Essex academic publishes new memoir

  • Date

    Fri 6 Apr 18

Self and I

What would it be like to work as a live-in assistant for an iconic author? Essex academic Matthew De Abaitua has the answer.

He emerged from his time with Will Self with a new name and a different perspective on what it means to be a writer.

Matthew, a lecturer in Creative Writing from the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies has published a new book which illustrates his experience working and living with Self.

In the early 1990s Self, a newly divorced and highly sought-after author on the British literary scene hired creative writing graduate Matthew as his live-in amanuensis (writer’s assistant). Matthew was only 22-years-old when he moved in with the author at his Suffolk cottage from 1994 to 1995.

He explained why he decided to write a memoir:

“My plan was threefold: firstly, to recall this specific time in the cottage that had a wild humour to it; secondly, to recall the early Nineties and what is was like to live in the last time before the onset of the internet; thirdly, to write about wanting to be a writer in a way that my students at Essex, where I teach creative writing, could connect to.”

Matthew has worked as a magazine and television editor and published three science fiction books. In 2008 he was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for his debut novel, The Red Men. However, he was inspired to write his compelling account after completing his creative non-fiction book The Art of Camping: The History and Practice of Sleeping Under the Stars.

He said: “I started making notes on Self & I soon after the publication of The Art of Camping. I wanted to write about rites of passages, those times in our lives when we undergo change. My time in the cottage with Will Self was a crucial rite of passage after which I emerged with a different name and a sense of what it would be like to become a writer.”

Self & I: A Memoir of Literary Ambition is available now to purchase online at Eye Books or Amazon.

Follow Matthew on Twitter or visit his website,