Taking his latest novel An English Guide to Birdwatching as a starting point, Nicholas Royle talks with psychoanalyst and writer Adam Phillips about how literature and psychoanalysis can speak to and of each other.
Dazzling in its linguistic playfulness and formal invention, An English Guide to Birdwatching explores the rich hinterland between fact and fiction. In its focus on birds, climate change, the banking crisis, social justice and human migration, it is intensely relevant to wider political concerns; in its mischievous wit and wordplay, it pushes the boundaries of what a novel might be. Royle’s novel engages deeply with Freud, especially in the context of ‘the uncanny’.
“This is a novel operating at the outer edges of the form, deep in the avant-garde... play[ing] brilliantly in the fertile ground between fiction and memoir. An English Guide to Birdwatching is Rachel Cusk rewritten by Georges Bataille, full of strange sex, sudden violence and surreal twists. Illuminated throughout with gorgeous illustrations by Natalia Gasson, this is a novel that will charm, unsettle and baffle in equal measure.”
Alex Preston, Financial Times
An English Guide to Birdwatching is available from the Freud Museum Shop.
Nicholas Royle has been Professor of English at the University of Sussex since 1999. He established the MA/PhD programme in Creative and Critical Writing in 2001 and is founding director of the Centre for Creative and Critical Thought. He has published many critical books, including Telepathy and Literature (1991), The Uncanny (2003) and Veering (2011), as well as numerous essays about Freud, literature and psychoanalysis. His first novel, Quilt, was published in 2010.
Adam Phillips is a practising psychoanalyst and a visiting professor in the English department at the University of York. He writes regularly for the London Review of Books, the Observer and the New York Times, and he is General Editor of the Penguin Modern Classics Freud translations. In his latest publication In Writing (Hamish Hamilton, June 2017) Phillips celebrates the art of close reading and asks what it is to defend literature in a world that is increasingly devaluing language.