Disaster in Antarctica: Jon McGregor on his suspenseful new novel

His Booker-nominated novel Reservoir 13 was a quiet portrait of rural life. Now he has taken on the peril of the Antarctic. He talks about discovering the thrill of page-turning tension

In 2004, the novelist and short-story writer Jon McGregor went to Antarctica. As is so often the way when fiction writers find themselves in unexpected places, the trip was part of an initiative – in this case, the writers and artists programme run by the British Antarctic Survey and supported by the Arts Council. There was no specific expectation or obligation to write about the experience; then again, why wouldn’t you?

But it was easier said than done. Over the intervening years, McGregor – who in 2004 was the author of a single novel, the impressive debut If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things – has built up a striking body of work, including the novels Even the Dogs and Reservoir 13. The latter was an intricate, cyclical portrait of rural life that spawned a series of pieces for radio, The Reservoir Tapes, which themselves became a collection of short stories. Yet still the Antarctic box, an assortment of notes, ideas, photographs and sketches, sat there, resisting the translation to fiction.

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