Estou lendo o primeiro livro de Anne Enright traduzido no Brasil - O encontro, lançado em 2006.
Abaixo, segue uma entrevista com a escritora, que eu não conhecia até ver a resenha do livro acima na revista Carta Capital de semanas atrás.
'I wanted to explore desire and hatred'
Anne Enright was the surprise winner of this year's Man Booker prize. In her first post-victory interview, she tells Stuart Jeffries about her breakdown, the Irish meaning of family, and why her novel is not as bleak as everyone has been making out.
Thursday October 18 2007
Anne Enright didn't back herself to win the Man Booker prize, which is a shame, because the rank outsider could have made herself a few bob to supplement her £50,000 prize money. William Hill would have given her 12-1 on her fourth novel, The Gathering, beating the other shortlisted books. Her purportedly unremittingly miserable Irish family saga, with its alcoholic suicide, blank-eyed paedophile, violent father, vacant mother and irritatingly smug priest, not to mention its scenes of bad sex, self-harm, a funless wake and 5am grief-stricken howling, was not - so the bookies thought - a contender.
"My husband did have a bet though," says Enright, with a twinkle in her eye as she sets about a croissant in her first interview since her win. "One of those strange accumulators that only let you put 15 euros on at a time. He won a grand. I had another friend from London who bet on everybody else but me because he thought he'd jinx it."
What does she think of the other books on the shortlist? "I wouldn't even look at them in the shops. Once I got shortlisted, I just thought: I'm going to have six weeks of fun. I'm not going to sit down and worry. So when the others - as I called them - turned up yesterday, I was in a state of shock. I thought it was just me who was in it."
We're sitting in the basement of a PR company in London the morning after her unexpected victory. As apparent punishment for her triumph, Enright is spending the day being interviewed in this windowless room before flying home to Dublin. She has only had four hours' sleep and "a fair bit" of champagne, though you wouldn't know it: she's in a jaunty mood and good company. The Irish president's office has just been on to offer their congratulations. "I've got to stop myself becoming Irish literature's equivalent of Sonia O'Sullivan [Ireland's great middle-distance runner of the 90s]." Mary McAleese called her in person? "No, her aide-de-camp," says Enright, 45, looking at me ruefully as if I've just rained on her parade.
Enright is little known outside literary circles, though for the past two decades she has been hailed within them, and won awards both here and in Ireland. Her first collection of short stories, The Portable Virgin, was hailed by her former creative writing tutor, Angela Carter, as "elegant, scrupulously poised, always intelligent and, not least, original", while her novels The Wig My Father Wore, What Are You Like and The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch have been glowingly reviewed. But only Making Babies, her memoir of pregnancy, broke into the mainstream, chiefly because it was a witty, humane antidote to bossy baby manuals. Fellow novelist AL Kennedy, reviewing The Gathering for the Guardian, argued that everything Enright has written is "alive with that lovely thing - a fully realised voice: muscular, agile, sometimes witty, sometimes hallucinogenic, often dark and lyric in a quiet and horribly skilful way". True, perhaps, but it hasn't (yet) earned her the all-important imprimatur of Richard and Judy, nor have sales been high. Before she won the Booker, only 3,553 copies of The Gathering had been sold in Britain. No doubt the win will change all that.
I tell her I wasn't looking forward to reading The Gathering because the way it had been described in the press made my heart sink. Several generations of the Hegarty family gather in Dublin for the funeral of Liam, a son who drowned himself. Meanwhile, Veronica, the sibling to whom he was closest, tries to remember their childhood and work out whether his death was precipitated by child abuse decades earlier and, as she grieves and worries, absents herself from her own teetering marriage. I would rather read Schopenhauer while rolling in broken glass.
"I know, I know," says Enright gently. "I've got a schoolfriend who said to me: 'I suppose I have to read it now. I'm dreading it.' " Enright giggles. But she disagrees that her book's material is the stuff of Oirish fictional cliche. "You don't really get that material in Irish fiction. In memoir, yes - Frank McCourt, for instance."
You can see her schoolfriend's point. Critics have praised The Gathering with faint damnations for its savage analysis of family history. Even the New York Times, in one of the most thoughtful and positive reviews, claimed there was "no consolation" in the book. They must, I say to Enright, have been reading a different novel; in fact I found it a very funny book.
"Oh, thank you for saying that," she says. I mean it. One thing that The Gathering does is provide the consolation of humour in even the grimmest situations. Like Beckett in Endgame (or pretty much anywhere in his grimly hilarious oeuvre), even in the middle of a deathly situation, she can't help but risk an existential gag. At the wake for Liam, the brother who walked into the sea at Brighton with stones in his pockets, one of 11 remaining siblings is charged with guarding the open casket. Enright writes: "Kitty is on duty by the far wall in case a mourner should be left indecently alone with the corpse, in case the corpse should be left indecently alone." I love the way she takes the mickey out of the pious etiquette of death rites. "What is the right thing to do with a corpse in the house?" Enright asks me with a cheeky grin. "I'm sure I don't know."
