Books beyond borders

    Illustration: Baum aus Büchern
    Von Lorraine Mallinder

    They’re the rock stars of British literature, who have sold hundreds of millions of books between them. And they’re damned if they’re going to let the UK’s stormy break with the EU hurt their relationship with their readers on the Continent.

    This November, therefore, come hell or high wateregal, was passiertcome hell or high water, authors Ken Follett, Kate Mosse, Jojo Moyes and Lee Child will be setting out on a friendship tour to Italy, Spain, France and Germany. Even if you haven’t read their books, you will probably know of the film adaptations of them.

    Take Lee Child, author of a mega-successful crime series. The adventures of Jack Reacher, an ex-military policeman on a never-ending road trip across America, have been made into two blockbuster Hollywood movies starringmit ... in einer Hauptrollestarring Tom Cruise.

    Relaxing at his holiday home in Sussex before starting work on the next Jack Reacher book, which he will begin writing on 1 September (he always starts a new book on the same day each year), the tireless author sounds as laconic over the phone as his hero. “The history books will figure out what it was all about,” he says.

    Child has already formulated an interesting theory of his own on Brexit, however, which he thinks was driven by “some sort of xenophobiaFremdenfeindlichkeit, Ausländerfeindlichkeitxenophobia”, but also by something that is harder to define. “It could be some animal-like sense of the future,” he says. “When you think climate change will produce huge numbers of migrants, it’s like they were feeling something disastrous was coming.”

    Was the British public feeling “some unknown dreadGrauen, Schreckendread in the future”? “We had a dog that would to whinewinselnwhine and to curl upsich zusammenrollencurl up and hide in a corner for hours and hours before a storm was coming,” says Child. Hmm! That does sound a bit like the current state of the nation. He could be right.

    Britain’s fears found an outletAuslass; hier: Ventiloutlet in Brexit, but the UK is not alone. “I think people in countries like Germany realize they’ve all got their own populist movements going on as well,” says Child. “Without being highfalutin (ifml.)hochtrabendhighfalutin, [Brexit] is a cautionary taleabschreckendes Beispielcautionary tale. Do not let yourself be backed into a corner. Do not let it get out of hand.”

    It’s no surprise that Child qualifies Brexit as a “catastrophic disaster”. Eighty years after the start of the Second World War, the need for a “United States of Europe”, as British wartime leader Winston Churchill called it, is greater than ever, he says. “It’s something worth having, the security and guarantee of no more wars, to be part of a vastgewaltig, enormvast trading blocHandelsblocktrading bloc. Britain is going to be terribly isolated and on a downward spiral. I don’t see it ending.”

    People were feeling left behind and unconsidered by globalization. But they’re kicking against the wrong target

    Some might criticize Child for speaking out against Brexit. After all, he spends most of his time in the US. But the author knows only too well the value of the outsider view. And some might say it is exactly this that makes his literary creation Jack Reacher — the lone-rangerEinzelkämpfer-; hier: einzelgängerischlone-ranger drifterHerumtreiberdrifter coolly observing society — so fascinating.

    Coming back to the UK after long stays in the US, Child saw how things were changing. “I noticed London was very prosperouswohlhabend, reichprosperous, and the rest of the country was in some sort of grindingschleifend, zermürbendgrinding recession. People were feeling left behind and unconsidered by globalization,” he says. “But they’re kicking against the wrong target. The solution is not to withdraw and become some sort of irrelevant state.”

    Child remembers his early days as a writer, when he first realized that people in other countries were reading his books in different languages. Having grown up in post-war Britain, when every cultural reference seemed to be dominated by Second World War clichés, he has enjoyed getting to know Germany properly.

    “People my age and younger seem to be extremely hip (ifml.)angesagt, coolhip and politically informed and active in a way I kind of to envybeneidenenvy,” he says of Germans. “They’re much more aware and much more collective than in the UK.”

    It clearly makes him sad to think Europeans might misunderstand Britain. “One country’s view of another is only accessible through its media. So people must be getting a negative perceptionVorstellungperception,” he says. “We don’t want people to get the impression that all British people are turning their backs on Europe.”

    He’s looking forward to setting the rec­ord to set the record straightdie Dinge richtigstellenstraight. “We want to say: ‘This was not our idea. It changes nothing for us. We still love you. We still want to be part of your intellectual community.’”

    The Friendship Tour: dates

    17/11: Milan (Teatro Carcano)
    19/11: Madrid (Fundación Telefónica)
    23/11: Berlin (RBB Radio)
    25/11: Paris (venueVeranstaltungsortvenue to be announced)

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