Michel Faber biography

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Michel Faber
Photo credit: Eva Youren

Michel Faber

How to pronounce Michel Faber: Mih-shell Fay-ber

Michel Faber Biography

Michel Faber is considered Dutch in the Netherlands, which is where he was born; Australian in Australia, because he lived there for so long; and Scottish in Scotland, where he emigrated with his wife and family in 2003. To say this award-winning writer is revered is an understatement.

Born in 1960 in The Hague, Faber studied Dutch, Philosophy, Rhetoric, and English Language at Melbourne University. After graduating in 1980 he took various jobs such as a cleaner, pickle packer and guinea pig for medical research until he decided to train as a nurse in Sydney. He practiced nursing until 1993 when he and his family moved to Scotland. It was there that his wife encouraged him to submit his writing – a practice that he had engaged in since he was about fourteen years old – to short story competitions. He began winning them and Canongate Publishing took notice and offered to publish his works. His first book was published in 1998 and is a collection of short stories titled Some Rain Must Fall. Faber's first novel was Under the Skin, which was published in 2000.

Faber's works are not easy to categorize. Part science fiction, part thriller and part other genres (depending on the specific book), he writes with such subtlety but also depth that he has garnered many awards and much recognition. Under the Skin, for example, was published in over 16 languages and was short-listed for the Whitbread First Novel Award (now called the Costa First Novel Award.) Perhaps Faber's most well known work is his 850-page 2002 novel, The Crimson Petal and the White. Set in 1870s London, very Victorian in breadth and depth, and primarily about a prostitute named Sugar, this book took Faber twenty years to write and was said to be influenced by his love of Charles Dickens' prose and George Eliot's story structure. In fact Faber said of Dickens: "Every critic creates their own Dickens – fearless reformer, craven reactionary, anarchic force of nature, cosy sentimentalist, fierce intellect, self-educated bore, social realist, grand tragedian, slapstick comedian, etc. My own writing thrives on the plurality of conceptions of the world, and examining the way Dickens affects people of different temperaments and value systems is as good a way as any to confront and savour this plurality."

The Crimson Petal does this exactly: "savors this plurality"; and was, of course, very much Faber's own creation, combining a sort of post-modern lens on feminism, post-Freudian sexual pathology and post-Marxist class examination. While it is his most popular work to date, Faber refuses to write a sequel because he does not want to be easily labeled as one kind of writer.

Perhaps because of his skills and history a a nurse, Faber traveled to the Ukraine in 2004 with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) as part of their Authors on the Frontline project, where he, along with 13 other writers, witnessed the emergency medical care that MSF offers around the world. He then wrote an article about his experience – which was specifically centered around HIV care in the Ukraine – for The Sunday Times Magazine in 2005.

To date, Faber has written six novels, 5 short story collections, and one work of non-fiction. For three years he reviewed books for the Scotland on Sunday newspaper, and had a column in The Sunday Herald called "Image Conscious" in which he analyzed photographs. He now reviews books for The Guardian.

Finally, although Faber is wide and wild in his scope of theme, structure and genre, he wants, in the end, to connect with his readers. He said in an interview: "Trust is absolutely precious, and its betrayal horrifies me. I do want readers to trust me. And yet I don't want to offer them a safe, predictable ride. The literary scene seems to be divided between 'trustworthy' authors who give their fans a Big Mac that's totally unchallenging, and more ambitious authors who treat their readers with high-handed indifference. I want to earn the reader's trust while remaining unpredictable. I take the reader to some dark and emotionally uncomfortable places but never just for the sake of it. And I do care about how you're feeling on your journey."

by Tamara Smith, copyright BookBrowse 2014, all rights reserved.

This biography was last updated on 10/13/2014.

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Interview

In two separate pieces, Michel Faber's editor talks about The Book of Strange New Things (2014) and Faber talks about the book in a short video. In addition, in a Q&A from 2002 Faber discusses the challenges of writing The Crimson Petal and The White




Zachary Wagman on Michel Faber: A Boundless Imagination

Michel Faber has proven to be an electic and visionary writer. He has tackled Victorian England in The Crimson Petal and the White, followed an extraterrestrial with bad intentions through Scotland in Under The Skin and retold the Prometheus myth in The Fire Gospel. The Book of Strange New Things is Faber's most ambitious novel yet. It tells the story of Peter, a missionary to the planet Oasis, and his wife, Bea, back on Earth as the planet experiences catastrophic events. Shelf Awareness interviewed Hogarth/Crown senior editor Zachary Wagman about The Book of Strange New Things and his experience of working with Faber.

How long have you been working with Michel Faber as an editor? What was it about him and his writing that piqued your interest?

The Book of Strange New Things is the first book that we've worked on with Michel. I was aware of him, of ...

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Books by this Author

Books by Michel Faber at BookBrowse
The Book of Strange New Things jacket The Fire Gospel (Myths, The) jacket Vanilla Bright like Eminem jacket The Crimson Petal and The White jacket
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All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Michel Faber but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
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    If you enjoyed:
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