Search the Site
  • CRASH! How I Lost a Hundred Billion and Found True Love (Kindle Single)
    CRASH! How I Lost a Hundred Billion and Found True Love (Kindle Single)
    by Julian Gough

    The UK Kindle Single #1 hit.

    Jude lives in a henhouse with no roof, that he bought for ten million euro, at the height of the Irish property bubble. One day, his mortgage is rated the debt in Europe most likely to default... The political and financial elite of Europe arrive, with a plan: help Jude put a roof on his henhouse, stabilize his debt, and reassure the markets. It all goes horribly wrong.

    "This novella is very funny – laugh-out-loud at times…Gough is one of our most talented satirists" — The Irish Independent

  • Jude in London
    Jude in London
    by Julian Gough

    Shortlisted for both the Guardian's Not The Booker Prize, and the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, Jude in London is an epic, comic exploration of the bizarre love triangle between language, consciousness, and reality. Which is all very well, if you're into that sort of thing.

  • Jude: Level 1
    Jude: Level 1
    by Julian Gough

    Shortlisted for the 2008 Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction.

    The novel's prologue won the biggest prize in the world for a single short story - the BBC National Short Story Prize.

    "Sheer comic brilliance" - The Times

    "The best comic novel I've ever read" - Tommy Tiernan

    "Could be the finest comic novel since Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman" - The Sunday Tribune

  • Juno and Juliet
    Juno and Juliet
    by Julian Gough

    My first novel, of which I am very fond. The adventures of teenage twin sisters Juno & Juliet, in their first year away from home. Life, love and literature, in Galway and Tipperary.


    "Like Roddy Doyle in an extremely good mood" - The Washington Post

    "A modern, at times brilliantly ironic reworking of the classical fairytale, with nods to Shakespeare, Austen and Beckett." - Literary Review

    "Hugely entertaining" - Vogue

Mail Me
Powered by Squarespace

LEAKED: Full Text of President Donald Trump's First Foreign Speech

OK, legally I can't tell you how I got my hands on this... but below is the full, leaked, text of Donald Trump's first foreign speech, written by him in the toilet of Air Force One, on his way to Saudi Arabia...

I've typed it up in full beneath the photo, because his handwriting is terrible.



-Julian Gough


 Photo of President Donald Trump's first foreign speech



FROM: President Donald Trump

TO: The speach guy

RE: My trip to Saudi Arabia, Isreal, and the Vatican. (That’s in Belgum, right?)


I know I’m supposed to write a different speach for each country, but I’ve got a lot on my plate right now, no politician in history has ever had as much on their plate as me, I write so many speaches, great speaches, very Presidential, the best speaches, a lot of people are saying. So, you get one speach.

Here is my speach.

Tell McMaster not to mess with it.


My Foriegn Speach


It is a pleasure, and an honour, for you to stand here today. It seems so recently that I won the biggest electoral college victory ever, and humiliated Crooked Hilary, AND WHERE ARE THOSE EMAILS, HEY? (Leave a little pause here on the teleprompter, for cheers.) And now, here I stand, the winner, in

Saudi Arabia


the Vatican

(Just knock off the ones I’m not in.)


And you’re probably asking, what is a winner like me doing in a place like this? Because let’s face it, you guys are great, great guys, but you haven’t done a lot lately. Some people might say you’ve been a little pussy-whipped by all the feminism, hey guys? I’m not saying it, but some people say that. Well, I’m here on the tour, biggest tour ever, because I love the Islam, and Jewish people, and the Catholics, they’re all the same to me. Great guys. At least you’re not rapists, like the Mexicans. (NOTE: Ivanka just told me Mexicans ARE Catholics. Can you be both? Check this. May have to change line to, “At least you’re not rapists like the Mexicans. Except the Catholics. You’re rapists.”)


People say I’m a racist, but that is totally not true. I don’t see colour. I see money. Money is very fair, very not racist. Even some black people are allowed to have money, and I don’t have any problem with that. Bill Cosby. OJ. Great guys, personal friends of mine. So I’m not a racist. And when I look around

the Mecca


the Vatican


with the gold roofs and the gold, what are them towers called, and the gold ceilings, I see a lot of money. You are good people. Great taste!


