I can just say that I am happy and very proud of this. Thank you so much, Catherine. It’s an honor for me.
All writers are outsiders. Was your sense of being an ‘outsider’ stronger in Italy, where you were born, or in Ireland, where you now live?
In Italy. Definitely. I spent more than 30 years thinking that I was wrong. It was easy to get there, to that feeling, that conclusion:
I was different from people around me.
I often quote Christian Morganstern: “home is where they understand you”.
In Ireland, I feel myself more understood, more part of something. Less an outsider. Well: I am a North – sider, now!
You once said that ‘being whoever you want, just for a while’ is an amazing feeling. Is this what motivates you to write, the ability to step into another’s skin?
The first important thing, when I started writing (well: when I started trying, at least) was the story.
The urge, the need to tell a story.
Later it has become more a way to “think different”, to try to approach reality from a different point of view. I’d say virtual reality is no news: it has always been there, in stories.
And to experience an alternative reality you have to be someone else: writing gives you that amazing opportunity, and feeling.
What do you find most alienating about modern living, either in Ireland or in Italy?
The lack of empathy. But I have experienced it more in Italy than in Ireland (OK: I am biased…) .
It’s clear that Roddy Doyle’s work has had a profound impact on you. Can you try and tease out what it is you look for in the fiction that you read?
My family is a working – class one. My father has been jobless just like Jimmy Rabbitte Sr.
My mother worked as a cleaning lady just like Paula Spencer (at least we hadn’t the kind of problems Paula had with Charlo: it could be worse, as usual…).
I was ashamed. And I hadn’t a “tool” to deal with that situation. I love the dignity given to the working class that I found in Roddy’s work. Neither pity nor indulgence. But dignity. Anyway: Roddy Doyle, of course, is not the only author that I read! I love another Irish author: John Banville. He uses words as if they were brushes and palette. I love Tolkien and Neil Gaiman. A bit of escapism here, I guess. I learned a lot about tenacity from another Irish writer. A story about catching a monkey…
You also have a very strong visual sense. Your photographs of Ireland are stunning. What relationship does your photography have to your writing about Ireland, if any?
Quoting something about Roddy for the umpteenth time: he said a long time ago that he became a writer because he wasn’t good enough at soccer or music.
I was a nerd: never got even close to something sporty. And I have never been too much into music.
Maybe I wanted to be a painter: for me, the sense of sight is the main one. The problem is that I have never been good at drawing, painting and that kind of stuff. Meanwhile, I was feeling a creative energy that had to come out: I could use it for writing, at least.
Photography, even more the digital one (you can do a lot of mistakes without wasting film…) is a way to go back to visual arts.
My writing is definitely visual as well. I see things (in the real world, out there, or in my mind: I have beautiful dreams when I do not have nightmares), then I write about what I have seen.
Immigrants have described the phenomenon of their ‘heart home’ (where they come from originally) and their ‘made home’ (the country where they end up living). I suspect that you might have a different view. Can you reflect on this difference?
I am at home, now. Here. In Ireland, in Dublin. It seems I am making up my heart home, and that is my life here, in Ireland, in Dublin.
There is a beautiful line from a Glen Hansard’s song which just seems to have been written for me:
“Take this sinking boat and point it home.”
I arrived in Ireland in 2014 jobless and humiliated. I have brought back home the boat. It’s not all rosy, but I am at home, and that is a wonderful feeling.