David Nicholls, who was recently long-listed for the Man Booker Prize for his latest novel Us, is on a reading tour of Germany until 24 October, supported by the British Council. In this article written on a train journey from Munich to Hamburg, the writer shares his current cultural highlights.
PLACE: Vienna. I’m slowly ticking off the great European cities, and Vienna is the latest. I was quite amazed by the place, which manages to be both stately and absolutely modern, with wonderful cafés and restaurants and, of course, incredible museums. The Bruegel room in the Kunsthistorisches might just be my favourite spot in all of Europe.
FILM: The Great Beauty. I’ve followed Paolo Sorrentino’s movies ever since The Consequences of Love. I’ve enjoyed them all, but his work with the great Toni Servillo always stands out. It’s one of those great actor-director pairings, like Wilder and Lemmon or Scorcese and De Niro, and La Grande Bellezza is their masterpiece. Servillo is brilliant as the ageing socialite Jep, vain and complacent and yet strangely charming and sympathetic. The film also contains the best party scene in modern cinema.
TV SHOW: Girls. Lena Dunham divides opinion, but I think this is a great show; smart, witty, shocking, funny and true, it makes me hugely jealous. Like any long-running show it can be patchy, but I’ve never seen an episode that hasn’t made me laugh out loud, often at a look or a throwaway line. Adam Driver is a brilliant comic actor too, always giving the lines an unexpected twist or intonation.
BOOK: A pair of novels, in fact, written ten years apart. Evan S. Connell’s Mrs Bridge(1959) tells the story of a rather conventional mid-Western housewife and the everyday domestic dramas of her middle-class life. Ten years later, the author returned to the family with Mr Bridge (1969), telling the story from the husband’s point of view. Told in a series of short vignettes, the books are wonderfully wry and funny about marriage, family and social convention, and were an inspiration for my latest novel, Us. I hope that, like John Williams’ Stoner, the hugely under-rated Mr Bridge and Mrs Bridge some day get the attention they deserve.
David Nicholls is a best-selling writer of fiction who has also worked as an actor, script editor and author of screenplays. He is the author of Starter for Ten (2003), The Understudy (2005) and One Day (2009), a love story spanning 20 years. Starter for Ten and One Day were turned into feature films. David Nicholls also authored the film version of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, which was released in 2012 – that same year, he participated in the British Council Literature Seminar in Berlin to commemorate the work of Dickens.