Written On The Body

September 2, 1993

Written on the body is a secret code only visible in certain lights: the accumulation of a lifetime gather there.

In places the palimpsest is so heavily worked that the letters feel like braille.

I like to keep my body rolled away from prying eyes, never unfold too much, tell the whole story.

I didn’t know that Louise would have reading hands.

She has translated me into her own book.

‘This book is a deep sensual plunge, a worship of the body, inside and out’ Guardian

‘Winterson’s novels are about exploding our complacent notions of the real, breaking down received ideas of gender, time and space… John Donne wrote, “Love…makes one little room, as everywhere.” Winterson’s novel arrives at a similar affirmation’ Time Out

‘An ambitious work, at once a love story and a philosophical meditation on the body…the result is a work that is consistently revelatory about the phenomenon of love’ New York Times Book Review

You’ve said this is an experimental novel. Explain?

All my work is experimental in that it plays with form, refuses a traditional narrative line, and includes the reader as a player. By that I mean that the reader has to work with the book. In the case of Written on the Body, the narrator has no name, is assigned no gender, is age unspecified, and highly unreliable. I wanted to see how much information I could leave out – especially the kind of character information that is routine – and still hold a story together.

Is it autobiographical?

No more and no less than my other books. It’s true that I based Louise’s looks and beauty on my girlfriend (still the same one, in case you’re wondering), but that’s no different to a painter using a mistress as a model.

You had a hard time with this book in the UK. Why?

Who knows? Maybe I was doing too well. I’d just had a very successful TV series and I had started to make some money. I was young, outright queer, a woman, working class, etc etc. In the States, none of this obtained, and the book was the one that really cracked the American market for me in a big way. It was also the book that fired-up my European profile. I had done well abroad with The Passion, not so well with Sexing the Cherry, and then Written on the Body just took off. Anyway, journalists are one thing, readers are another. The reader’s response has always been fine, and that’s my touchstone.

Why is the measure of love…loss?

Paperback September 2, 1993

Publisher: Vintage