ABOUT ROD MADOCKS

I’m not very fond of literary biography, particularly my own. I prefer my books to speak on my behalf.  The work is all that really counts and it will tell you more than any biographer. Aside from all that, I’m a nobody, an embarrassment to a forward-looking society, a  contrarian writer. I’m dealing in a dying trade as books are being produced at a great rate but I get the feeling they are being read less and less and what is actually written seems so often to be weak stuff served up to those whose minds have already been captured by received ideas. What Edward Gibbon described as “the slumber of orthodoxy” seems to have settled in – a place where literature struggles to live. There are still some excellent writers out there, diamonds amidst the gravel heaps. I could name them but I think it best that you discover them for yourselves. As for me,  I continue to interrogate the self and to conjure up inspiration from whatever the moment brings me. I count the day a failure if no words get written down. Writing is pretty much the only thing I can do and I’m resolved on going down with the ship. I’ve ‘self-actualised’ to borrow a tacky term from the therapy industry. In a time of deceit then it’s especially important to tell the truth that’s why I’ve finally embraced the fact that I’m a recusant, a rejecter of the modern myths and delusions that people often live by nowadays. I prefer to dig down through all the kitsch and the crud to the dark places where fragments of the old gods lie. Guided by dreams, travelling along occult pathways, I write in order to discover the startling truths that have always been sequestered within me. As Pascal observed, “You would not have sought me unless you had already found me.”

If you really want facts: I was born in Broken Hill, Northern Rhodesia in the last stages of empire.  Neither the empire, the country nor that place exists by that name any longer yet Africa lives on within me. The scary buffeting of my African life  helped make me tough-minded and self-reliant and shaped in me a realistic view of humanity and a sense of the fragility of notions of ‘progress’. It also gave me a sense of the natural world as both Kali, The Destroyer, and at the same time an ever-flowing source of redemption and healing. I survived ten years of mauling in boarding schools during a tough Rhodesian childhood. Not for me, our contemporary rhetorical displays of wallowing victimhood though. I came away from my tormentors hardened and wary and thanking them for teaching me about the fierce passions of the adult human. I was a vacuum in my youth, inhabited by differing selves that fought like netted fish. My bones growing, bending, giving way under the weight of all sorts of crooked thoughts and obscure yearnings. I was definitely damaged, but held onto a strange faith that the artistic life could save me in the end.

Rod Madocks - writer

A redbrick university in England opened its doors to me in the days when you only needed a bit of talent to get into literature courses rather than a redundant mass of ‘A’ grades. I’d learned a love of books in Africa and went on to study literature and to teach at a university in Texas, U.S.A. I completed a Ph.D. on the work of Vladimir Nabokov in 1982 then quit the university scene for good. Those claustrophobic academic corridors were not for me. Working as a professional gardener for six years was a real privilege. I also held down dozens of other manual jobs then I retrained as a psychiatric worker. Then followed twenty years of my mental health career in Britain where I specialised in high risk forensic cases and worked in a maximum security psychiatric facility. The patients taught me so much and I felt strangely at ease in those locked environments. Perhaps my unusual childhood  had given me a nostalgie du prisonnier. 

I left my career early in my mid-fifties, sold my house and began to live the writing life. The meaningful placement of words means everything to me. I view both writing and living as being essentially about finding the magical. I think now I understand that I write books in order to free myself from the ideas that would otherwise imprison me. I’m a late-comer but I’ve learned quickly. As St. Augustine observed, “Walk fast, o man, before the shadows come…”

As for the rest, dear reader, well, you’ll have to work it out for yourself. ….

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