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Alumni

Alumni profile - Gabriel Krauze

Booker Prize long-listed author and English alumnus, Gabriel Krauze, discusses the themes of morality, beauty and trauma in his debut novel, Who They Was, the challenges of being labelled a “gangster” in the media, and how his passion for literature made him realise he needed to do something constructive with his life.

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Why did you choose to study English at Queen Mary? I decided to study English because it was always my favourite subject and it was the subject that I was most naturally capable at, but it was also linked to my love and obsession with books and literature; my earliest memory was just reading and being obsessed with books.

I didn’t want to have that experience of going to another city – I wanted to stay connected to the city that I felt very connected to. I read that Queen Mary had a very good English department so I wanted to be at a uni that had a high standard academically, and when I came to Queen Mary and looked around, the fact that it had this huge campus was banging – yeah, I really liked that. Also, when I saw the mix of people at the university, I felt that it was very representative of London and I felt that it would be like a home away from home.

In a recent interview, you said that despite what was going on in your personal life, you never missed a lecture. How did you balance these two contrasting parts of your life? I never missed lectures as much as possible. I think I missed a couple of lectures due to having court appearances early in the morning and then I’d come straight from court in my suit and carry on so that I could make my seminar or whatever. The thing is, a lot of people have talked about – in terms of what’s represented in the book – what they’d refer to as a “double life”. To me, it wasn’t a double life, it was just my life. My life was this mixture of me being involved in a lot of street things, a lot of gang culture and, also, going to university, which was just as much a part of my life as the other things that I was involved in.

There was also a certain aspect to it where it was important to my sense of identity, where I was doing university because it was something I was passionate about – I never hid it from people – and I was the same person at university as I was in the streets. I wasn’t being a chameleon that was adapting to different environments and putting on different masks for different situations – I was just being me.

How aware were your peers and lecturers of your life outside of university? I made a lot of friends at university. I made a couple of very important friends with whom I’m very close to now and there is something very powerful about the way in which literature and the passion for a subject can connect people. You don’t necessarily have to inhabit the same worlds in terms of your personal life if you can bond over your shared love of literature.

I think people were aware of a certain aspect of my life because of how I was. I mean, I was sitting in seminars in my Avirex jacket, with diamond grillz in my mouth discussing Shakespeare, so I think people were obviously like, “He’s not living some typical student life". But on the other hand, my lecturers definitely knew – like, when I went to prison, I was deregistered from uni because I couldn’t let anybody know and then my mum contacted my advisers and told them the situation and they were very understanding.

And that’s one thing as well, quite apart from the amazing educational experience I had at Queen Mary, the way in which I met certain professors who genuinely cared about people - they genuinely cared about their students beyond just handing in 3,000-word essays - had a big impact on me because their kindness and their empathy and understanding helped me to ensure I got an English Literature degree.

So did you open up to some of your lecturers about what was going on? Yeah, my adviser knew certain things because she had to and one of my professors in particular, Professor Jerry Brotton, he was somebody that I felt comfortable enough to open up to about certain situations I was in, apart from being an amazing professor, lecturer and teacher, he was also an amazing person.

Do you feel that that was part of what you loved about being here as well, that it was a safe place where you were accepted as you were? Definitely. And I felt that about the university in general, at least my close experience in the Arts Department and English, I felt that you could be whoever you wanted to be; there was a total acceptance of everybody.

I also liked mixing with people that I wouldn’t have mixed with outside of university and coming into close contact with people from different backgrounds and feeling this kinship with people because we were all studying the same thing. Suddenly, you’re meeting all these people that in normal life you might never have met, might never have talked to, and because we’re in a seminar together and there’s this exposition of our passions – that we’re all passionate about English Literature, that’s why we’re here - it created this unspoken connection between everybody.

You mentioned Professor Jerry Brotton earlier. I have a question for you from him. He asked: Did you enjoy your time at Queen Mary, and if you did or did not, how did it affect your approach to writing? I loved my time at Queen Mary, it was one of the best times of my life - socially and educationally. The way it affected my writing, I learnt how within great works of literature, there are all these layers to what’s on the page - it’s not just a story. A great work of literature is not just about plot and the character’s journey, it’s also about these hidden layers beneath it, of examinations of the world and questions that are asked of the reader as well as of the world at large. I think a great work of literature has all these layers to it, which, when you’re reading as a child, you don’t really explore, you’re just reading great stories which speak to you in a certain way, but at an earlier stage you don’t really understand why this book is speaking to you so strongly, you don’t understand why you feel so connected to a text. At university, that intensive study of literature and various critical texts makes you able to deconstruct a text and understand why something is so powerful or why it’s having such an impact on you.

