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Irish musings with author Anne Enright

2007 Booker Prize winner, Anne Enright had shot to fame with The Gathering. While the 52-year-old author has been known for her preoccupation with love, family and Ireland, she tells Kanika Sharma about why she is not the typical virtuous Irish girl

Q. You’ve just finished a book, and the next best thing was to come to India as you said. What is the book about?
A. I have finished The Green Road. It is coming out globally in May, next year. It is a family story set in the west of Ireland with four children who grow up and see Europe and go all over the world, the way Irish children do. I think Indian children increasingly do too. So, the characters have to come home as their mother who is in her 70s says she has to sell the house in which all of them grew up.

Anne Enright, Writer
Anne Enright, Writer. Pic courtesy/Hugh Chaloner.

Q. The family as a setting for the novel, constantly draws you. Why is that?
A. I am going back — as I get older as a writer — to the Greek tragedies and Shakespeare. The latter despite writing about historical themes, writes of a family. The family is the stage where everything happens to us, where it is the context and it’s not something we can get away from, whether we want to get away or not. So, I think that it’s a universal subject. But increasingly, most of the world lives with a family somehow, and their problems play out in a family scene. Also, because so many people have huge small lives — where nothing happens, but you have many big emotions that you go through in an ordinary week. There are huge inner lives but small exterior lives; that interests me too. It’s the drama of being alive.

The Gathering, Random House
Anne Enright, The Gathering, Random House, Rs 499. Available at leading bookstores.

Q. Indian society is gradually shifting from a joint family to a nuclear one. Is that so in Ireland too?
A. We’ve got a society that changed rapidly. Divorce was made legal in the last decade. We think that the same kind of fragmentation of the family — that you see in other European and American contexts — is happening in Ireland too. But the fact that it’s a small country and because there is so much of emigration, there’s nostalgia for people who are left behind. People come back a lot. I see my parents every week; they are elderly. Four of my brothers and sisters live in Ireland. That is astonishing for people in a bigger country like England where old people can be a worry because they can get isolated. I am sure it’s different in India; maybe, India and Ireland are closer this way. The family hasn’t broken up in Ireland.

Q. You’ve been longlisted for the Irish laureateship. Does being Irish, figure prominently as part of your identity?
A. It is like a family. I don’t have a choice; I am Irish. The irritating thing is sentimentalising Ireland or of the family. I don’t agree with either. There are astonishing strengths within the national identity/a family. It’s not a series of pretty pictures; it is a complex thing for me too. For example, women and how they are seen within a nationalist context is problematic. I grew up with the myth of the lovely Irish girl who was supposed to be the most virtuous in the world; one of the founding myths of Ireland. I am hardly one of the most virtuous women.

The writer will be at the Tata Literature Live that starts today.
For more details log on to: www.tatalitlive.in

Influences
In 1983, it was Michael Ondaatje, Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy, Don deLilo who was fantastic. Angela Carter would be a big influence, too. Indian Writing on Enright’s Shelf Amit Chaudhuri’s Afternoon Raag, Kiran Desai and Anita Desai;
VS Naipaul is more of a controversial kind of writer, while I found Vikram Seth’s Golden Gate, startling and poetic.

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