The Next Chapter·Proust Questionnaire

David Bergen believes that home is an emotional place, not a physical one

In this 2014 interview, the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist took The Next Chapter's version of the Proust Questionnaire.

The Winnipeg author is shortlisted for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize for Here the Dark

David Bergen is shortlisted for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize for Here the Dark. (Thies Bogner)

David Bergen is a Winnipeg novelist and short story writer. In 2005, his novel The Time in Between won the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

He was subsequently shortlisted for the Giller Prize in 2010 for The Matter with Morris and longlisted in 2016 for Stranger.  He's back on the shortlist in 2020 with his short story collection Here the Dark.

 Here the Dark is a collection of short stories that explore faith, loss and moral ambiguities.

In this 2014 interview, Bergen takes our version of the Proust Questionnaire. 

Name your favourite writers.

"I have a number of favourite writers. My favourite of favourites is Cormac McCarthy. I loved reading Westerns as a young boy. But then coming across McCarthy, I realized that he raised the Western to a whole new level." 

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? 

"If I could change one thing about myself? It would be my impatience. I inherited it from my father. My best way of correcting myself around my own impatience is to observe how impatient my father is. Then I say, 'Oh, yeah, that's what I don't want to do.' That's probably the one thing I want to change." 

Your favourite painter?

"Lucian Freud would be my immediate answer. How he depicts the physical body, I think in many ways, is how a writer should write about bodies. What he does is he exaggerates. He shows us the warts and the weirdness of the physical body — and that makes us pay attention."

It is the biggest prize in writing in Canada. Today, the longlist for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize was revealed and Winnipeg author David Bergen has made the cut. He joined Marjorie Dowhos on Up to Speed! 6:43

Your favourite occupation? 

"Carpentry. For every book that I've written, I've done a renovation. I can go around and point at parts of our house and say, 'Well, that was this novel, that was another novel…' 

"I usually do it after the novel has been submitted, is going into print but before it comes out, which is an anxious period. I find that carpentry is a wonderful way to assuage that anxiety." 

Where would you like to live? 

"I like living where I live, which is Winnipeg — except in the depth of winter. I find that it's a great place to work. It's a great place to write. 

I like living where I live, which is Winnipeg — except in the depth of winter.

"And of course, that's where my friends and my family are. I would like to be or live wherever my friends and family are. It's not a geographical place, it would be a more emotional place."

What is your greatest extravagance? 

"My greatest extravagance would be my fondness for shoes. I have far too many shoes and boots and I can't wear them all." 

Author David Bergen speaks with CBC Manitoba's Marcy Markusa about his Writers' Trust Matt Cohen Award win. 5:43

What's your greatest fear? 

"I have a tremendous fear of heights. Every time I go up onto a balcony that looks out over, let's say, 30 storeys down, I have a great urge to jump. 

"I suppose that's what happens with phobias — that you want to jump into what the phobia is. I tend to stay away from railings. When anybody else near me goes close to that railing, I want to drag them back."

What's your greatest achievement? 

"Initially I would say writing my first novel, but I have to change that and look at my children. Managing to raise four children... raise is perhaps the wrong word. It's to bring them into the world and push them out into the world. 

If I could change one thing about myself? It would be my impatience. ​​​​​​

"In a very simplistic way, perhaps, getting all four of them to get their driver's licenses and teaching them how to parallel park.  

"That's a pretty good achievement, actually."

David Bergen's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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