What were the most rewarding and most challenging aspects of studying for your degree? The most challenging aspect of studying for my degree was the amount of stuff that we’d have to read, but I mean that in the sense that it was also the most rewarding aspect. So, reading texts which I wouldn’t have read, like when I did Modernism, we related it to a lot of philosophy and critical theory and suddenly you’re having your mind blown by these ideas that you’re reading about. For example, Nietzsche, which I was very passionate about and my passion for it came from having to read it for university assignments. Of course, when you’re reading Nietzsche, you have to read it with a dictionary so that you really understand the meanings of words – not in the sense that, you know, I couldn't understand what he was saying, but actually, when you’re dealing with really complex philosophical ideas, you have to be able to get to the root of them if you want to understand them properly. So, the challenge and the reward were kind of one and the same in a sense.

What were your early experiences like after graduating from Queen Mary? Did you have a plan for what you wanted to do next? I didn’t have a concrete plan for after university because I was too heavily involved in the criminal lifestyle that had dominated my formative years. The problem was, it was very bad and I’ve got to say, coming here to the campus, there’s a certain sadness that fills me because it brings back a lot of memories of that time and, you know, living a criminal life is like a huge waste: it’s a huge waste of a life and it’s a huge waste of time and it’s a huge waste of valuable years that you could be using to do something constructive and productive. And it’s tinged with a certain sadness because I remember how deeply, deeply embedded in the criminal lifestyle I was and how destructive it was. I remember I’d stay at somebody’s flat on campus and I’d get woken up in the morning by my mum saying, the police are looking for you, they came and buzzed our door at four in the morning and they went through your room, searching for things and, I was like, yeah, I’ll hand myself in but first I need to hit this lecture at 9am and then the seminar because I need to do them. So, there was this huge juxtaposition of my personal interests.

When I finished uni, I didn’t detach myself from that lifestyle. I carried on with that lifestyle and yet, because of the experience I’d had at uni, it was the beginning of this strong feeling in the back of my mind that I need to escape this life and it needs to stop at some point because it’s not sustainable. And the passion that I had for literature that was basically stirred within me by the degree and everything that I studied for three years at Queen Mary, kind of awoke this feeling in me that I need to do something constructive with my life and it needs to be centred around my passion for literature.

When did you first decide that you were going to write a book? Did the idea come to you straight away? I think when I was 13 years old, I knew that I wanted to be a writer. I remember starting to write this epic novel about the First World War, set in the trenches of the Somme, and it’s interesting because when you’re younger, you don’t know enough in a sense to write on certain subjects, but on the other hand, when you’re experiencing literature and you’re obsessed with books, it does teach you a lot about the world and about human experience without you having necessarily to experience them.

In terms of Who They Was, I was always saying to my friends when I was involved in that lifestyle that’s represented in the book, “One day I’m gonna write a book about all this.” And one of the things that happened is, when the book came out, I got all these messages from friends and they were like, “You finally did it!” and so that was always there. Also, while I was living that lifestyle, I used to obsessively record events as they happened because I was like, I’m not going to remember this accurately in the future. Like I remember this conversation that I had with a barrister in court and he was saying, because I’d been to prison before, “If you go to prison again it won’t kill you, you should just get six lashes,” which I thought was a really funny old school mentality and then he was like, “You’re going to just have to do your time and, you know, read some books when you’re in prison.” I was like “Crime and Punishment?” and he was laughing, and I was like, “Or The Trial by Kafka?” and we had this mad banter basically. I remember it in Southwark Crown Court, and right after that, I got one of the sheets of my probation report and wrote out the entire conversation word for word because I was like, I won’t remember this in the future, and it’s such a good and weird conversation that I have to record it.

And that’s depicted in your book isn’t it? Yeah that exact conversation is in the book, word for word like how it happened. And yeah, I had this obsession with writing things down so, in a weird way, I was already in the headspace of being a writer, but the actual commitment came much later because it depends on how well you can manage your time, in terms of work and you need financial stability so it has to really be your passion. If somebody said to me, “How can I make money?” I wouldn’t tell them to be a writer, you have to do it because it’s a need or it’s an urge within you. I remember I went through basically a year of having this constant feeling and it used to always be, strangely enough, just before drifting off to sleep, I’d have this feeling of, you’re wasting time, if this is what you want to do with your life, stop wasting time, and one day I was like, that’s it, I’m going to write. And yeah, Who They Was is the result.