The Islam




Is a great brand! And believe me, I know a great brand with great taste and a global reach when I see it. We should work closer together. Amazing branding opportunities, for both of us. For instance, a golf course. This place could do with a golf course. People can’t pray all day, they need to relax after a hard day’s praying. It’s, you know, humanitarian. Talk to my kids later, they’ll be around. Trump and God, you can see it right? Together at last. Beautiful. A lot of gold. Tasteful. Great branding. They call it sinnergy now. Sinnergy! Hard word. A lot of people don’t know that word. But I do.


And you’re standing there wondering, do I love you? Really love you? Because people say I don’t love the foriegn. Liars say it. The press, fake media. Not true. Not true. I love the foreign! I love foreign golf courses, Scotland, Alaska, Hawaii, Rhode Island. I love foreign money, with the little faces on it. I love foreign burgers. A Royale with cheese! I love that. Love that. I love foreign ice cream. I love foreign pussy. Bring me some later. Ha ha! Just joking. The media never know when I’m joking. Crazy. (NOTE: Not joking. Can you arrange that? Also, the ice cream. Extra scoop. Later. Off camera. That’s important. NO CAMERAS FOR THE SECOND SCOOP.)


And the Islam! The Islam. What can I say about the Islam. (Someone put something nice in here about the Islam. But not too nice. Don’t let Steve write it, I’m gonna be in the Mecca, very hot there, touchy people, and they have those swords. Do research, go on the Wikipedia. Miller knows how.)


Goddamn it, now Ivanka tells me Belgum isn’t in the Vatican. It’s another country, a different one. Four countries! You guys are killing me. People don’t know Belgum is a country, they should write it in their name, Belgum (A Country), it’s causing confusion, they could get into trouble.


Does Belgum really need its own piece of speach? I could reuse the Islam piece, there’s a lot of the Islam in Belgum now, right? OK, OK, Ivanka says no, fine, fine, I’ll write some more.


Belgum… that’s the waffles, right?




Uh, had a little nap.




Had another nap.


Got to go, golf.


I’ll wing it.


OK, that’s my speech.




(See, I even made that foriegn, for the Japs.)





We Need To Talk About China

Ah, China. And Chinese economics... I have been obsessed with China, and in particular its uniquely lunatic economy, for the past few years. Why? Because Chinese economic policy has been the biggest elephant in the global economic livingroom since 1989, lumbering around breaking things while the West says "Elephant? I don't see any elephant. Owch, my foot."

A charming and self-explanatory graph, courtesy of The Daily Reckoning, Australia

I’ve come up with, and abandoned, half a dozen plots for satirical stories about the Chinese economy, I’ve written draft after draft of a satirical BBC radio play about the Chinese economy, I’ve read and researched obsessively on the subject. And, every year or so, for the past five years, I have opened up a new file in Scrivener, and started, with furious energy, to write an over-long and over-complicated blog post about China, and how its mysteriously placid economic surface masks a series of catastrophic Communist Party decisions, over the past thirty years, which will lead at some point to China’s implosion, economically and socially… Each time, the post becomes book-length, and I abandon it… Well, here we go again.

Here’s my take on China, boiled down.

In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell; democratic protests swept China; and the Party panicked. They murdered unarmed protesters across the country (including the students in Tiananmen Square), arrested four million people across the country in the following weeks, and then tried to pretend nothing had happened.

Party leaders were determined that China would not collapse like Soviet Russia. So they abandoned Soviet-style economics, and built a gigantic new national financial system, modelled loosely on the Western financial system; but with the state performing every function. As Carl E. Walter and Fraser J. T. Howie put it (in their excellent book Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China’s Extraordinary Rise), “The state is involved at every stage of the market as the regulator, the policymaker, the investor, the parent company, the listed company, the broker, the bank and the banker.”

And the state decided that 8% economic growth was the target; and the entire economy was configured to hit this target… Well, if you only look at the GDP figures, the Party succeeded. Western free-market economies go up and down like yo-yos, but China has not had a recession since 1976. Even more ridiculous, it's not had so much as a single year of low growth since 1990.

But those reassuring figures mask the roaring balls-up the Communist Party has made of the real economy, particularly in the past decade. Pre-2005, although growth was horribly lop-sided and manipulated, much of it was at least real: the cities that needed connecting were being connected by road and rail; ports and airports were being built in places that needed them; financial reforms were being pushed through; etc, etc.

