Friday, 21 November 2008

Man Booker winner Anne Enright on writing

The audience waited patiently in Vienna's Sigmund Freud Museum for the arrival of the star. When Anne Enright failed to arrive at the scheduled time a mini-panic set in. The publisher's man ran out into the street, ran back in, ran out again, ran back in again. Don't worry she hasn't cancelled, he assured. At the book table there were no original English versions of The Gathering, only German versions were on sale. The book, we were later told, had been translated into 33 languages.
Available free of charge was the latest Die Presse newspaper book news pull-out and in there was a photo of a smiling Anne Enright and an article about the Booker Prize book.
It's a story about a favourite brother who fills his pockets with stones and walks into the sea explained Die Presse. It's about the Hegarty family, typical Irish, lots of religion, many children, chaotic. The disfunctional Irish family, spread around the land, comes together on the death of Liam; and that is The Gathering.
When Enright arrived, 30 minutes late, with her entourage your correspondent was temporarily turfed off the comfortable settee under the photographs of Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud so that the star could be photographed against a suitable backdrop. Enright turned out to be a smiley middle-aged woman dressed in a classic black number with a flash of white cleavage. She was clean, very white, smelled of soap. The camera flashed and the entourage moved on. The seat was reclaimed.
Impressions. The theme of the book is a kind of Christmas in Hell. Enright types at her desk, with music to match mood; she always leaves the computer on so that she can go to it and type in text. She tries to "write with rhythm like a poet".
On the radio this morning there's more: "It's a terrible way to work", "people can throw the book against the wall, I don't mind", "writers are interested in people when they fall apart".
At the event in answer to Poet-in-Residence's question: "The six weeks on the Booker shortlist were the happiest of my life."
Anne Enright is not a chronological animal. She's a writer who follows the threads, if only to cut them or to tie them in knots; she loops them back, forwards, in and out of time. It all fits to where we were. Freud, smiling on the wall, would doubtless applaud her.


  1. I shall now get this book and read it after your article on Enright and the bare bones of the story - you are more persuasive than most book reviews.

  2. I'll definitely go to library and put my name down to borrow it. They brought German hardbacks to the presentation. I could probably read but I won't because I want to get the true Irish flavour of the thing with all the cliches and anti-cliches. It sounded in one way rather like Christy Brown's 'My Left Foot' from the passages that were read out but of course there was more confrontation , with it being a dramatic novel.


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