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Michael Crummey confronts The Adversary

By Kobo • October 04, 2023Kobo in Conversation Podcast

"The Beadle is one of those people: he thinks, I'll be able to control this guy. I'll be able to nudge him one way or another and blunt the worst of what he might be able to do.

And what the Beadle finds out I think, is that you either get swallowed up and actively empower the worst of what's happening. Or you get kicked out. Or you quit.

There is no controlling that."

Michael welcomed poet and novelist Michael Crummey to the Kobo office studio to talk about his new novel, The Adversary. Set in a fictional Newfoundland village called Mockbeggar, it's the story of a lifelong rivalry between two entrepreneurs that escalates into violence and revenge.

The Adversary by Michael Crummey

Through merciless seasons of uncertainty and want, through predatory storms and pandemics and marauding privateers, it is the human heart that reveals itself to be the most formidable and unpredictable adversary for each person drawn, inevitably and helplessly, into that endless feud.

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Michael explained how The Adversary relates to an earlier novel, The Innocents, set not far away and at the same time.

I wanted to write a book that was the exact opposite [...] of The Innocents. [...] The Adversary starts when The Innocents starts: the "killing sickness" in the first line of The Adversary is the same one that orphans the brother and sister in The Innocents.

And the process of writing it also mirrored its predecessor:

When I started The Innocents, part of my feeling was, I don't want to write this. [...] But when I decided to take a shot at it, I thought I'm just going to get this thing out of me—I'm just going to do it. For the first time ever I wrote every single day until I had a first draft. And I don't know if I was thinking of The Adversary as the mirror image, but I did the exact same thing. [...] I don't recommend that to aspiring writers. It's not a particularly healthy way to write a book, but it does feel to me like every book has asked for a particular process.

And Michael reflected on the struggle to write his 2001 debut novel, River Thieves, a bestseller which won multiple awards in Atlantic Canada, was nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award, and was a finalist for the Giller Prize and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize:

I thought, I'll finish it. It will suck. I'll never have to do it again.

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