In 2005, the financial reform program ended, when the leading reformers were ousted (like Zhu Rongji) or died (Vice Premier Huang Ju)– China’s GDP growth figures have been, increasingly, bullshit, driven by terrible lending by the state banks to state industries, massive malinvestment in ever-more-useless infrastructure, and a huge property bubble that has built entire cities and airports in the wrong places.

China’s banks have gone bust once every decade since the seventies, but each time the government managed to recapitalise them, or roll over the bad loans, without writing down the debts. It can’t write them down, because it owes itself the money; to cut the value of the non-performing loans is to say the state can’t pay its debts. It’s trapped. Every bank collapse is a sovereign debt default: and so there can be no bank collapses. But at this point, in my opinion, they’ve finally run out of road. Total debt in China has exploded to unprecedented levels in the past five years.

China, now, is essentially a multi-trillion dollar Lehman Brothers, circa 2007, but with a billion employees. It looks OK, but it is totally hollow; it’s massively leveraged, it’s out of capital, a shit-ton of the assets on its books are in fact worth nothing, and people are starting to believe it’s not good for its promises.

And so China isn’t going to collapse like Soviet Russia; it’s going to collapse like Lehman Brothers.

A giant, weird, slow-motion Lehmans, because it owes the money to itself. So, it will take some time for the collapse to take place. It can print money, roll over debt, do all the things it’s been doing for decades. But, in propping up the fake economy of 8% growth forever, they’ve broken the real economy.

When China finally gets its recession, it's going to be so godawful that it will almost certainly destroy the legitimacy of the Communist Party, which, after 70 years in power, is essentially an incompetent, wildly corrupt, third-generation mafia. Sure, there are some good people in there, but the system itself is totally corrupt, and corrupting, with no mechanism to reform it; and all the alternatives to the Communist Party have been annihilated. Plus, the concentration of power, wealth and influence at the top of the Party has made the leadership of China essentially hereditary, with all the incompetence that entails. (For western examples, think King George III and IV of England, or Presidents George W. Bush I and II, of the former colonies.)

OK, a prediction isn’t a prediction if it isn’t specific. A vague “bad things will happen… somewhere… sometime…” doesn’t count. So here goes.


  • The recession will come within the next three years, and will be extremely deep: the Chinese economy will shrink, for the first time in nearly 40 years (and that’ll feel horrendous, from 8% growth to negative growth).
  • Many State Owned Enterprises will go bust; the Chinese banking system will collapse; the enormous shadow banking system will collapse; the Chinese stock market will collapse (well, that’s been happening while I wrote and edited this, over the past week or two, so no credit for that prediction).
  • How this collapse of the financial system plays out is hard to predict, as it’s all the Chinese state owing itself money, and printing money to pay itself. But that pressure should break the renminbi, which is a joke currency anyway. And pretending to fix the banks won’t work, if nobody believes in them as a safe place to store assets any more.
  • In the real world there will be massive unemployment across China (over 15% officially but far more in reality).
  • Social unrest will get out of control, with huge street protests and riots in the cities and in the countryside; uncontrolled population movement (something the Party has always feared and tried to control through the hukou residency permit system, which will break down); and anger expressed through violence against anything associated with the Party. (You’ll see a lot of police stations on fire.)
  • I believe the Party will lose legitimacy; will lose control of the country; and that, within the next decade, China will break up: Neither Tibet nor the Muslim, Turkic-speaking Uighur territories in Western China can be held without a functioning Party and Army to enforce their occupation.


That’ll do for now.

So why didn't I finish writing and editing all my previous China blog posts, and put them up? Well, the story was so big, and I kept trying to say everything in a single post. But you can't. (And there was always fresh information, new knowledge.) And it was always so much easier to just post a link, or make a sarcastic remark, on Twitter. Sigh. Twitter has ruined my ability to blog. And, five years ago, I felt that if I said "China will collapse", it was probably too soon. I figured China's leadership would be able put it off for another few years.

But now I don't think they can put it off much longer. They will try; but this time I think it's over. I suspect the shadow banking system has already begun to collapse (along with the housing market and the stock market), and with it the Party leadership's control over events.