It’s interesting because the way you depict your life in the book, you had this nomadic lifestyle where you were staying at different friends' houses and sometimes you were back at your parents’, so, how did you hold onto all of these collections of things you’d written down throughout all these times in your life? Was it something that was constantly on your mind? Yeah, so when I sat down to write the book, I had this huge pile of scraps of paper that I’d managed to save and I can’t remember now exactly how I stored it all because I’d leave scraps of paper in different places, but I did always have that sense when I was doing this that it needs to be filed away somewhere properly, it needs to be kept safe because one day I’ll use it as material for this book. So I think in terms of recording it, of course I lived a nomadic lifestyle, but I always had a kind of presence of mind to make sure that somehow I was keeping these records safe and one day I’d be able to use them to write a book.

What was the actual writing process like for you? In terms of my routine – I'd get up in the morning, I’d have breakfast and then I’d sit down to write. I’d saved enough money to commit to just writing for months and not to have the stress of financial pressures. I’m also most productive in the morning and I think it’s interesting because every writer has their own approach – I think that’s one thing that a writer can’t give another writer advice about – I couldn’t give advice to somebody about how to write, they have to find their own technique and what suits them. Some people maybe can write at three in the morning and write all night and that’s where they find their spark, that’s when they’re most productive. Me, it’s a morning thing. If I trigger a good amount of flow and productivity in the morning, then I can sustain it for the rest of the day and I remember there were some days where I’d write for like 11 hours straight and I’d literally only stop just to eat and, often, I’d have a plate of food for lunch on the table with all my notes and sheets of paper and I’d eat it while thinking of what else I wanted to write.

I think relatively uniquely - although I don’t really want to say that about myself – I write pen on paper, so the entire book I wrote with a pen in notebooks and then had to type it up, and I think now, by and large, I would say that, especially my generation and younger generations of writers, they will be at their laptops writing straight away digitally, whereas for me, there’s something organic about the process of writing by hand and it’s just the way that I’m able to express myself in the most natural and truest way that I can, so that’s what suits me.

Did you have moments where you didn’t know what to say, what to write? Yeah, definitely. There were moments during my writing process where I’d spend a whole day and I’d write maybe 100 words and I’d be unsatisfied and unhappy, but it’s better to do that than to not write at all. And, in Hemingway’s book, A Moveable Feast, there’s this great bit when he’s got writer’s block and he’s staring out across the Paris rooftops and then he thinks to himself, just write the truest thing that you know, because as long as you can do that, you’ll always be able to write something. And sometimes that’s what you’ve got to do, you’ve got to sit down and then, rather than trying too hard to think about what you want to write in terms of a story, just write something that’s true to yourself. And even if you don’t keep that in your book or in whatever you’re trying to write, it will trigger something within you in terms of your productivity and creativity.

How long did it take you to write the book overall? It took me just over four months to write the book. I think it was a quick process, partly because I was able to write every single day for eight hours, and that obviously allowed me to be very productive; partly because the book comes from such a personal place. Of course, it’s a novel, it’s a work of fiction, but with the autobiographical side of it, there was nothing I had to invent, I didn’t have to contrive and think about a carefully planned out journey of a character because I was writing about myself and a lot of my own personal experiences. The typing up process actually took longer than the writing process because it was very unrewarding. You know, you’ve gotten to this amazing moment where you’re like, “I’ve written a book!” and now I’ve got to type it up. But what I found very useful about my own process was that, when I started typing it up – that was my first edit.

Was it challenging writing a semi-autobiographical novel? Did you receive any backlash from people who were close to the issues depicted in the book? What feelings did it bring up for you, revisiting these major events from your past? Writing a work of auto-fiction is always going to be challenging because you’re treading a fine line between revealing certain truths which people might not want to be revealed. You also have to have your own integrity; if you think it’s important to tell a certain story, you have to be committed to that. In terms of my personal story, I think some people felt very strongly that what I was doing was immortalising, not only a world, but part of their lives that was important for other people to read about and to understand. What I wasn’t so prepared for, was when the book came out and some people started seeing the written word on the page in this way where you suddenly realise this has the potential to last forever. Some people basically felt that I was breaking certain codes and revealing certain things that I shouldn’t be revealing.

