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David Grann Longlist Interview

29 September 2023

How does it feel to be longlisted?

It’s such an incredible honour not only to have the story of The Wager recognized, but to be listed among so many writers I revere.


How did you conduct your research?

I spent more than half a decade doing research, combing through archives. Miraculously, there is a wealth of documents, including logbooks and journals, that survived the disastrous expedition.

To better understand what the castaways had endured, I also made a trip, in a small wood-heated boat, to the remote island off the Chilean coast of Patagonia, where they had been stranded. The island remains wild and desolate, and after visiting it I could finally comprehend why a British officer had described it as a place where “the soul of man dies in him.”


What do you think motivated the thirty men who landed on the coast of Brazil to paint themselves as the heroes?

We all tend to shape our stories, trying to emerge as the hero of them. But for these men the stakes were existential. They faced the prospect of a court-martial for the crimes they had allegedly committed on the island. If they failed to tell a convincing tale, they could be hanged.


What does The Wager reveal about the complexities of human behaviour and justice in extreme circumstances?

It highlights just how fragile the human condition is. The island where the castaways were marooned was like a laboratory testing them under brutal elements; inevitably, it would reveal the men’s true nature—both the good and the bad.


What are you working on next?

I still haven’t settled on my next project. So please send ideas!