A few soundbites from the masterful author’s recent interview with The A/V Club, in support of his new The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet. We strongly recommend his work, esp Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green, to all “students of the human condition”:
AVC: You do seem to continue looking at exploitation, inequality, and people kept in place by their lack of economic and social power. Is it safe to say that’s an ongoing theme in your work?
DM: It’s a fair notation.
AVC: It certainly isn’t a theme that’s going to lose relevance anytime soon.
DM: [Laughs.] That’s true. I’m trying to think of a sophisticated answer, but I’m not sure I can! As you said, for one, it’s universal—the theme of power, or lack of it. If the human condition were the periodic table, maybe love would be hydrogen at No. 1. Death would be helium at No. 2. Power, I reckon, would be where oxygen is.
AVC: There’s a line near the end of the book, by the Captain—“Power is a man’s means of composing the future, but the composition has a way of composing itself”—that really brought that out.
DM: What you say reminds me of something British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was asked: Who or what was in charge of the world, who made the big decisions in national and international political life? Harold answered: “Events, dear boy, events.” [Laughs.] Events are in charge! Isn’t that a great thing to say? It’s the health bill, it’s the invasion of Kuwait, it’s North Korea rattling its possible nuclear saber. It’s a war here, it’s an earthquake there—it’s events that are in charge.