Olivia Laing: Your Body is a Battleground

Olivia Laing had the idea for her new book Everybody in the summer of 2015 at the height of the refugee crisis in Europe. The chaotic times that followed – including Britain’s vote for Brexit and Trump’s victory in the US elections – only served to heighten her interest in the forces lying behind all this. Why, she wanted to ask, is so much hatred directed at particular types of bodies? The resulting book is a timely investigation of the body and its relationship to freedom, seen through the lens of many people including the renegade psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, Sigmund Freud’s brightest protégé. Fascinating and deeply personal, Everybody is the James Tait Black Prize winner’s first work of non-fiction since The Lonely City, her bestselling study of art and loneliness. This new history of bodies and freedom feels all the more pertinent given that it was published during a pandemic. Laing joined the 2021 Edinburgh International Book Festival to discuss the book and her ideas with poet and novelist Helen Mort.

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