Cookery next to philosophy? An academic profile but also a novelist? I've been a published writer for more than thirty years now. After a short stint news reporting in Moscow what I most wanted was to combine the immediacy of journalism with the greater depth of a scholarly approach. It's what I'm still after. A character in my next novel says: connect everything and you'll go mad, connect nothing and you'll be corrupt. I was never able to keep my different kinds of inquiry and writing apart. Even when I was first writing cookery books I was wondering how to write a novel in recipes. Food was one way of writing about Russia which when it was a Communist country was almost entirely a political story. There was very little written about contemporary culture and daily life, except as evidence of a failing political system. I thought it deserved description - and even some admiration - it its own right. I wouldn't say I was a Russophile, at least, not any more. It's more like being divorced after being married for thirty years: I know a lot about my former partner!
University study was one of the happiest times of my life and the reason why I almost became an academic right at the start of my career. I studied German language, literature and philosophy, a lifelong love, and added Russian into the mix. One thing that propelled me on to a less orthodox path was I'm an adventurer. I like to get out there and take risks. I love places and ideas and I don't mind getting lost. I trust myself to find the way out. I love languages and put as many different languages into my books as I can.
More seriously, not about me, I've been preoccupied with themes of exile and loss. Travelling in Germany, West and East, and in Russia, Communist and after, and through all the lands inbetween that were the Communist Bloc, I immersed myself in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the Second World war, and the Holocaust, in a way that determined my life and my biggest historical and human topics. You can find them tucked away in the novel I wrote about a ten-year-old girl whose mother has a lasting fear of the war now passed, Girl in a Garden; and they are round every corner in the journeys I made, some with my then five-year-old daughter, for In the Communist Mirror.
Are you one of those very literary writers of German novels, I was asked not so long ago. I think of myself as literary, and I'd love to be thought of as up there with the German novel, whatever that actually is.
My plans are to continue writing both fiction and non-fiction. On the German side of things I'm toying with the third in a series. First there was Nietzsche in Turin, then The Secret Artist A Close Reading of Sigmund Freud. I always thought of Freud as not so much the father of psychoanalysis but an extraordinary literary figure who was one of the psychologist Nietzsche's most influential successors. Subject number three is under wraps at the moment, but he will certainly be a big name in German literature.
Do have a look at my blog where I publish articles on all my interests most weeks. lesleychamberlain.wordpress.com . My latest news is also on my website www.lesleychamberlain.co.uk