I think it's terribly important to watch TV. I think there's a sort of minimum number of hours of TV a day you ought to watch, and unless you watch three or four hours of TV a day, you're just closing your eyes to some of the most important sort of stream of consciousness that's going on!
I was born in the city's general hospital on November 15, 1930, and we lived at 31 Amherst Avenue in the western suburbs. It was a magical place. There were receptions at the French Club, race meetings at the Shanghai Racecourse, and various patriotic gatherings at the British Embassy on the Bund, the city's glamorous waterfront area.
Even one's own home is a kind of anthology of advertisers, manufacturers, motifs and presentation techniques. There's nothing 'natural' about one's home these days. The furnishings, the fabrics, the furniture, the appliances, the TV, and all the electronic equipment - we're living inside commercials.
I've seen descriptions of advanced TV systems in which a simulation of reality is computer-controlled; the TV viewer of the future will wear a special helmet. You'll no longer be an external spectator to fiction created by others, but an active participant in your own fantasies/dramas.
I don't think any particular painters have inspired me, except in a general sense. It was more a matter of corroboration. The visual arts, from Manet onwards, seemed far more open to change and experiment than the novel, though that's only partly the fault of the writers. There's something about the novel that resists innovation.
At the school I attended, the clergyman who ran the cathedral school in Shanghai would give lines to the boys as a punishment. They expected you to copy out, say, 20 or 30 pages from one of the school texts. But I found that rather than laboriously copying out something from a novel by Charles Dickens, it was easier if I made it up myself.
My room is dominated by the huge painting, which is a copy of 'The Violation' by the Belgian surrealist Paul Delvaux. The original was destroyed during the Blitz in 1940, and I commissioned an artist I know, Brigid Marlin, to make a copy from a photograph. I never stop looking at this painting and its mysterious and beautiful women.
I only realised why I keep living in Shepperton when I returned to China. All the people who moved there had come from places just like Shepperton, and so they built and lived in houses exactly like these. I now know I was drawn here because, on an unconscious level, Shepperton reminds me of Shanghai.
When the modern movement began, starting perhaps with the paintings of Manet and the poetry of Baudelaire and Rimbaud, what distinguished the modern movement was the enormous honesty that writers, painters and playwrights displayed about themselves. The bourgeois novel flinches from such notions.
Burroughs called his greatest novel 'Naked Lunch,' by which he meant it's what you see on the end of a fork. Telling the truth. It's very difficult to do that in fiction because the whole process of writing fiction is a process of sidestepping the truth. I think he got very close to it, in his way, and I hope I've done the same in mine.