WHAT BOOK would novelist Wilbur Smith take to a desert island?
- Wilbur Smith is currently reading Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
- Novelist would take The Grapes Of Wrath by John Steinbeck to a desert island
- He said that anything by H Rider Haggard first gave him the reading bug
…are you reading now?
I’m revisiting the majestic Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s quite a thing to stretch hundreds of thousands of years into one book and look at the history of mankind through such a long lens.
I’ve become enamoured with the chapter on hunters and gatherers and I find myself agreeing with the author: they had it best.
They walked the earth, hunting for food and gathering berries, moving with the seasons, never worrying about material possessions.
The people who invented farming might have eaten well, but they were stuck in one place and obsessed with how much grain they stored, building up reserves they could never use themselves.
Wilbur Smith is currently reading Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari and said that anything by H Rider Haggard first gave him the reading bug
Freedom and living in the moment versus stagnation and the illusion of security? I know which one I’m drawn to.
Besides, all real writers have wandered in the wilderness while waiting for their work to be discovered, so that feels like home to me.
…would you take to a desert island?
The Grapes Of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Is there anyone better than Steinbeck? Most go in for the miniaturist classic about George and Lennie, Of Mice And Men, but The Grapes Of Wrath has lessons about humanity that resonate through the ages.
To me, Tom Joad represents any man who has tried to navigate the dangers of a new land, while trying to feed his family at the same time.
He deals with financial hardship, prejudice, bad luck and a national disaster, all of which parallel the challenges of surviving a global pandemic.
But having said that, I’m now remembering the ‘Sophie’s Choice’ that happens at the end of Of Mice And Men and how sad, poignant and brutal it was. Maybe I’ll bring both to my island if I’m allowed?
The novelist said that he would take John Steinbeck’s The Grapes Of Wrath to a desert island
…first gave you the reading bug?
Anything by H Rider Haggard, the original master of adventure. I was tickled when Vanity Fair said I was the 21st-century version of Haggard.
People remember Haggard for King Solomon’s Mines but my personal preference is She, where it felt like he was speaking directly about my passion for writing. I included the following quote in my memoir, On Leopard Rock: ‘There is no such things as magic, though there is such a thing as knowledge of the hidden ways of Nature.’
…left you cold?
Anything by John Grisham. Not because he’s not a masterful storyteller but because my wife Niso loves reading him so much that she ignores me whenever he has a new book out.
As a young woman she trained as a lawyer in Moscow when the Berlin Wall came down and she gets lost in his stories. I tip my hat to him, what a writer.
- Legacy Of War by Wilbur Smith is out now (Zaffre, £20).