As a God Might Be

by Neil Griffiths, Dodo Ink, 700pp, £12.99

Thirteen years ago, I received a proof copy of a debut novel entitled Betrayal in Naples by Neil Griffiths. Enclosed was a note saying his editor had moved on but had left instructions to get a copy to me before he went. Uh-oh, I thought, poor guy. Losing an editor before publication is never good. Sure enough, the book went largely ignored, and although it was followed by a second, Saving Caravaggio, shortlisted for the Costa novel of the year, Griffiths soon went silent.

I bumped into him occasionally after that. He ran some workshops at the university where I teach. He attended a public lecture I gave and another time he was at the end of the table at a dinner party. Once I bumped into him in the street. He struck me as a passionate fellow, given to strange enthusiasms and unusual perceptions. I remember him once explaining at length how the best way to understand Kanye West’s albums was to think of them not as music but as architecture.

I knew he was working on a novel, but didn’t imagine it would ever come out, still less be a 700-page one about theology and architecture that is the most exciting book I read all last year.

It’s taken Griffiths seven years to write As a God Might Be, and he says the reason why he initially struggled to find a publisher is because of the religious content. He claims he’s been told that he will go to hell for writing the book and that it wouldn’t find a publisher because of the debatable notion that Britain is a “secular” country.

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