Anyway, my greatest regret, as a (former) blogger, is in not posting my thoughts about China. (Every few weeks, for about three or four years now, I’ve woken in the night groaning, why didn’t I blog about China six months ago?) So, over the next few months, I'm going to try and put down a few years' worth of thoughts. It's too late for me to get credit for the prediction, but it's not too late to be part of the conversation. And we're going to be talking a lot about China over the next 5 years.


Where The Hell Was I?

Hi! How is everybody? Good? It's been a while...

Jeeeeez, look at the state of this website. It’s covered in MOULD. I need to spring clean. Fumigate. Pour petrol on it, torch it, and start again. Also, I need to transition the whole site to the new Squarespace architecture. I’ve been meaning to do that for the last two years. Goddamn. (You can tell I’m listening to a lot of Marc Maron lately, can’t you? It’s a seductive voice. SEDUCTIVE.)

Julian doing something mysterious, somewhere tasteless. Photo by Solana Joy.

Why have I neglected my website?

1.) Twitter. (Hypocrite Twitter! My blog’s tongue-tied brother, my blog’s tiny, deformed twin!)

2.) I’ve been writing a novel called Infinite Ammo (more on that in a second).

3.) My Kickstarter last August, set up to fund the completion of that novel, blew up, and raised nearly six times what I’d asked for, and took over my life for a while (the parts of my life that weren’t already obsessively writing a novel). And one of the best things about Kickstarter (I’ve backed a few projects there, as well as launching my own) is that, as a backer, you get regular updates. So I’ve been updating my lovely backers since August; but writing an update satisfies the blogging urge. Thus, no blog posts here.

So if you want to catch up on the last six months of my life (Las Vegas! Singapore! Russia! Guns! Germs! Ice cream!) go read all the updates on my Kickstarter. It’s called The Las Vegas Postcards, and all the public updates are there, just click. (There have also been a few private ones between me and my backers, but a guy has to have some secrets.)

Oh, the novel: It’s finished. I finished it last week. Hmmm? What? Is it a relief? Oh man, it’s like putting down a piano you’ve been carrying everywhere for three years.

So, today (hey, Saint Patrick’s Day! My middle name! Auspicious!), my beloved agent Charlie Campbell started sending it out to the select few publishers out there with the right type of traumatic childhood and subsequent deep-seated personality disorder to fully appreciate it. I think it’s my best book. (Although it’s so radically different from the Jude books, that’s like comparing an iPhone with some bananas.) 

Anyway, the London Book Fair comes up next month, and there may be some hot contractual action by then. We’ll see. Whatever happens, I’ll tell you instantly on Twitter, later on Kickstarter, and eventually here. It is all very exciting.

OK, now go love each other (yeah, enemies and all, you know it makes sense).




Extreme Metaphors: Selected Interviews with J.G. Ballard, 1967-2008

To celebrate the paperback release this week of Extreme Metaphors: Selected Interviews with J.G. Ballard, 1967-2008, I've reprinted my Irish Times review of the 2012 hardback, below. (That original review has now vanished into the Irish Times archive, behind the paywall.) For those too busy to read the whole review: basically,Extreme Metaphors was my book of the year. I read it with delight, frequently chortling. An extraordinary alternate history of the 20th century, packed with prescient ideas which help explain the 21st.

- Julian

A photo of my copy of Extreme Metaphors, taken five minutes ago. The image links to more information, from the website of one of the editors, Simon Sellars.


Extreme Metaphors: Selected Interviews with J.G. Ballard, 1967-2008

Edited by Simon Sellars and Dan O’Hara

Fourth Estate

503pp, price £stg25

J.G. Ballard might be the greatest English writer of the 20th century. He was certainly, for much of the second half of that century, the least understood, and most misread, when he was read at all. In 1970, when Nelson Doubleday Jr, a senior executive at Ballard’s American publishing house, finally got round to reading a finished copy of The Atrocity Exhibition, he was so horrified he ordered all copies pulped. In the UK, the reader’s report for Ballard’s 1972 novel Crash famously said “This writer is beyond psychiatric help. Do not publish.”

But live long enough, and respectability eventually covers you, like jungle vegetation claiming a wartime runway. In 1984, his most nakedly autobiographical novel, Empire of the Sun, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Martin Amis says on the back of this handsome hardback collection of interviews, “Ballard will be remembered as the most original English writer of the last century.” Will Self concurs; “Ballard issued a series of bulletins on the modern world of almost unerring prescience. Other writers describe; Ballard anticipated.”

