Books

Art & Lies

May 25, 1995

‘There is no such thing as autobiography, there is only art and lies’. 

Set in a London of the near future, its three principal characters, Handel, Picasso and Sappho, separately flee the city and find themselves on the same train, drawn to one another through the curious agency of a book.  Stories within stories take us through the unlikely love-affairs of one Doll Sneerpiece, an 18th century bawd, and into the world of painful beauty where language has the power to heal.

Art & Lies is a question and a quest: How shall I live?

‘If we want language to be handled with vitality and suppleness, if we want to consider serious questions of philosophy, art and sexuality, if we want writers to aspire to beauty, then we should be glad of Jeanette Winterson…she is a writer who will continue to astonish, to please and to vex. Art & Lies does all these things’ Literary Review

‘Brave and ambitious’ Independent

‘Winterson’s belief in love, beauty, and most of all, language, is evangelical and redemptive…it is timely and exciting to read’ Rachel Cusk, The Times 

You printed a section from Strauss’s opera Der Rosenkavalier at the end of this book.  Why?

It is the proper end to the book. I’m looking forward to an e-version of Art and Lies, so that readers can hear the music. Obviously the piece is for three voices, but it is also music of surrender and understanding – the point reached at the end of the book by Handel, Picasso and Sappho. If you can, please listen to it. I can’t, as yet, put it on the site for copyright reasons, but I’m working on it.

Some people find this book very difficult. What do you say to that?

Why should literature be easy? Sometimes you can do what you want to do in a simple, direct way that is absolutely right. Sometimes you can’t. Reading is not a passive act. Books are not TV. Art of all kinds is an interactive challenge. The person who makes the work and the person who comes to the work both have a job to do. I am never wilfully obscure, but I do ask for some effort. Certainly Art and Lies is my most closed piece of work. Perhaps it is hermeneutic, though no more so than plenty of books by plenty of guys .It was written at a time when I was looking inwards not outwards. It is thickly layered, concentrated and often dark. But it’s a book not a crime. If you don’t like it, don’t read it.

Publication: May 25, 1995

Publisher: Vintage