It’s interesting because if a journalist was to write something about some of the events that I describe in the book, they wouldn’t feel that way about the journalist, but it’s because of who I was, that I was in that world for real and that they felt I was breaking certain codes – no one accused me of dry snitching, but people were like, ah you shouldn’t have written about that and I’m like, but everybody knows about it, like it’s not some secret, and they’re like, yeah but you shouldn’t have written about it. So yeah, there’s definitely a difficulty in terms of writing auto-fiction, anything where you’re going to tread on the truth and expose the truth, you’re going to take certain risks.

I don’t have any regrets about what I wrote because it was important to tell the story and it was important to open the window to that world – a world which is basically marginalised. And the thing is, the world of gang culture and of people living in environments that are heavily affected by crime, violence and gangs, they’re marginalised also, not just in terms of the fact that their stories are not told but in the sense that when those worlds are recounted, there are really two main ways in which they’re recounted: they’re either clinically recounted by journalists who don’t understand a lot of things, who get a lot of things wrong in the process of trying to write about them, or who pigeon-hole people’s experiences, or it’s just limited to a few lines in a newspaper article about a stabbing for example. And you don’t know about the complexity of all those people’s lives and what moments led up to that and you don’t know, for example, about the person that committed that stabbing who’s just been portrayed in this very narrow, one-dimensional way as a criminal - what about his dreams and hopes and aspirations? And that’s not to take anything away from the victim but it’s very easy to empathise with the victim. But to empathise with the perpetrator is incredibly difficult, which I understand, but those people do have some value in terms of people understanding the complexities of their story, their lives and their experiences.

The other way in which these worlds are portrayed is often in a very glamourous way – entertainment – like a film about gangsters, everyone goes away from it being like, “I wanna be a gangster”. I mean, all the mandem have posters of Scarface in their bedrooms or they did at some point, and it’s like, did you not watch it to the end? Because it goes wrong! But everyone’s aspiring to that and sometimes the message of those films gets lost because of how glamourous the portrayal is on screen.

One of the things I wanted to portray with my book in terms of writing the truth is how unglamorous it is, how depressing it is, how draining – mentally and emotionally draining - it is and how traumatic it is, because there’s also this aspect where, as young men in that environment, no one would ever admit to being traumatised or carrying trauma with them because that’s an admission of some form of weakness or it’s perceived as the admission of weakness. I personally find it very difficult sometimes because it’s like, the first time I saw somebody get stabbed I was 13 years old. I didn’t think of it at the time as a traumatic experience but when I think about all the experiences and all the things that I’ve seen, nowadays it’s like people throw around the word “trauma” without really understanding the depth of what that word means and what it represents for a lot of people. There’s also an unhealthy attitude among people who are like, “Well get over it because that happened then, and this is now”, which is a completely unproductive and unempathetic approach to other people’s trauma. So, yeah, the whole process of writing auto-fiction can be equally cathartic and traumatic when you’re putting part of your life onto the page.

My biggest advice to anybody who wants to write auto-fiction or wants to write about their own lives is be brave, just be brave and don’t let anybody make you feel that you can’t write what you want to write. And even if you’re going to face backlash and challenges along the way, as long as this is what your heart is telling you to do, it will be worth it – in the long run, it will be worth it.

You were saying that when somebody commits a crime that people find horrific, you have to look at that individual as well. You write about your own experience in the book and your character does a lot of bad things. Do you want your readers to empathise with the character or do you not expect them to? I think I want readers to understand that what they’re reading is the reality of this world and it’s not so much about empathy – I mean, it would be nice to be empathised with, of course. Also, I don’t want to take anything away from a victim’s trauma. For example, the character in the book experiences trauma, but that doesn’t take away from the trauma of the victims, which is ultimately worse because they’re just minding their own business in a lot of situations and then suddenly, they’re the victims of an incredibly violent crime.

But the point is that there’s an unhealthy attitude of, you know, the perpetrator is inhuman, and the victim is human and that’s it – it’s this very binary approach to it. One of the things I’d relate it to is that Nietzsche said that morality is relative to the level of danger in which people live. If you live in a dangerous context and a dangerous world, you don’t live according to the same moral code and, one of the things that I want people to understand in reading this book is when there’s this debate about why young people are involved in gangs and why there are all these knife crime problems and, you know, somebody comes on the news and says, “This has to stop”, and then there are posters put up on bus stops saying, “Bin knives, save lives” and all these kind of things, none of that is going to work, because if you’re committed to living that lifestyle and you’re in that lifestyle, your threshold of empathy and your moral code is completely different and alien to the people who are trying to make a change.

