Wednesday, 12 June 2013
Interview with Nick Taussig - Author of The Distinguished Assassin
Please tell us a little about yourself
I have a propensity for seriousness that I'd rather not possess, which is best tempered by wife Klara, my son Theo and a few choice friends, all of whom help me lighten up and realise that, in spite of how dark reality might sometimes seem, it should always be challenged with humour and light.
Can you tell us about The Distinguished Assassin and your inspiration for the book?
The inspiration, and forgive me, but I will sound serious now, was Alexander Solzhenitsyn who concluded in his Gulag Archipelago that every human being is “at various stages, under various circumstances, a totally different human being, at times close to being a devil, at times to sainthood.” I wanted my hero to walk this line between being a devil and a saint, and to explore the idea of a good man turned bad by a bad system which has inflicted great suffering on him. Inspiration was also David Cronenberg's film Eastern Promises, which led to a fascination with Russia's elite criminal class, the thieves-in-law, and far too much Russian literature, which I consumed with a feverish passion as an intense, and likely, rather morose undergraduate.
What aspects of Stalinist Russia fascinate you the most?
The gulags, the thieves, the intellectuals - the last of these forbidden from exercising free thought. If they did, they were killed. The question which most fascinates me is how did a man such as Stalin reign for almost three decades? Possibly because the ideology he claimed to uphold, unlike Nazism, was noble and decent in aspiration: it promised a perfect utopia on earth. It seemed, therefore, that the Russian people were willing to sacrifice millions of their own in pursuit of this utopia, which Soviet Communism was meant to deliver, even though Stalin's murderous actions increasingly pointed to the fact that this utopia was nothing more than a fantasy, a delusion.
Are there any aspects of modern Russia that you would like to explore further?
Yes, why the Russian people continue to put up with authoritarianism, Putin's now rather than Stalin's. And the extent of criminality within the FSB, Russia's Security Services, now the most powerful government agency in the country.
What are you currently working on?
Writing nothing, rather concentrating on producing films, and when I'm not doing this, reading. Sometimes it helps to stop writing for a bit and to focus solely on reading other writers. It's when you do this, and come across a good one, that you realise, in the best possible way, quite how much you still have to learn.
You can find out more about Nick Taussig on his website: http://www.nicktaussig.com/