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The mesmeric Nicolas Rothwell

Entrancing: Nicolas Rothwell talks about his novel ‘Belomor.’ Drawing: Rothwell reading from his book.

On Monday (18.3.13) Phillip Adams spoke with the writer (journalist, critic, novelist) Nicolas Rothwell for his entire hour long program. Last night (19.3.13) at Readings Hawthorn, we watched Rothwell speak in person to Andrew Fuhrmann about his latest novel, the uncategorisable Belomor (disclosure: designed by me).

It’s hard to capture the tone of Rothwell’s speech — it is effortlessly articulate and formed in paragraphic perfection; it has a curious modesty, a mix of acute self-awareness (word-awareness) and what projects as a recessive if not reclusive personality; his diction is high brow (“I won’t task you,” he reassured the audience) as if from a forgotten place and time of elite, polite society; his voice is mesmeric, soothing, all the while drawing out abstractions and making delicate connections between far-flung things — Mitteleuropa and the Northern Territory.

As Constant Gardner (a fan of the book, “very Sebald”) observed, Rothwell is a perfect interviewee: “He is unfailingly polite and extremely articulate. You only have to give him a lead.” (Fuhrmann was a sensitive interlocutor.)

Rothwell made some striking remarks: that, as he got older, he wanted to less anarchic — one itched to quiz him for an hour on his youth; late in the conversation he said, “It is very tempting to be frank before such a hushed and trusting audience … so I shall.” That is how he speaks, and that fine modulation is what entrances — Rothwell’s speech, like his book, is a mood piece, the intervals between make as much of the music as do the notes. That is his unusual, Rilkean, gift.

 

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