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Alan Hollinghurst has always written about gay life in uncompromising and sometimes explicit detail but this hasn’t stopped him becoming the darling of the literary establishment. In 2004 he won the Man Booker Prize for The Line of Beauty but it’s been six years since his last novel, The Stranger’s Child. As excitement builds in the run-up to publication of The Sparsholt Affair, Hollinghurst grants Winq the first interview about a book that’s set to win him even more acclaim

At his home in Hampstead, north London, Alan Hollinghurst is signing thousands of copies of his new novel for a special limited edition to be sold in Waterstones. Even though the publication of The Sparsholt Affair is being hailed as the literary event of the year, he admits to feeling nervous.

If the novel itself is anything to go by, he certainly has nothing to be nervous about; The Sparsholt Affair is a masterly work that can only reinforce his reputation as the supreme stylist of British fiction. It evokes the intimate lives of three generations of the Sparsholt family, from Oxford University in 1940 to London in the present day, and once again showcases Hollinghurst’s exceptional talent for wit, tenderness and social comedy.

After making fresh coffee, he invites me into the lounge, where books are piled on every surface. On the walls are paintings and photographs from various periods and genres arranged in a salon hang. Through the open windows, which offer a view of Hampstead Heath, comes the calming sound of the wind blowing through the trees.

As we sit on the sofa, despite his nervousness Hollinghurst seems chirpy and eager to talk about a fictional world in which he’s been immersed for the past six years.

Why did it take you so long to write The Sparsholt Affair?

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About Winq

The new autumn issue of Winq includes a world-exclusive interview with Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin as his long-awaited memoir is published. And Booker-Prize winning author Alan Hollinghurst gives his first interview about his latest novel, The Sparsholt Affair. We also chat to Andrea Riseborough about playing Billie Jean King’s girlfriend in Hollywood movie Battle of the Sexes, and comedian Simon Amstell tells us about mixing stand-up with self-help. We look at the reality of gay life in South Africa, often held up as the most accepting country in Africa, and examine the reasons why Scandinavia has become one of the most liberal parts of the world. Plus we meet the gay man who looks after London Zoo’s gay penguins!

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