Hari Kunzru on Conspiracy Groups and Capturing the Slow Slide into Horror
In Conversation with Brad Listi on Otherppl
Hari Kunzru is the guest. His new book, The Red Pill, is out now from Knopf.
From the episode:
Hari Kunzru: What I wanted to do with the book was to give a sense of a sort of slide. My experience of the last few years has been of wondering how far things were going to go and trying to calibrate the sense that there was a very profound shift going on. And I have to say, I don’t think that shift has been ended by the the dismissal of Trump. I think it’s a larger thing. In a way, what we’re living through is that the internet is a sort of acid or solvent eating away the norms of the pre-internet age.
But the novel starts off as if it’s going to be a kind of campus comedy. This guy is offered a residency, a prestigious residency, in Germany, and there are some colorful and annoying characters that he’s with. And that’s almost a sort of genre; it’s a very familiar idea, the grumpy intellectual who’s going to spar with his peers. And then it slides away from there, as you say, into a kind of examination of his state of mind as he gets more and more untethered from reality. And he has a breakdown, and the book is fairly is explicit that this is a sort of psychotic break that he has.
But the question that interests me is that the rational reaction to now is this feeling of panic and horror and a sense of being unmoored and not having your bearings anymore. Isn’t that actually, in some ways, the correct reaction to have in these times? To understand that the terms and conditions which you were understanding things by are no longer functioning.
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Hari Kunzru is the author of five previous novels: White Tears, The Impressionist, Transmission, My Revolutions, and Gods Without Men. His work has been translated into twenty-one languages, and his short stories and journalism have appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, The Guardian, and The New Yorker. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Public Library, and the American Academy in Berlin. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.