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WriteWords talks to Tibor Fischer, British novelist and short story writer. In 1993 he was selected by the influential literary magazine Granta as one of the 20 best young British writers. Fischer's parents were Hungarian basketball players, having fled Hungary in 1956. The bloody 1956 revolution, and his father's background, informed Fischer's debut novel Under the Frog, a Rabelaisian yarn about a Hungarian basketball player surviving Communism. The title is derived from a Hungarian saying, that the worst possible place to be is under a frog's arse down a coal mine. In 1992, Under the Frog won a Betty Trask Prize for literature, and was shortlisted for the prestigious Booker prize. Subsequent novels include The Thought Gang, about an unemployed and alcoholic philosophy professor who hooks up with a failed one-armed bandit in France to form a successful team of bank robbers, and The Collector Collector, about a weekend in South London, narrated by a 5000 year old Sumerian pot. Fischer has also published a book of short stories, Don't Read This Book If You're Stupid (published in the U.S. as I Like Being Killed: Stories). Fischer's novel, Voyage to the End of the Room was published in 2003. His new novel, "Good to be God" was published by Alma Books on September 4, 2008. In 2009 Fischer became the Royal Literary Fund writing fellow at City and Guilds of London Art School.

Tell us something about your background.

I’m a novelist, but I’m considering haiku as I’m tired of all the typing.

Other work besides writing; eg. Editing, dramaturgy, tutoring, and how it works/worked for/against your own writing

Teaching, if you’re teaching people who want to be taught, is enjoyable in small doses. And you do learn teaching.

How, when and why did you first start writing?

I was always attracted to the idea of writing. When I was thirty I had a bout of unemployment and I realised that if I didn’t use my free time to finally produce a novel, I probably never would. So I did.

Who are your favourite writers and why?

All sorts. Lots of Americans: JD Salinger, Tom Wolfe, Tom Robbins, Charles Willeford. I did a degree in French, so the usual suspects: Flaubert, Moliere, Céline. My favourite Hungarian writer is Sándor Márai. I suppose the writers you admire most are those who’ve done things you’d like to have done.

How did you get your first agent/ commission/publication? Can you tell us about the process/journey?

It wasn’t fun. I couldn’t get an agent and a novel about a Hungarian basketball team in the nineteen fifties wasn’t an obvious blockbuster. I started sending it out myself and it was rejected by fifty-six imprints. There were fifty-eight in the UK at the time, so I was relieved when number fifty-seven said yes.

So I got to the Booker shortlist without an agent. Funnily enough, after the shortlist it was easy to get an agent.



Tell us what kind of response you get from audiences/readers and if/how this affects/influences your writing

It’s nice when you get a slap on the back. I don’t read reviews however because even the favourable ones will contain a phrase or a sentence that will make you spend the rest of the day thinking ‘what did that mean?’.

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

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