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Esther Freud: “In the end a writer has to sit down and actually do it”

The novelist on the horrors of the past, the people she most admires and whether you can teach her craft

By Prospect Team   July 2021

Illustration by Nick Taylor

What is the first news event you can recall?

I grew up in the country as part of a Rudolf Steiner community—no television, very little modern history—and although we must have had a radio I don’t remember ever hearing the news. But I was 15, in London visiting my father (the painter, Lucian) who bought every newspaper every day, and there, splashed across the pages of a colour supplement, were photographs of the genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. I was stunned. How could such atrocities take place? How was it possible for human beings to behave…

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