To understand the root problem of young men involved in violent crime, you can’t just be like, oh it’s because the youth clubs are closed down, because also it's incredibly patronising to people who grow up with massive disadvantages and in extreme poverty and then have great successes and do incredibly positive things, to be like oh, it’s because of poverty and because of buildings with broken lifts and not enough youth clubs, because then it’s like, what about the countless other people who grow up in those disadvantaged experiences and situations who make great things of themselves?

There needs to be a more incisive discussion about the psychology of people - the psychology of young men who are drawn to this lifestyle, the psychology of young women who are attracted by that lifestyle as well. I think that’s part of the very important thing about my book that I want people to understand. Ultimately in terms of people empathising with the character, some people will empathise, some people won’t, and some people will find it reprehensible, although, people should be able to see through the violence to the humanity beneath it. But my book is a confrontation; it’s a confrontation with the reader and it’s a confrontation with the world and it’s confronting people about their own sense of morality and their perspectives, so it’s not supposed to be easy, it’s not supposed to be a book that leaves you with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside, you know? And also, I’m trying not to let the reader breathe – I grab them, drag them into the room and it’s like, “Sit down and listen” because this is the reality, this is what it’s really like and this is what it’s really about – not all this stuff that you read in the news or that you see on TV.

With that being said, how would you feel if people wanted to make your book into a film? Well they do, and what I would say is, I would want to have quite a large degree of creative control, because I don’t want people to turn it into a glamourous experience. I want the same level of grittiness and disillusionment that comes from within the book to be portrayed on screen, and to do that, it has to be approached very sensitively. It’s a very delicate procedure to transfer that onto film. But I think it can be done. I think also, there’s a lot of people who can have their eyes opened to things because of what they see on screen and if they’re portrayed right on film it can bring home certain realities.

We did a competition with our students to ask you a question, and the winning question from Tehmina Usman, was: Do you think identity is shaped by your experiences or the internalisation of how society deems you to be? First of all, I’d answer that question by quoting James Baldwin, who said that identity is the garment with which one clothes the nakedness of the self, so I think identity is something that’s malleable and that’s changeable and not fixed. I think the way in which others project identity onto other people is a huge problem and it’s something that, one could say, people almost suffer from.

In terms of myself, one of the worst things that’s happened since my book came out is some newspapers labelling me a “gangster”. I’m not a gangster, I never was a gangster, I’ve never claimed or purported to be a gangster, but they have decided to put that label on me and once they’ve decided to put that label on me, a lot of readers now frame me in that way and it’s an incredibly narrowing thing for other people to do that to you.

I think my sense of identity was certainly shaped by my experiences because, for example, I have a twin brother and we grew up in the same household, with the same family but we have completely different identities and that’s partly to do with how our experiences have shaped us. But in terms of how externalised perceptions are projected onto a person, and then that becomes part of a person’s identity – I reject those projections from society or, you know, from the media – I reject them. But unfortunately, I’m also a victim of the fact that I can’t control that narrative and I can’t control how others perceive me.

I think as well in terms of how that shapes one’s identity, it’s an important thing to remember that, you know, the personal aspect of your identity is what you need to hold onto and you need to stand by that and not allow others to shape your identity. But going back to what James Baldwin said, while the self is the one constant thing, you can change your identity but you should never allow others to change your identity, even when they want to – all you have to do is believe in yourself and your own identity.

What was the day of your book release like and how did it feel to have your debut novel longlisted for the Booker Prize? The release of my book felt almost anticlimactic because I’d anticipated it for so long. There’s a certain moment as a writer I think, where, if you genuinely envision your life being spent as a writer and you want to have that trajectory, once you’ve let go of the first book that you’ve written, you’re already thinking about the next book that you want to write. And by and large, and I would say if you’re a good writer and you want to aspire to be a better writer, you will always be self-critical - it’s a fact that you need to constantly aim for something higher than what you’ve already done.

