P. Traven (as he is not known to his family and friends) was born in 1960 into a world he never made. His informal education started alongside formal schooling in Cambridge and London, moved to a new stage during six years spent in Japan, and is still continuing. He has been an academic, but now works in publishing. P and his French-Canadian wife are among the three writers who collaborate on the website Marxist.org.uk and the blog associated with it, Socialism in an Age of Waiting (SIAW).
Why do you blog? > To test and develop ideas about politics and culture; to communicate with likeminded people beyond this little corner of the world; to have an alternative to shouting at the TV or throwing the newspaper across the room.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Tell yourself, as often as necessary, 'It's only a blog'; write about what you want to write about, not what anyone else insists you ought to; feel free to ignore this or any other advice from other bloggers, since we're all novices too.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Not heroes, exactly, but exemplars: Spinoza, Diderot, Marx and (on a more personal level) Paul Hirst.
What are you reading at the moment? > The Collection (essays and reviews) by Peter Ackroyd, and (re-reading) Galapagós by Kurt Vonnegut.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Not heroes, but Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir, André Breton and Luis Buñuel did a lot more good than harm - and that's just the Bs.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Ulysses - but my favourite novels also include Vanity Fair, Buddenbrooks, The Radetzky March, The Waves, Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials.
What is your favourite poem? > Marvell's 'The Mower to the Glow-worms', Yeats's 'The Circus Animals' Desertion', Wendy Cope's 'Spared' (her response to 9/11), Simon Armitage's 'About His Person'.
What is your favourite movie? > Depending on mood and circumstances, one of the following: almost anything directed by Orson Welles or Luis Buñuel, Andrei Rublev, L'Atalante, Chinatown, Harold and Maude, The Last Emperor, Mulholland Drive, The Night of the Hunter, Some Like It Hot or Tokyo Monogatari (Tokyo Story).
What is your favourite song? > This week I have been mainly listening to the Velvet Underground, 'All Tomorrow's Parties'; Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band, 'Big-eyed Beans from Venus'; Roxy Music, 'Virginia Plain'; Gang of 4, 'Of the Instant'; Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 'Learning to Fly'; and Johnny Cash's version of 'Hurt'.
Who is your favourite composer? > At the moment, Ives, Shostakovich, Sibelius, Steve Reich, but next week or next month who knows?
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you’ve ever changed your mind? > Depends what you mean by 'major'... No, not since my late teens, but I've made numerous adjustments on the details and implications of major issues, and expect to make many more.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > The doctrine of the lesser evil - or, rather, wider acceptance that everybody applies it anyway, including those who primly disown it.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > The pre-Enlightenment notion, still widely exploited even in institutions that owe their very existence to the Enlightenment, that vital issues of universal concern can and should be reduced to technical problems, to be addressed only by a select few who have special access to esoteric scriptures and rituals (liberal philosophy, mainstream economics, management studies, cultural studies, 'Trotskyism').
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Edmund Wilson's To the Finland Station, which, despite some errors and absurdities, remains an unsurpassed exploration of the achievements - and limits - of authentically radical theory coupled with research and action (as opposed to the obscurantist nit-picking, divorced from research and action alike, that now passes for 'radical theory').
Who are your political heroes? > The word 'heroes' should be reserved for such courageous people as the voters of Iraq on 30 January, and others who risk or even give their lives for authentically noble causes, from Winston Churchill, without whom fascism would have achieved global dominance, to the far more congenial figures of Rosa Luxemburg and Victor Serge.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > 'All that is solid melts into air.'
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > The enactment of a law requiring the election by single transferable vote of every decision-making body, public and private, with exemptions (if any) permitted only after a referendum of the relevant electorate. If (!) the politicians prevent that, then congestion charging in every major city.
What would you do with the UN? > Give the buildings in New York over to regular re-enactments of a certain scene in North by Northwest, make the specialised agencies more autonomous and more transparent, and establish a smaller but marginally less disgusting association of liberal democracies, with an assembly of directly elected delegates.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Brutal and reactionary dictatorships, and the useful idiots in the West who help to prop them up, including (birds of a feather) 'expert' academics and diplomats as well as (lilies that fester) whole swathes of the left.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > The best is yet to come, but probably after a very dark period of neoliberal triumphalism, rampant irrationalism and international conflict. Keep an eye on East Asia, and fasten your seatbelts.
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? > No (and I can't think of anyone who has been able to).
What is your favourite proverb? > Saru mo ki kara ochiru ('Even monkeys fall from trees') - roughly equivalent to 'Even Homer nods'.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > Spend much more time in northern England, ditto in Japan and its neighbours; pay more attention in science classes; read fewer pamphlets from deservedly obscure political sects and a lot more science fiction.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > Ewan McGregor or Johnny Vegas, whichever of the two was cheaper.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Somewhere along the Kintetsu Line in Nara Prefecture, Japan.
What would your ideal holiday be? > A long journey from Estonia, via Finland and European Russia, to take a third trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway - but, for lack of money, Molvania is more likely.
What talent would you most like to have? > Ideally, composing music; slightly more realistically, playing a musical instrument.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Peter Cook, Tommy Cooper, Eddie Izzard, Kathy Burke.
Which baseball team do you support? > Hanshin Tigers.