Writer Michel Faber has said he believes his latest novel The Book of Strange New Things (Canongate), published today (23rd October), will be his last one, saying: "I think I have written the things I was put on earth to write. I think I've reached the limit."
Interviewed by Erica Wagner at an event held at Waterstones Trafalgar Square yesterday evening (22nd), Faber told the audience that The Book of Strange New Things "says goodbye to a lot of things: to Eva [Faber's wife of 26 years, who has died of cancer], and that Prospero/Tempest thing of goodbye to novel-writing."
The book tells of Christian missionary Peter Leigh, who leaves his much-loved wife on earth to take a perilous journey to a remote planet, where he will bring the word of God to the alien Oasan people. Early reviews have termed it "richly suggestive" (the Independent), "a novel so full of ideas, so charged by plot, so odd and wonderful, and written with astonishing emotional precision" (the Scotsman) and "astonishing and deeply affecting" (Guardian).
Last night Faber said: "When you get clever, interesting authors writing about Christianity, they take the piss. I would love to have faith. When you take God out of the universe there is no-one taking care us – we are just parcels of meat, collections of atoms – we have a little flowering on earth and then we're gone. Christians are immensely blessed to be spared that horror.
"I didn't want to add to that pile of books. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion has a notion that eventually the human race will be grown up enough to embrace atheism and give up religion; it's not going to happen…People need hope. The book has immense sadness that there is no-one taking care of us."
The writer noted that his previous novels – including Under the Skin, recently filmed with Scarlett Johansson, and major bestseller The Crimson Petal and the White - "tend to be pessimistic about sexual relationships". He said: "I thought it was high time that paid homage to the fact that human beings can love each other and be extremely supportive."
Faber said he would continue to write short stories, "which no-one will buy because they don't buy short stories", adding that he is also writing poetry about the grieving process.