Stewart O'Nan's award-winning fiction includes Snow Angels, The Speed Queen, A Prayer for the Dying, and Last Night at the Lobster. Granta named him one of Americas Best Young Novelists. He lives in Pittsburgh.
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A conversation with Stewart O'Nan about City of Secrets
How did you decide to center your new book on the bombing of the King David Hotel?
I've always wanted to know more about the bombing. Most Americans have never heard of it, which seems crazy, especially post-9/11, with our fixation on the uses and abuses of political violence. What kind of characters would consider bombing such a public place a desirable act - so desirable they would risk not only their own lives but those of the people around them to carry it off? In a way, it's the same question Joseph Conrad tried to answer a hundred years ago in The Secret Agent. As usual, writing the book was a way of satisfying my curiosity.
What made you choose to make Brand a Latvian Jew as opposed, to say, coming from a country with a larger Jewish population like Poland or Hungary?
A friend of mine from Lithuania wrote a novel about a family trying to get out in the late '30s. Another friend came from Latvia after the Russians absorbed it, so I associate the Baltic States with complete upheaval. The combination of Russian and German persecution - the strange shift from Russian (during the non-aggression pact) to German and then back to Russian control interested...
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