Archive for November, 2009

Triste

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Visby2 010

Just a week to go. And then a leap across the earth to my other life. This morning I read interviews with two Croatian authors, Slavenka Drakulic and Dubravka Ugresic. Both live in excile, Drakulic divides her time between Vienna and Stockholm and a new home in Istria, Ugresic lives in Amsterdam. I admire these two women immensely. Not for their writing – I don’t know it – but for their ability to make a full life out of their imposed excile. I have chosen mine and still struggle to make it a coherent whole. Or perhaps this is why. I have a choice, so I constantly consider my situation instead of immersing myself in my life, such as it is. Drakulic says in the interview that she doesn’t mind the fact that she is not properly assimilated in any of the communities where she lives. ‘I like being on the fringe,’ she says. ‘Everything is more clearly observed from there.’ And Ugresic says: At this stage in my life (she is sixty) I am often content with being like an island. There is much that I escape. I don’t understand what people talk about on the bus, in shops, at the cafe, and I don’t need to respond, or take any responsbility. It is actually rather nice.’

I wish I could learn to apply such a perspective. Some days I believe I can. Yesterday was such a day. I spent hours wandering the streets in the rain, watching the city and the people who live here. It didn’t matter that I was on my own. I thought I saw it more clearly than ever. But then today, again I am overcome by a sense of dislodgement and loneliness. A longing to belong. To be inside.

Stockholm

Katarina Kyrka, Stockholm

Lost

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

When do things decide to leave our lives? And where do they go? Things that were once central to us that we suddenly realise are not there anymore. Where are they?

When I was a small child I kept all my treasures in a square box. Just as I don’t know when it left my life, I have no idea where it came from, and exactly when. I don’t think it was a gift, more like something handed down to me from someone else. It was approximately ten by ten centimetres and five centimetres high. The outside was covered in a rather unattractive olive coloured material with little specks of a darker colour. If I let my hand run over the lid I could feel the rough texture of the surface. It lived in the small wardrobe in the room that I shared with my brother. The narrow space was mine only. A true luxury and I think a privilege allowed me as the older sister.

The box had no lock and no proper hinges. It looked a little like a sewing box – which it might have been in a previous life. It was an unsafe place for treasures. But at that time I lived in a safe world and my treasures were safe in the box. It contained my collection of film star pictures. My favourites were Pier Angeli (whatever was she famous for I never knew), Tony Curtis, Gina Lollobrigida and Brigitte Bardot. And then there were the gifts that Klaus, my first boyfriend, had presented me: a set of four minute dices that felt warm to the touch – I only discovered much later that they were made from ivory – and large book marks with pictures of Jesus and pink roses. My golden bracelet with little charms. My milk teeth… Important treasures.

It bothers me that it is only recently that I have thought about my box and wondered when it left my life. When did I lose it? What happened to it? I have no memory of it breaking. Or being consciously discarded. Why did I not take it with me when I left home? One day it just wasn’t there. And of the contents only the dices remain. Three of them.

The Impac Dublin Award

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

NZ cover compressed

Sonata for Miriam has been nominated for the prestigious IMPAC Dublin Award. My sincere gratitude to the New Zealand libraries who chose my novel! See the complete list here: IMPAC Dublin Award