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This interview is taken from PN Review 76, Volume 17 Number 2, November - December 1990.

Karl Miller In Conversation Nicolas Tredell


Nicolas Tredell: You're a man who's been much possessed, in your writing, by duality, above all in your fascinating book Doubles, but also in your earlier biography of Henry Cockburn, and in your recent collection of essays, Authors. Can you tell us about the development of your interest in this theme?

Karl Miller: I kept this interest up over the years because it appeared to me that it was heuristic. You could find things out by asking what was twofold and what was thought to be twofold in the world. I suppose it's also true that my interest in the subject dated from my growing-up in Scotland, where the subject has been rather prominent, in the literary culture and indeed elsewhere. Even people who didn't call themselves great readers spoke in terms of doubles and alter egos and conflict. This was, of course, a preoccupation, coming out of the ancient world, which was European, and worldwide, in the 19th century, and not at all restricted to Scotland: but Scotland was to leave its mark, with the activities of James Hogg, leading on to those of other writers, principally Stevenson. So Scotland was interested in that, and I was aware of it. I always took it with a grain of Scottish salt when I was young, feeling that it was a kind of topos or artifice in literature, an affectation or a style, rather than a rock-solid perception of something ...

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