Ballard most certainly did. The chapter of The Atrocity Exhibition which so disgusted Ballard's own publisher was titled “Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagan”. In it, Ballard portrayed the former Hollywood actor, who’d co-starred with a chimpanzee in Bedtime for Bonzo, as President of the United States. It would be over a decade before reality caught up with Ballard’s imagination.

Indeed, some of the interviews here are almost comically prescient; Ballard predicted Facebook before the internet even existed. In 1979, dismissing the BBC and ITV news as “that irrelevant mixture of information about a largely fictional external world”, he describes a future in which we video everything, and

“…the real news of course will be a computer-selected and computer-edited version of the day’s rushes. ‘My God, there’s Jenny having her first ice cream!’ or ‘There’s Candy coming home from school with her new friend.’ Now all that may seem madly mundane, but, as I said, it will be the real news of the day, and how it affects every individual.” (And yes, he goes on to predict Youporn…)

He predicts the future; but he also questions the present. And many of the questions he raises here have not yet been answered. The real issue, behind all the fake issues, in this year's American election [2012], was summed up succinctly by Ballard in 1984, talking to Thomas Frick:

“Marxism is a social philosophy for the poor, and what we need badly is a social philosophy for the rich.”

As with a number of the more interesting American SF writers of his era (Philip K. Dick, Thomas M. Disch, John Sladek), Ballard became a science fiction writer by default. The SF market was the only available outlet for fiction this odd. But he is not a science fiction writer. He is not, indeed, a writer, in the normal sense of the term. Ballard is a visual artist. He makes the point again and again here; the greatest influences on his works are not other literary works; they are the paintings of the surrealists. As he said in an interview with James Goddard and David Pringle in 1975,“They’re all paintings, really, my novels and stories.”

And it is true. You read his spare, functional prose, and the most astonishing images erect themselves in your mind. The beauty of the sentence itself didn’t interest him. (This makes him hard to quote: reading Ballard, you drift into a dreamstate which can’t be evoked in a couple of lines.) Certainly he set much of his work in the future. But there isn't a space ship to be found. (Well, OK, one, in an early story.) As mainstream SF explored outer space, J.G. Ballard explored what he came to call inner space. He wasn't similar to SF writers like Heinlein and Asimov and Arthur C. Clark, he was their opposite, a point he makes in an interview from 1975:

“You can’t have a Space Age until you’ve got a lot of people in space. This is where I disagree, and I’ve often argued the point when I’ve met him, with Arthur C. Clarke. He believes that the future of fiction is in space, that this is the only subject. But I’m certain you can’t have a serious fiction based on experience from which the vast body of readers and writers is excluded.”

I get the feeling J.G. Ballard passed Ireland by. He was seldom piled high on the front tables in Easons. Seen, perhaps, as too English for our tastes? But of course, he wasn’t English at all. His sensibility was formed in Shanghai, where he was born to English parents in 1930; and in particular in the vast civilian internment camp of Lunghua, where he was interned by the Japanese (at the age of 11), along with his family. In this book he frequently talks of never getting used to the England he first encountered aged 16, in 1946, as a traumatised child of the tropics.

Exiled from Shanghai, an alien in England, Ballard nonetheless had a spiritual home. No matter where his books were ostensibly set, Ballard always wrote about America; not as a place, but as a state of mind. America as a condition. America as a psychological disorder… He loved America. Though Crash is set in England, on the motorways connecting his quiet home in Shepperton to London, the cars in Crash are American cars. His Shanghai childhood — in an Americanized Asia — was a century ahead of its time. He grew up in the future. As a result, these interviews have aged well. It helps that Simon Sellars and Dan O’Hara have edited this 500 page book with such love, intelligence, and deep knowledge of the material and its context. Extreme Metaphors presents, in chronological order, 44 interviews from the many hundreds he gave. (The editors estimate the total wordage of the novels as 1,100,000; short stories, 500,000 words; non-fiction, 300,000… and interviews, 650,000.) The interviews they’ve chosen have a very low fluff content. Many of the best originally appeared in long-vanished, never-digitised, photocopied fanzines, and are genuine, deeply engaged and engaging conversations about important subjects. Nobody is trying to sell you anything (it’s often impossible to tell what book Ballard is supposed to be promoting).