If I were to try and read my book – which I never will – I would only spot all the flaws with it. In fact, there’s only one line in the entire book where I really feel like, yeah I nailed it there – the line is where I describe people on my block where I used to live, “mandem shottin crack on the block with diamond grillz shining in black faces like fallen gods chewing stars”, and that line is about beauty, because a lot of people see those environments as all rain-beaten concrete and gang members on balconies with hoods over their heads, but I see beauty in that as well, like all those fallen gods chewing stars with the profiles of sculptures of pharaohs from ancient Egypt – that's how I see it.

In terms of the book release, there was also an impatience in that I wanted to get onto the next one. And, some trepidation because you’re like, is my book going to sell? So yeah, there’s a mixture of all sorts of feelings.

Being longlisted for the Booker was completely mind blowing, and I don’t have much to say about it other than it was an honour and it was a vindication to be recognised as somebody who’s a serious writer because, that’s the other thing - I don’t want people to be like, “Ah he’s a gangster and he wrote this gritty book and ah it’s so gritty and it’s so violent and blah blah blah, so edgy”, I want people to also be like, “He writes beautifully”, and to recognise the literary power of what I’m trying to do and the intention behind it which is to bring up these complex moral questions that people should ask of themselves and which should cause them to look at society in a different way.

What was it like being longlisted for the Booker but the book not having come out? Was it different when you started getting public reactions? One of the Booker judges spoke about my book on a podcast in a way where I felt like he hadn’t read the book – I mean, obviously he had – but based on what he said about my book, I was like, “You don’t get it”. And one of the problems I think with critics talking about one’s work is that, readers are more likely to understand in a profound way what you’re creating as a writer. A lot of critic's verge on the possibility of missing the point if they’ve decided to approach it in a certain way. This judge from the Booker Prize said, “This story is about this young guy who lives on a rather dodgy estate”, and it’s like, “Rather dodgy estate?” What, where man are getting head-topped in broad daylight and getting their lives taken? That’s “rather dodgy” to you? As soon as I heard that I was like - you don’t get this book. And, the fact that I’m going to university and reading Nietzsche and then committing crimes at night or whatever and it’s like, no, it’s not humorous, it’s the reflection of the moral complexity of people. I just felt that analysis was very reductive and that’s one of the problems, you know?

I feel much closer to readers who’ve read my book and who’ve responded positively than I do to critics because critics will always to some extent be blighted by their own personal angle of how they decide to interpret something. A reader will also be critical of me and I remember someone wrote something about my book which they started by saying, they’re the kind of person who, when they see violence and sex in films, they fast forward it, and it’s like well then don’t read the book! And then they went on to write this big criticism of my book and it’s like, well yeah, obviously! But at least that’s from a personal perspective and that’s a visceral reaction to it.

What do you want the legacy of Who They Was to be? I want it to be read forever. I want it to last forever. If someone were to come to me and say you can make a million pounds off this book or you can have a million people reading your book but you won’t make any money, without question, I want a million people to read the book and not make money from it. I want it to impact people’s lives, I want it to change the way in which people look at the world around them. And I want people to see beyond the fact that it’s London and knife crime and gang crime and, as well, I want it to be perceived and understood as a story about young people living in climates of violence, which is a universal experience, especially in big cities in the western world. And I want people to see the complexity that young people face in terms of moral challenges and the pressures of different environments and how they affect people. I want my book to be read when I’m dead.

What’s next for you? I’m working on a book that’s about transgenerational trauma, or epigenetics, and it’s basically examining the ways in which people’s lives are shaped by the trauma that their ancestors or previous generations before them experienced and how that impacts their lives and their psyches. I’m particularly fascinated by it in terms of some of my own family history, coming from Poland, and the way in which the country was devastated during the Second World War and how my parents were born into this, kind of, destroyed world, and how it affected them and then how I think part of that was passed onto me. I also read a lot of really interesting stuff about the children of Holocaust survivors, and also the descendants of people who’d been victims of the Atlantic slave trade, and how that affected their psyches and you basically relive an unknown trauma by seeing some of these things and reading about your own history – it can be a very traumatic experience. I’m also working on a film script based on an amazing and largely unknown Holocaust novel which I think is only read on a small university course in Yale and generally it’s not in print.

All I want to do is continue writing. That’s what my life is now, it’s trying to be a writer. And, as long as there’s bread on the table, then I will write.

This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Coordinator, Nathalie Grey. If you would like to get in touch with Gabriel or engage him in your work, please contact Nathalie at n.grey@qmul.ac.uk.

Watch Gabriel's interview with Alumni Engagement Coordinator, Nathalie Grey, below: