What I am working on at the moment...
To be honest, I’m not writing at all these days, like the great majority of the writers I know. In the early days of the lockdown, some people posted on social media that it was the best time to be productive and complete some projects like writing a novel. This kind of observation can be applied to a job in B2B, but not for authors as productivity and creativity don’t always go well together. Whether you spent the lockdown alone and depressed or working from home while helping your children with their homework, the chances are high that you were not in the mood for writing the next In Search of Lost Time. Let’s stop feeling guilty about writer’s block.
My 2020 Reading List
(These books haven't necessarily been published in 2020)
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott (Novel)
Antiemetic for Homesickness - Romalyn Ante (Poetry)
Patria - Fernando Aramburu (Novel)
Da dove la vita è perfetta (English: The Perfect Life) - Silvia Avallone (Novel)
Marina Bellezza - Silvia Avallone (Novel)
Précis de littérature italienne - Célia Filippini (Non-Fiction)
La madre (English: The Mother) - Grazia Deledda (Novel)
Caro Michele (English: Happiness As Such) - Natalia Ginzburg (Novel)
Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley - Charlotte Gordon (Biography)
The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem - edited by Jeremy Noel-Tod (Poetry)
Frankenstein - Mary Shelley (Novel)
Ephebos - Kostya Tsolakis (Poetry)
The Proust Questionnaire
My partner being an absolute fan of Marcel, it was inevitable I’d include on this website my own version of The Proust Questionnaire!
The principal aspect of your personality
The quality that I desire in a man
Being a feminist
The quality that I desire in a woman
Your chief characteristic
I think too much
What I appreciate most about my friends
Their moral support
My main fault
My favourite occupation
Reading and travelling abroad to discover new languages and cultures
My dream of happiness
Being rich enough to buy houses or flats in Italy, London, Paris and the Basque Country, and spend several months per year in each country
What would be my greatest misfortune?
Living in an increasingly intolerant and nationalist world. Cf what happened in Europe between 1929 and 1945…
What I should like to be
More positive, confident in the future and myself, less anxious and being able to reject what is toxic for me
The country where I should like to live
A thorny question for someone who lived in four countries: see my answer to “Your dream of happiness”! I’m not under the illusion that everything is perfect abroad anymore as I know how difficult it is to adapt to a new culture and how intolerant people can be with foreigners. But I terribly miss Italy and I’d like to move back there at some point. It’s a life goal that motivates me everyday to learn Italian and play the lottery (to buy my dream villa in Umbria or flat in Rome!)…
My favourite colour
The flower I like
Those with a strong smell
My favourite bird
My favourite prose authors
Silvia Avallone, Zadie Smith, Elif Shafak, Cecile Coulon, Lucia Berlin, Pearl Buck, Jeffrey Eugenides, Carole Martinez, Irène Némirovsky, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
My favourite poets
Arthur Rimbaud, Federico Garcia Lorca, John Keats and Sylvia Plath for the dead ones. My list of contemporary poets would be way too long.
My heroes in fiction
Joseph Vaughan in R.J. Ellory’s A Quiet Belief in Angels and E.M. Forster’s Maurice Hall in Maurice
My favourite heroines in fiction
The Carrasco women in Carole Martinez’s The Threads of the Heart
My favourite composers
Lili Boulanger and Maurice Ravel
My Favourite Visual Artists
My trip to Italy last January was invigorating. It reminded me how much visual arts matter to me, both as a writer and on a personal level. I wanted to share with you a list of the painters, sculptors and movements who inspire me and lift my spirits up:
Ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman art
Italian Renaissance artists
The Pre-Raphaelites (especially John Everett Millais, John William Waterhouse and Edward Burne-Jones)
My 2019 Reading List
Six Basque Poets: Rikardo Arregi, Bernardo Atxaga, Felipe Juaristi, Miren Agur Meabe, Kirmen Uribe, Joseba Sarrionandia - Arc Publications (Poetry)
Flèche - Mary Jean Chan (Poetry)
Les ronces - Cécile Coulon (Poetry)
Une bête au paradis - Cécile Coulon (Novel)
Elias Portolu - Grazia Deledda (Novel)
The Feminine Mystique - Betty Friedan (Essay)
Le voci della sera (English: Voices in the Evening) - Natalia Ginzburg (Novel)
Tutti i nostri ieri (English: All Our Yesterdays) - Natalia Ginzburg (Novel)
The Fifties Mystique - Jessica Mann (Memoir)
Le Bal - Irène Némirovsky (Novella)
Les chiens et les loups (English: The Dogs and the Wolves) - Irène Némirovsky (Novel)
David Golder - Irène Némirovsky (Novel)
"Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom" - Sylvia Plath (Short Story)