The wide range of interviewers adds to the pleasure of the book. Ballard attracted intense, usually male, interviewers, who had a deep engagement with his work. There is a pleasantly kaleidoscopic effect, as each sees Ballard through the lens of their obsession. Fellow novelists Toby Litt, Will Self and Hari Kunzru take a literary approach. John Gray is philosophical. The Russian Zinovy Zinik gets Ballard to talk about Soviet utopias and dystopias. With Iain Sinclair, Ballard discusses the design of 1970s multi-story carparks in Watford. (Ballard; “They covered them in strange trellises. It was a bizarre time.”)

And he is very open. When Joan Bakewell says of Crash, “Now, this is a deeply disturbing book. Were you very disturbed when you wrote it?” he replies “I think I was. I think in a way the novel is the record of a sort of mental crash that I had in the mid-sixties after the death of my wife…”

Ah, death. Yes, it’s everywhere in his work. Ballard’s fiction is largely set in the dead spaces of the modern world. Underpasses, flyovers; abandoned and disintegrating runways; nuclear test sites; blockhouses; drained swimmingpools. The tide of humanity has gone out. What is left is returning to the natural world. The atmosphere is that of Max Ernst’s Europe After The Rain. The organic and the inorganic are inextricably linked. Things grow, and things crumble. The work of man is absorbed by the jungle.

It’s hard, reading this book, not to think of contemporary, Americanised Ireland, with its motorways and drive-thru McDonalds. Of Dublin, with its low corporate tax rate, reckless financial zone, and Euro-HQs of American corporations; with its expat communities of British, German and US workers in gated dockside settlements, surrounded by grinding native poverty; an open city, in a state too weak to defend itself. Dublin was, for a decade there, the closest thing Europe had to the booming, buckaneering Shanghai of the 1930s.

Now, in neglected Dublin back gardens, the outdoor hot tubs fill with dead leaves. Beyond the M50, the ghost estates are reclaimed by the whitethorn bushes. Ireland has become a Ballardian landscape. Given the extraordinary relevance of his work to Ireland’s psychological condition, it might be time for more Irish people to start reading J.G. Ballard. And this lovingly curated book of interviews is a fine place to start.

I will be very surprised if any novel this year gives me as much pleasure as this book. And I can guarantee (now that Ballard is dead) that no novel will contain so many provocative, intriguing, and visionary ideas.

Julian Gough is an Irish writer, living in Berlin, whose work was shortlisted this year for both the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize and the BBC International Short Story Award. His latest novel, Jude in London, is out now in paperback from Old Street Publishing.



Ireland After The Bailout - A Few Thoughts

My mum voting in the recent referenda, in our local national school, in Nenagh, Co.Tipperary


Ireland is about to emerge from the bailout process that she was forced to enter when her banking system and economy collapsed in 2008. Will Ireland emerge like a butterfly from a chrysalis, or poop from a butt? We shall see...

Anyway, that fine and thoughtful journalist Conor Pope of the Irish Times asked me a few questions last week for a long piece he was writing on the subject.

I haven't read the article yet (I'll link to it here when and if it goes online), but I'm familiar with the way that quotes in an article can become unmoored from what you actually said (no matter how good the journalist, or the paper). That's just the nature of a daily newspaper's high-pressure, high-speed editorial process. Qualifiers get left out; the first half of a balanced argument makes the cut because you said it in a sexy way, the second half doesn't 'cause you didn't; a subeditor in a hurry can accidentally trim the punchline from a joke, or, in tightening up a saggy sentence, accidentally flip its meaning on its head. (Yes, all these things have happened to me. No, I'm not looking at you, New York Times, or Prospect, or Financial Times, or GREY Magazine, or The Times, or The Believer, or any of the little literary magazines. YES, I'M LOOKING AT YOU, GUARDIAN.)

Also, I miss the good old days, pre-Twitter, when I frequently blogged about economics from a novelist's perspective; I thought posting this might jolt me back into that habit. Plus, I gave myself a headache thinking about all this, and I know that, at best, only a couple of lines will make the finished article. (Conor has talked to a lot of people.) So, if anyone is interested, here's what he asked me, and here are my answers in full...


How would you explain the madness that gripped Ireland during the boom and why did so few people see the calamity coming down the tracks in 2006? 

