David Mitchell is the acclaimed author of five novels, including number9dream and Cloud Atlas, and was the only literary author listed as one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in 2007. He was awarded the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize at age 30 for his first novel, Ghostwritten. The film adaptation of Cloud Atlas, directed by Tom Twyker (Run Lola Run), is slated for a 2012 release.
1. Best book about trips or journeys.
So very many - where to begin? Off the top of my head, I suppose. Tim Severin's The Brendan Voyage is a blow-by-blow account of crossing the North Atlantic in a medieval boat made of leather. But please let me have Claudio Magris' Danube as well. It's a beautiful, meditative, literary, literal journey down the Danube from the source of its source to its diffuse delta. It makes you feel both ignorant and a little bit wiser.
2. Which book are you mostly likely to pick as your ultimate survival manual?
The best-selling ULTIMATE SURVIVAL MANUAL by Mad Max, of course. Now in its 4th edition.
3. Which author would you most like to go on a vacation with, and what would you be doing?
I'd like to go hiking in North-West Iceland with Halldor Laxness in the 1930s. But who's to say he'd like my company? It might be a disaster.
4. The Lord of the Flies was once described as embodying the "diversity and universality of. . .the human condition in the world of today". Which character do you reckon you are most like?
Sorry, but I'd have to take issue with that quote. The Lord of the Flies is a damn good book, but there are no women, no non-whites... [but] if I had to answer at gunpoint, I'd say I can see impulses of all the characters in me - the savagery of Jack, the integrity of Ralph, the doomed bookishness of Piggy. I even have days when I feel like the pilot, decomposing in my parachute in the trees...
5. If there was one book you had to burn for firewood, which would it be?
Any self-serving memoir by a politico with wide smile and gimlet eyes. I don't think I'd be short of choice.
6. Which paragraph or line from a novel would you choose for your final 'message in a bottle'?
I'd choose a poem by James Wright: Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm
in Pine Island, Minnesota. I love it.