Spikenard - Yvonne Reddick (Poetry)
Translating Mountains - Yvonne Reddick (Poetry)
Songs My Enemy Taught Me - Joelle Taylor (Poetry)
Tea With Cardamom - Warda Yassin (Poetry)
Songs that Inspired Poems
As I’m going to start flamenco classes this autumn (I can’t tell you how excited I am!!), here is a selection of music that inspired some of my poems:
Anonymous’s “Joan Petit” : “The Way Joan Petit Dances”
Daniel Balavoine’s “Tous les cris les SOS” : “The Ladybirds’ Invasion”
Daniel Balavoine’s “Lipstick Waterproof” : “Lipstick Waterproof”
Kate Bush’s “Jig of Life” : “Jig of Life”
ERA’s “Ameno”: “Women of Aquitaine”
Serge Gainsbourg’s “Les papillons noirs” : “The Black Butterflies”
Indochine’s “Kill Nico” : “The Wandering Basque”
Indochine’s “Un Ange A Ma Table” : “Six War Letters”
Mikel Laboa’s “Baga, Biga, Higa” : “The Basque Witch Hunt, 1610”
Mano Negra’s “Mala Vida” : “A Gaucho’s Tango”
Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” : “Elegy for A Still-Alive Granny”
Dmitry Shostakovich’s “Waltz number 2” : “Treasuring Trieste”
My Favourite Films
Pedro Almodóvar – Volver
Rachid Bouchareb – Indigènes
(English: Days of Glory)
Tim Burton – Sleepy Hollow and Sweeney Todd
Jane Campion – Bright Star
Sofia Coppola – Marie-Antoinette
Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris - Little Miss Sunshine
Xavier Dolan – Laurence Anyways and
The Life and Death of John F. Donovan
Luca Guadagnino – Call Me By Your Name
James Ivory – Maurice
Wong Kar-wai – In the Mood for Love
Emir Kusturica -Time of the Gypsies
Louis Malle – Au Revoir Les Enfants
(English: Goodbye, Children)
Hayao Miyazaki – Princess Mononoke and
Howl’s Moving Castle
Bruno Nuytten – Camille Claudel
Paolo Sorrentino – La Grande Bellezza
(English: The Great Beauty)
Zhang Yimou – Raise the Red Lantern
My Favourite Novels and Short Stories Collections
A Manual for Cleaning Women - Lucia Berlin
East Wind, West Wind and The Mother - Pearl Buck
Children's Children - Jan Carson
Dans ma maison sous terre - Chloé Delaume
A Quiet Belief in Angels - R.J. Ellory
Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides - Jeffrey Eugenides
Maurice - E.M. Forster
Le coeur cousu (English: The Threads of the Heart) - Carole Martinez
Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
Suite Française - Irène Némirovsky
We Were the Mulvaneys - Joyce Carol Oates
Animal Farm - George Orwell
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling
La part de l'autre - Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
The Bastard of Istanbul and Honour - Elif Shafak
On Beauty - Zadie Smith
The Perfume - Patrick Süskind
Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
The Graduate - Charles Webb
The Mists of Avalon - Marion Zimmer Bradley
My 2018 Reading List
(These books haven't necessarily been published in 2018)
Suite Française - Irène Némirovsky
In Other Words - Jhumpa Lahiri
Honour - Elif Shafak
La Ragazza di Bube (English: Bebo's Girl) - Carlo Cassola
A Hurry of English - Mary Jean Chan
The Cloven Viscount - Italo Calvino
The Periodic Table - Primo Levi
The Drowned and the Saved - Primo Levi
The Republic of Motherhood - Liz Berry
La main coupée (English: The Bloody Hand) - Blaise Cendrars
Reading Lolita in Tehran - Azar Nafisi
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? - Jeanette Winterson
The Solitude of Prime Numbers - Paolo Giordano
The Letters of Sylvia Plath Volume II: 1956 – 1963 - Sylvia Plath
How to be a Poet - Jo Bell, Jane Commane et. al.
The Perseverance - Raymond Antrobus
A Map of my Poems
Places can act as a guide to understand the genesis of a piece of writing.
Having lived in France (twice), Ireland (twice), the UK (twice) and Italy (once, unfortunately), I firmly believe that my poems have been shaped by the places where they emerged in many ways, even when the actual location is not the subject matter. As Vahni Capildeo writes in her Venus as a Bear, "one place belongs with the poem". This is a list of my published poems and "where they belong":
THE BASQUE COUNTRY
"Tales of the Woodcock"
"Sotto il Mare"
"A Modern Watercolour"
"Shapes from the Past"
"The Basque Witch Hunt, 1610"
Granada and its surroundings
"Requiem for Lorca"
"Haunted by Houses"
"A Zen Rumination"
"The Fall of the West"
"Only the Unemployed Have Time to Watch the Snow Falling"
“Pikachu in the Musée d’Orsay”
"M.A.: a French Sonnet"
"A Living Doll"
"My Cricket Kids"
"The Frenchwomen of Fulham"
"Memento Mori in Highgate Cemetery"
"On Cooking Krakens"
"Sotto il Mare"
"Tiresias and Moses"
"The Via Appia Catacombs"
"Three Other Ways to Look at Venice"
"Sotto il Mare"
"The Black Butterflies"
"The Argentinian Rugbywomen"
"On Painting an Irish Seaside Resort"
"The Wandering Basque"
Other unpublished poems draw inspiration from Biarritz, Zugarramurdi, the Aquitaine and Occitanie regions, Sevilla, Navarra, Paris, Wiltshire, Somerset, Naples, Perugia, Siena, Ravenna, Dalkey, Belfast, Tokyo, Yokohama, Kyoto, Winchester, Canterbury, Lourdes, Devon...