Last night I went to the London Review Bookshop to see one of the literary greats. Edna O’Brien is surely one of the best writers around, certainly one of my favourites. Her new book, The Little Red Chairs, which those of you who follow these things will know I discussed with Nick Coffer on the last radio broadcast, is an amazing novel. Inspired by the moving pictures of the 11,541 (643 were child size) red chairs set out in the High Street of Sarajevo in 2012 to commemorate the deaths of the people in the siege of Sarajevo 20 years previously, the book tells the story of a war criminal who arrives in a small Irish coastal town. His effect on the people is both powerful and tragic. The book follows the fortunes of one of those villagers as she moves to London and also visits the War Crimes tribunal in the Hague.
It is very typical of Edna O’Brien that the prose is economical, lean and exactly tells the story, without ambiguity or fuss.
Edna was interviewed by Andrew O’Hagan, himself a Booker shortlisted writer (for his novel Our Fathers), and he did a great job, asking just the questions I wanted to ask. I loved the novel and I feel very privileged to have been at the event.