David McDuff was born in Sale, Cheshire, of Scottish parents, in 1945. A few years later the family moved back to Edinburgh, and he was educated at George Watson's College and Edinburgh University, where he studied Russian and German. After extended visits to the Soviet Union, Iceland, Denmark and the United States, David settled in the UK, first in Newcastle as a co-editor of the literary magazine Stand, and then in London, where he has worked as a literary translator for many years. His translations include Penguin editions of Dostoyevsky's fiction, as well as books of Russian and Nordic poetry. David blogs at A Step at a Time.
Why do you blog? > I find that it's a useful way of keeping different areas of my interests in one place, and sharing them with others. It also helps to bring together people of my acquaintance who might otherwise not meet at all. Also, a blog is somehow less static than a website - there's more opportunity for change, and reaction to change.
What has been your best blogging experience? > The day I started my blog - it felt like freedom, and it still does.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Being unable to access my blogger.com account because the server was down on a day when I really needed to update an entry. I still think Blogger is an excellent idea, though, in spite of the technical glitches.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Think carefully about how many hours, days and weeks of your time you are prepared to devote to this.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Søren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Lev Shestov.
What are you reading at the moment? > Martin Buber's I And Thou, in German and also in an English translation; and The Labyrinth Of Solitude by Octavio Paz.
Who are your cultural heroes? > August Strindberg, Arnold Schoenberg, Albert Camus, Charles Mingus.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Tolstoy's War and Peace.
What is your favourite poem? > Joseph Brodsky's 'The Thames At Chelsea', both in Russian and in Alan Myers' translation.
What is your favourite movie? > Federico Fellini's La Strada.
What is your favourite song? > The spiritual 'Steal Away'.
Who is your favourite composer? > Mozart.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > The existence of God - I've progressed from being more or less agnostic almost all the way to believing in it.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > The main purpose of life should be the reading of books.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > The end justifies the means.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Lev Shestov's All Things Are Possible. It taught me early on that the world is our home, though not always a very snug one: 'The comfortable settled man says to himself: "How could one live without being sure of the morrow; how could one sleep without a roof over one's head?" But misfortune turns him out of house and home. He must perforce sleep under a hedge. He cannot rest, he is full of terrors. There may be wild beasts, fellow-tramps. But in the long run he gets used to it. He will trust himself to chance, live like a tramp, and sleep his sleep in a ditch.'
What would you do with the UN? > Dissolve it, and start all over again - much easier said than done.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > The inability of thoughtful people in the West to realize the true scope and dimensions of the Leninist and Stalinist terror, its legacy, and the ways in which it continues to survive, in newly evolved forms, throughout the world right now. This, coupled with a lack of proper knowledge of twentieth-century history, especially the history of the Communist world.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > I think things tend to repeat themselves, therefore both the best and the worst will keep on coming back.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Something akin to my answer to the last question, though I haven't really formulated it properly.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > I was, for many years. It worked surprisingly well for a long time. I don't think I could go through it again, though.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Kindness.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Cruelty.
What is your favourite proverb? > A Russian one: 'To live a life is not to cross a field' - though I also sympathize with the 19th century Russian poet Apukhtin, who wrote in one poem that he found crossing a field more difficult than living his life.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Italy.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Playing chamber music.
What is your most treasured possession? > A violin.
What talent would you most like to have? > To be able to paint.
What animal would you most like to be? > A hedgehog.