Media 11 April 2013 Preview: Julian Barnes on Christopher Hitchens, David Cameron and Rupert Murdoch The novelist gives a rare interview to Soumya Bhattacharya for the New Statesman Centenary Issue. Print HTML The Booker prize-winning author Julian Barnes has given a rare interview to Soumya Bhattacharya for the New Statesman centenary issue, out today, in which he shares his views on contemporary British politics and culture, recalls his time as a young literary editor on the New Statesman in the mid-to-late 1970s, and talks life, love and loss. On Christopher Hitchens: “He was the most brilliant talker I’ve met and the best argufier. At the Statesman he was largely gay, idly anti-Semitic and very left-wing. Then ripple-dissolve to someone who was twice married and had discovered himself to be Jewish and become a neocon. An odd progress, though he didn’t do the traditional shuffle to the right; he kept one left, liberal leg planted where it always had been and made a huge, corkscrewing leap with his right leg. I enjoyed his company but never entirely trusted him.” On David Cameron and the Coalition Government: “It seems perfectly possible that David Cameron will be remembered as the prime minister who ‘lost’ Scotland and took Britain out of Europe. But then, this is a government with rare powers: who thought you could manage to produce a fall in unemployment combined with a triple-dip recession?” On culture in England: “This has always been a comparatively philistine country [...] this has made the arts – and many artists – resilient and ingenious in the face of poverty.” On Rupert Murdoch: “Murdoch once sacked me when I was on the Sunday Times [...] I do believe in grudge-bearing [...] I think his effect on public life in this country has been malign.” On death and euthanasia: “I don’t want to be a nonagenarian waking up with broken ribs because I have been artificially resuscitated against my will.” On the New Statesman, his first desk job in Fleet Street: “I felt deep loyalty to the magazine and couldn’t believe my luck that I was working for it. There was even a ping-pong table in the basement.” “They [Christopher Hitchens, James Fenton and Martin Amis] were very confident talkers. I was virtually mute in those days. I would sit through editorial conferences praying that Tony Howard [then editor] wouldn’t nod encouragingly in my direction.” On Fleet Street in the 1970s: “I found it a friendly and collegiate world, if over-male; and, yes, where you were going to drink was a daily subject of debate.” To read the full interview, buy a copy of the New Statesman Centenary Issue, on sale now. › Markets and Liberty: Inside Thatcher's Treasury Julian Barnes, photographed by Emma Hardy for the New Statesman. Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics. Subscribe More Related articles SRSLY #49: The Great British Sewing Bee, The Essex Serpent, The Lady Vanishes The long journey home Taylor Swift and Donald Trump are naked in Kanye West’s new video, but is it art?