Home is any place where peace of mind comes easily

This Is the Way

Gavin Corbett was born in the west of Ireland and grew up in Dublin, where he studied History at Trinity College. This is the Way is his second novel.

The story is told from the point of view of Anthony, a Traveller, and although it is set in Dublin with several geographical indications, we do not get a specific sense of place. Is it what you wanted to achieve throughout the novel?

Partly, yes. Two or three worlds collide in this novel, and I aimed to create a rather dazed and woozy tone to reflect that. Bear in mind too that, with its first-person narration, in a heavily-accented voice, it’s a very internal novel. I had to stay true to this character. His voice and his way of seeing things took primacy over my writer’s urge to describe things like Evelyn Waugh might have described them. That said, several people have told me that the way Anthony responds to his environment in Dublin strongly evokes the mood of Dublin. I guess you’d have to have experienced Dublin to know that.

How meaningful was it for you to express orality through (free) indirect speech?

It was important for me that the reader doesn’t just engage with the story but senses that a story is being told here, perceives that Anthony is working through his storytelling chops. He comes from an oral storytelling culture, though he’s become disconnected from that culture, so by telling this story he feels he’s somehow locating himself not just within the story itself, but within that culture too.

Kevin Barry wrote in The Guardian that the prose of the novel could bring to mind Ross Raisin or Peter Carey. Did you feel you were influenced by any writer in particular when you wrote this novel?

Yes, although I have to admit I’ve read neither Raisin nor Carey, which seems disgraceful. I’m forever being recommended In God’s Country or True History of the Kelly Gang. There are just too many books to read! Of the writers I have read, however, Beckett, Faulkner, Selby Jr, Donleavy, Kelman, Hoban – all these were inspirational and instructive, particularly with regard their management of voice.

Was it a deliberate choice not to include the word Traveller in the novel?

Yes it was – and well done for noticing! In my own mind, Anthony and his people are Irish Travellers, but they’re people whose folklore I’ve completely made up, and whose names I’ve made up. Hoban’s Riddley Walker could have come from these people. Stig of the Dump could have come from these people.

The first paragraph of the novel opens on the narrator in a hotel room, which could seem impersonal but where he feels good, settled. Is home where the mind is?

Home is any place where peace of mind comes easily, whether that’s in a room you’ve decorated with objects that reflect yourself, or in a blank room that feels like a new beginning. And that’s what this room feels like for Anthony, at the start of the book. But as you know, things go rapidly downhill.

Editorial reviews (6 reviews)

Corbett is brilliant at creating an utterly original—and beautiful—language to portray this young man's alienation from the world. An inventive and beguiling book.

Corbett gives us language that is its own form of mysticism; as in Malone Dies this mysticism’s best use is in spinning yarns, in being mystified, in seeking peace and finding none.

In This Is The Way Gavin Corbett has created a character whose own journey mirrors the act of reading and he has done this with more than the usual cleverness.