Peter Pouncey was born in Tsingtao, China, of English parents. At the end of World War II, after several dislocations and separations, the family reassembled in England, and Pouncey was educated there in boarding schools and at Oxford. A classicist, former dean of Columbia College, and president emeritus of Amherst College, Peter Pouncey lives in New York City and northern Connecticut with his wife.
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Is it true that this novel was twenty-five years in the making?
Twenty-three actually. The first part I can remember writing can be dated to early fall 1981: the story of a boy taking his mother rowing on a lake in the highlands of Scotland. The boy, as far as I remember, had no name. The sequel to the rowing in the present book is the same boy taking (and putting back the next day) a Golden Eagles egg from its nest on a cliff above the lake, which was not written till 1991 at the earliest; by then he was called MacIver. So it was all a slow evolution and a complex series of layers and accretions. There was no particular agitation, or even urgency, about the slow rate of progress. I was heavily engaged elsewhere at the time, studying the writings of the ancient historians or being a college dean or president, and I looked at these escapes into my imagination as a relief and relaxation from sometimes more stressful preoccupations. In the end, there was a chest filled with pages to draw on. And when you are two-thirds of a century old, it is borne in on you that this may be the last chance to complete what you most wanted to do.
You mentioned your work on the ancient historians. What influence have the ...
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