(Occasionally Asked Questions)
Could you puff yourself up in a few paragraphs of third person prose, please?
Certainly. Paul was born in 1972. In the early 1990s, he studied history at Oxford University, where he also became a road protester. This changed his life. After graduating, Paul worked for a year on the staff of the Independent newspaper, which he hated. Following a three year stint as a campaign writer for an environmental NGO, he was appointed deputy editor of The Ecologist.
He left the Ecologist in 2001 to write his first book One No, Many Yeses, a political travelogue which explored the growing anti-capitalist movement around the world. The book was published in 2003 by Simon and Schuster, in six languages across 13 countries.
In the early 2000s, having spent time with the tribal people of West Papua, who continue to be brutally colonised by the Indonesian government and military, he was one of the founders of the Free West Papua Campaign, which he also helped to run for a time.
Paul’s second book, Real England, was published in 2008 by Portobello. An exploration of the changing face of his home country in an age of globalisation, the book was quoted in speeches by the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury, helped inspire the success of the hit West End play ‘Jerusalem’ and saw its author compared to Cobbett and Orwell by more than one newspaper, which he enjoyed.
Are you showing off?
A bit. In 2009, Paul launched, with Dougald Hine, the Dark Mountain Project, a writers’ and artists’ movement designed to question the stories our culture is telling itself. What began as a self-published pamphlet has become a global network of writers, artists and thinkers. Paul is now the Project’s editorial director.
In 2011, Paul’s first poetry collection, Kidland, was published by Salmon. He has won various prizes for his poetry, including the 2012 Wenlock Prize.
In 2014, Paul’s first novel, The Wake was published. It was longlisted for the Man Booker and the Folio Prizes, nearly won the Goldsmiths Prize and did actually win the Gordon Burn Prize and the Bookseller Book of the Year Award. In 2015, it was published in the US by Graywolf Press.
Paul’s journalism has appeared in all sorts of places, including in the Guardian, Independent, Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, Le Monde, New Statesman, New Internationalist, Big Issue, Adbusters, BBC Wildlife and the London Review of Books. He has appeared on various TV and radio programmes, most shamefully ‘This Morning with Richard and Judy.’
That was longer than I expected. What’s the gist?
Paul is a writer. He has …
You can use the first person now, if you like.
Thanks. I’m a writer, mainly. Looking back on my work over the last fifteen years or so, I think that my writing is primarily about two things: connection and loss. The connections are those between people and places, people and power, people and nature. Here in the West, we have built (or, more likely, accidentally slid into over time) a strange culture of disconnection: increasingly cut off from nature, from our history and provenance, from each other, from the wild reality outside the bubble of our civilisation. We have built a culture of consumer isolation, and I am haunted by the losses which this has brought about. I want to know what has been lost, what is left, what it means.
What are your politics?
Over the years I’ve been called an anarchist, a Tory, a communist, a liberal, a nihilist, a romantic, a misanthrope, a utopian, a crazy collapsitarian, a left wing oikophile, a deep green reactionary, an anti-humanist and – my favourite – a ‘lower middle-class eco-toff’. I’m sure there are some other names I have forgotten.
I’ve noticed that while my politics have changed over the last twenty years, my worldview and my basic principles and inspirations essentially haven’t. I find this interesting. These days, I tend to see what we call ‘politics’ as a slightly more respectable form of primate tribalism: a means of clumsily rationalising deep psychic impulses and then fighting about them. There is very little that is more fruitless than this kind of behaviour. You’re more likely to find truth in science, poetry or the caves of a desert hermit, and I’d suggest you look in all those places first.
Are you religious?
I’m a Zen Buddhist. That may or may not answer your question. Here is another answer, in case it doesn’t.
Has anyone ever written a great big profile of you for a major international newspaper?
Strangely, the answer is yes. This profile of me, written by Daniel Smith, ran in the New York Times magazine in April 2014. My views have moved on a bit since this was written, but it’s quite a nice snapshot of a time, albeit a slightly gloomy one.
Are you on Wikipedia?
It looks like it. I promise I didn’t write this, though I can’t promise I have never edited it to make myself look more interesting.
Can I use, reprint or share your work?
I used to publish my work under a Creative Commons licence, but I’ve come to think that Creative Commons nibbles away at the principle of copyright, and I’ve seen their spokespeople openly attacking that principle. I think copyright is a good thing, because I think that creators should have some control over what happens to their work, and I think they should be protected from exploitation. If you’d like more background on this issue, I recommend this website.
That was a long way of saying that if you’d like to reproduce my work, please ask me first. I’m usually very amenable. Flattery can help.
Could you come and speak at my event/festival/conference/etc?
My forthcoming events calendar is here. Please note that I live in rural Ireland, which is quite far from everything, so I need to be booked well in advance. And I will ask for payment and travel expenses – this is how I make a living, after all. If that hasn’t put you off, you can get in touch.
Do you have any advice for aspiring/young/beginning writers?
Some of my thoughts about the writer’s life can be found here.
Can I connect with you through social media?
I’d like to make a major motion picture about your exciting life. Where do I send the contract?
All my contact details are here
Do you have a mailing list to which I can sign up, swiftly and easily, to receive occasional fascinating email updates about your work?
I’m glad you asked! You can do that here.
Designed and built long ago and kept on life support by spanner.