Features

Howard Jacobson on why he wrote Pussy, a furious dedication to Trump

'I wrote Pussy thinking only of how vexed I would be if I didn't write it'. Man Booker prize winner Howard Jacobson on the 'rush of passion' that drove him to pen his Trump-inspired novella.

Howard Jacobson on Trump

I knew at once it had to be a fierce and even ferocious fairy-story, in which a raging indignation was shared by writer and readers alike.

Howard Jacobson photo
Author Howard Jacobson

There, then, would be the fun and challenge of it. Derision – there cannot be too much derision –but underlying it a perplexing question that derision cannot answer. How does such a thing come about? What creates the climate? How do the 'people' – that suddenly cherished entity, invoked by every rogue in Washington and Whitehall – fill the space occupied by nothingness with the ghost of their wish-fulfilment? There the diversion, and there – to those who won't hear a word against the 'people' – the vexation.

I wrote at great speed, not wanting to iron anything out. Haste was part of it. A feeling of impetuosity. An unseemly rush of passion that time and care would have falsified. I felt the thing had to be written in a sort of half-dream before I woke and found that no one had ever heard the name Trump, or Farage. I tried not to leave the house for six weeks. I didn't want to breathe fresh air or glimpse normality; I didn't want to break the trance. The thing became a sort of tortured comedy in which I, the writer, was to be numbered among the absurdities, my tone of voice – high-principled and dead-pan – itself the last vestige of an idea of writing of which Twitter and all the other tools beloved of today's demagogues – for Trump and Tweeting are not incidentally synonymous – are the death knell. In the end it was Pope rather than Swift I could hear.

         "Thy Hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall,

         And universal darkness buries all."

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more