Audrey Magee’s first novel The Undertaking is the story of a marriage of convenience between a German soldier on the Eastern Front and a woman he hadn’t previously met, whose attraction to each other deepens amid the agonies and depredations of war. We glimpse inside her writer’s den.

Where are you now?

In my study.

Where and when do you do most of your writing?

Here, in this room.

If you have one, what is your pre-writing ritual?

Walk, followed by cup of tea and toast. Always with marmalade.

Full-time or part-time?

I was part-time for The Undertaking, but my children are now of school-going age, so I have a little more time at the desk.

Pen or keyboard?


How do you relax when you’re writing?

With a cup of tea – another one – staring at the trees.

How would you pitch your latest book in up to 25 words?

A WWII German soldier marries a woman he doesn’t know to escape the Eastern Front. They meet, fall into a kind of love and…

Who do you write for?

For anybody who struggles to understand why we still see war as a solution.

Who do you share your work in progress with?

Johnny, my husband.

Which literary character do you wish you created?

Kafka’s Josef K.

Moderato Cantabile

Moderato Cantabile, Oneworld Classics edition, 2008

Share with us your favourite line/s of dialogue, poetry or prose.

“Inside me contend

Delight at the apple tree in blossom

And horror at the house-painter’s speeches.

But only the second

Drives me to my desk.”

From ‘Bad Time for Poetry’ by Bertolt Brecht.

Which book do you wish you’d written?

Ottolenghi, The Cookbook – it would make life so much easier to be able to cook like that!

Which book/s have you most recently read and enjoyed?

Pereira Maintains by Antonio Tabucchi.

What’s on your bedside table or e-reader?

Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, Eleanor Catton’s Luminaries and Judith Kerr’s When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.

Which books do you feel you ought to have read but haven’t yet?

Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time) – all seven volumes.

Which book/s do you treasure the most?

My Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras – I was 16 when I read it for the first time, forever altering my relationship with literature.

What is the last work you read in translation?

The Dinner by Herman Koch.

Which story collections would you particularly recommend?

Pretty much any collection by Raymond Carver or Alice Munro. Or William Trevor.

What will you read next?

Those three on my bedside table.

What are you working on next?

It’s private.

Imagine you’re the host of a literary supper, who would your dinner guests be (living or dead, real or fictional)?

Marguerite Duras, Samuel Beckett, Colette, Balzac, Heinrich Böll, Brecht, and about a dozen clowns should things get too depressing.

If you weren’t writing you’d be…?

Writing. I don’t know how else to function.



Author portrait © Pat Redmond

Audrey Magee worked for twelve years as a journalist and has written for The Times, The Irish Times, the Observer and Guardian. She studied German and French at University College Dublin and journalism at Dublin City University. She lives in Wicklow with her husband and three daughters.

The Undertaking is published in hardback and eBook by Atlantic Books. More info.