David Szalay discusses his novel All That Man Is which was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2016.
All That Man Is is a meditation of modern man told through the stories of nine men from across Europe, who are all at different stages of their lives.
David says the three ages of man was present in his mind as the nine stories fall naturally into youth, middle age and older age. The characters are seemingly unrelated, and their stories are rooted in a contemporary reality, with David presenting the driving ambitions of each man in various stages of life.
As well as the preoccupations of time passing and aging, the book is also about contemporary Europe, with characters in different social settings from Cyprus to Copenhagen, Budapest to Mayfair. The book was published just before the 2016 European Referendum, but David, who currently lives in Budapest, says his aim was not to pass any political judgment, but to describe modern European life as it is.
Also important to him was the comic element of men's lives – from obsessions like booze to sex to social status, and how comedy can be redemptive, with incapacity being both funny and sad at the same time.
Presenter : James Naughtie
Producer : Dymphna Flynn
July's Bookclub choice : Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (2017)