I wouldn't give us a hard time over this. We were part of something much bigger than Ireland; the structural problems with the Euro blew up all the peripheral economies. Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain; the way the Euro was set up almost forced them into classic, credit-driven bubbles, in their national flavour. The bubble just came down the easiest credit channel. In Greece, it expressed itself through state patronage; in Ireland, it expressed itself through property & mortgages, etc. If the founders of the Euro refused to see the coming problem, even thought they were warned by several grumpy economists at the time, then we can hardly be blamed for not spotting it.

Also, we were drunk at the time. And high. Not all of us, but a startling number. I’m going to guess that our consumption of alcohol, cocaine and credit all mapped onto each other fairly exactly in the bubble years. Again, I don’t blame us. We were coming out of centuries of relentless, grinding national poverty. And when you’re poor, you don't need to cultivate a habit of restraint. You spend till you run out of money; you drink till you run out of drink. Poverty stops you killing yourself drinking, and lack of credit stops you killing yourself with debt. But give a poor society unlimited drink, or unlimited credit, and it's likely to end badly. I stopped going out in those years, because my friends were putting three or four €70 bottles of champagne on their credit cards and saying, sure we’ll split the bill at the end of the night. And I’d be nursing a single glass of fizzy water for five hours. Socialising became impossible; being frugal was seen as being disapproving, or difficult. We were drunk on credit, and everything looked more and more beautiful the drunker we got. Until we ran out of drink, and had to deal with the hangover. Countries that have been wealthy for a long time have to develop internal habits of control. You won't see the Swiss drinking their wages, because that would kill them.


What impact did the scale of the banking crisis have on Irish people? 

What about the bailout? What impact did that have? 

 ((Yeah, I'm in Ireland a lot, but I live in Berlin now. I didn't feel qualified to answer these two questions, so I skipped them.))


Repeated studies have shown that in spite of the horror show, Irish people have remained happier than in previous recessions - why do you think that is? 


The recession removed the unpleasant, highly competitive status anxiety that was the least attractive aspect of the bubble years. We are much more respectful of our friends’ feelings now, of their situation. Much more sensitive to the fact that they might not be able to afford to keep up. I was so pleased when I started to see party invitations that say, no presents. Strip away the material things from a relationship, and, if the relationship survives, it strengthens the relationship, it doesn’t weaken it. We see each other to see each other, now, not to show off. Also, this is a recession, not a famine. It's only a recession relative to the boom. It's a very painful adjustment, but we still have colour TV and the internet. And the suffering has been spread relatively evenly, across the classes, which gives a sense of solidarity. We’re in the shit, but we’re in the shit together.


We seem to have accepted all the austerity - imposed first by our own masters and subsequently by the Troika without so much as a murmur. What, do you think, does that say about us as a nation. 


I know there’s a lot of bemoaning this, but I think it reflects well on us as a nation. It’s only money; it’s only stuff. Fuckit, we still have each other, and nobody died. That’s a good attitude. If we took to the streets and had a revolution because our investments went badly… No, that’s not us. What’s tragic is that some people have been destroyed psychologically by their losses. But what is marvellous is that most people have not been. Their identity was not tied up with their property, their self esteem did not collapse along with their bank balance.


What impact - both psychologically and practically - do you think the bailout exit will have?


Not a lot. It’s a shaky exit. The Eurozone still has enormous problems, we haven’t really fixed a lot of what went wrong. The European financial system is still under horrendous strain. I don’t think the story of the Eurozone crisis is over yet, and through no fault of our own we may yet be dragged back into it.


And do you think we have learned from our mistakes? Property prices are rising in Dublin - and to a lesser degree in other urban centres - could we possibly allow another bubble to inflate or have we learned our lesson?


Well, if you don’t fix the fundamental problems; and the ECB and Germany and France have not fixed those problems, just stuck some enormous band-aids over them; then yes, another bubble could well inflate. But that’s not because WE haven’t learned from our mistakes. That’s because Germany, the country on the other side of all these imbalances, and the cause so much of Europe’s structural internal imbalance, still doesn’t believe it has made any mistakes. We've acknowledged our errors. Germany has not. Let’s not give ourselves such a hard time… I think Ireland's behaved well, and with remarkable restraint, under very difficult circumstances.  We've held together as a nation, unlike Greece say, which has been massively divided and embittered by their crisis; and at an individual level I think we've, by and large, looked after each other.