Throughout, the grimness is leavened, if not with gags, then with imaginative flights that make even the grimmest reflections on love and death palatable. "I can't stay with a sentence very long without having a bit of fun," she says. Critics have often compared her earlier books to those of the great Irish humorous writer Flann O'Brien, but not this one. Perhaps they should.
That's not to say that Enright doesn't do bleak. Oh, does she ever. When Veronica gets to Brighton to oversee the return of her brother's remains, she looks down at the beach. "I look at my hands on the railings, and they are old, and my child-battered body, that I was proud of, in a way, for the new people that came out if, just feeding the grave, just feeding the grave!, I want to shout it at these strangers. I want to call for an end to procreation with a sandwich board and a megaphone."
The book is also complicated on the matter of sexual desire. "One of the things I wanted to do in the book was explore how desire and hatred are closely bound up," says Enright. "You know, that sense that someone - usually a man - is enraged by the fact that he desires someone - usually a woman." In the novel Enright gives this fearful expression during a postcoital scene in which Veronica tells her husband: "Your daughters will sleep with men like you. Men who will hate them, just because they want them." That seems, I suggest, a trifle harsh. Enright giggles again: "Yeah! Result! But desire is sometimes like that. You hate what you desire because you desire it. That's why we speak about something that sounds so violent, namely fucking. I wanted to write about sex in a different way from that bad-boy stuff that men write so often, to think about the violence in desire."
There is, most importantly, some consolation in the denouement that most critics missed. The chairman of the Booker judges, Howard Davies, revealed that he had spotted it when he said on Tuesday night: "It has an absolutely brilliant ending. It has one of the best last sentences of any novel I have ever read." To be fair, the last sentence doesn't make much sense on its own, so here are the last three. [Those who haven't read the book may want to skip the next two paragraphs.] Veronica is flying back to her family in Dublin from Gatwick, possibly pregnant (with, perhaps, a boy she may call Liam) and gripped with fear of flying "because you are up so high, in those things and there is such a long way to fall. Then again, I have been falling for months. I have been falling into my own life, for months. And I am about to hit it now."
What's that about? "It's partly about realising that you can't leave your family, which may be a particularly Irish kind of truth." Why Irish? "Oh, maybe I'm wrong. It's just that when I speak to friends in London or New York, I hear that they aren't going back for Christmas, or that they don't see their parents. That would be impossible in my circle."
But the book also finds Veronica realising that she doesn't want to change her life, even though her discombobulating grief at her brother's death seemed to be leading her away from her family. "I just want to live it, that's all," Veronica says near the end.
This, one might be forgiven for thinking, is precisely what Enright has managed with her own life. She is married to Martin Murphy, artistic director of the Pavilion theatre in Dun Laoghaire, south of Dublin. On Tuesday, in her acceptance speech at London's Guildhall, she described him as the love of her life. It was he who helped her recover from a breakdown and gave her the impetus to become a full-time writer.
At the time she was working in television - a job that seemed to thwart her desire to become a writer. Born in 1962 in Dublin, Enright is a philosophy graduate who went on to do the MA in creative writing at the University of East Anglia (like fellow Booker candidate Ian McEwan), before returning home. There she got a producer's job at the Irish state TV station RTE. "It was great fun, working on satirical shows and kids' TV, but I was working so hard and I wasn't fulfilling what I wanted to be - a writer - so I had a breakdown. They say that working on TV has the same adrenaline levels as being in the army, and it was like that for me. There was a great buzz and sometimes I felt like awarding myself purple hearts for the work I was doing. But it really had a cost, which was that I was drinking too much and not doing what I ultimately wanted with my life. I felt trapped, and the question for me, after several months of depression, was: how do you leave your job? I became a full-time writer in 1993 and have been very happy, insofar as anybody is, since."
She continues: "It was lucky I was hanging around with theatre types who don't really have steady jobs. If I'd been hanging around with solicitors, I might not have made that leap."
We fall into contemplative silence. "I recommend it," she says. What, depression? "No, having a breakdown early. If your life just falls apart early on, you can put it together again. It's the people who are always on the brink of crisis who don't hit bottom who are in trouble."
Is it not very difficult to write with small children around (she has a boy and a girl, aged four and seven)? "It's easier now they've gone back to school, but it was never that difficult for me. I remember rocking the pram with one hand and typing with the other." That sounds unlikely. "Maybe, but it's true." She wrote in her memoir Making Babies of the weird experience of motherhood: "Life in here on the other side is just the same - only much better, and more difficult."
The Gathering, by contrast she insists, is not autobiographical, even though the narrator is roughly the same age as Enright. That said, there are moments drawn from her life. Enright cites as an example an incident in the book when Veronica rings to say she's coming back home, and her daughter says: "I give you a word, and that word is 'love'."
"My daughter really said that to me," says Enright proudly. How old was she? "Three." The precocious minx! "She is in a way. I thought about not using the line in the book because it was too sentimental." But it isn't: near the end of a novel that has so pitilessly analysed love, desire and death, it comes as a well-earned injection of warmth. And, incidentally, it gives a nice insight into Enright's own family saga - one that doesn't sound bleak at all.
Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited 2008