Sigrid Nunez is the author of the new novel The Friend. Her other books include The Last of Her Kind and Salvation City, and her work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including The New York Times and The Paris Review. She has taught at Princeton and Columbia, among other universities, and she lives in New York City.
Q: Why did you decide to focus on the bond between a person and a dog in your new novel, The Friend?
A: As an animal lover, I’ve always been drawn to the idea of writing stories in which an animal has an important role. I had fun writing Mitz, a fictional biography of Virginia Woolf’s pet marmoset, and I always hoped to write about an animal again sometime.
I’m also a great believer in the power of the human-animal bond, especially the human-canine bond. It seemed like a subject well worth exploring.
Q: What do you think the book says about grief and mourning?
A: That’s a huge question. It took me a whole book to say what I think, or even just part of what I think about grief and mourning, and I can’t possibly give a short answer here.
Q: Why did you decide not to name your human main character (yet the dog does have a name)?
A: This wasn’t a decision I made beforehand. It was something that came with the writing. Any time I thought about inventing a name for the first-person narrator it struck a false note and I knew I couldn’t use it.
Q: Your main character teaches writing, as you have done. Did your own experiences factor into the creation of this character?
A: My own experience as a writing teacher certainly informs the novel, but far more is invented than is taken directly from life.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’ve started a new novel. I’m not ready to give any specific details about it yet. I just hope it flies.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Sigrid Nunez.