Leeds’ Alan Bennett: ‘English writers have little to tell me’

Alan Bennett. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Alan Bennett. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire
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Armley-born playwright Alan Bennett has admitted to being “ill-read” and suggested he’s more impressed by American literature than its English counterpart - saying home-grown writers have little to tell him.

The literary legend, 79, who went to Otley’s Lawnswood School, also said that writing had become more difficult with age.

The History Boys writer was being interviewed by BBC4 with National Theatre boss Sir Nicholas Hytner. He said: “I’m very ill-read. I know that sounds overmodest but it’s quite true.

“I like American literature more than I do contemporary English literature. I like Philip Roth, for instance.”

He added: “I don’t feel any of the people writing in England can tell me very much. That may be unfair.”

Mr Bennett, who turns 80 later this month, said that writing had become tougher with age and that the output he had already produced did not give him any comfort.

“I find it harder and harder to write but then I always have found it hard to write. I never really believe in writer’s block; all writing is writer’s block.

“People say: ‘Oh you’ve done so much’. It doesn’t seem to me I’ve done so much. The stuff you’ve written isn’t like upholstery; it’s not something you can settle back in and think, ‘I’ve done so many plays’ and so on.

“It’s not a comfort: it’s a rebuke as much as anything else. You think, ‘Well, I can’t do it now’. And writing is about now.

“It’s about what you’re doing this morning; what you’re sitting at the table, staring out of the window trying to do. That’s still the situation, whatever age I am.”

Mr Bennett’s work includes Talking Heads and The Madness of King George.

Tony Burdin, chief executive of Sheffield Mutual Friendly Society

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