From the Marshalsea to Gethsemane: writers in search of politics

Filed under: Non-fiction

Ferdinand Mount talks about the relationship between literature and politics. The Roy Jenkins Memorial Lecture was chaired by Justin Cartwright.

Are poets really the unacknowledged legislators of the world? Do writers have a duty society, and, if they assume one, how do they set about performing it? Ferdinand Mount, novelist, political commentator and former Editor of the TLS, was also head of the policy unit at 10 Downing Street under Margaret Thatcher, who he has described as ‘heroic, intolerable often, vindictive, even poisonous sometimes, but always heroic’. He memoir Cold Cream: my early life and other mistakes was published to enormous crticial acclaim last summer. Richard Davenport-Hines praised it for its ‘tenderness, precision and wit’ and for ‘a restraint that pierces to the heart of experience’. Reading it, Roy Hattersley wrote, was pure joy’. Ferdinand Mount examines some stirring success, tantalising near misses and abject failures in giving literary voice to politics, drawing on writers as diverse as Dickens and David Hare, Tennyson and Hemingway, Goethe and Philip Roth.

Recorded on Monday 29 June 2009.

Related RSL Fellows

Sir Ferdinand Mount 1991