Consultant in the Hot Seat: Julie Irigaray

 

If you could write ‘THE Book’ on something, the definitive how-to-guide on any subject, which topic would you choose?

After living in four different countries, I’d love to write a book on living abroad and learning a new language. I’ve learned a lot from these experiences as we often don’t realise how our vision of the world is limited by our culture.

What three books changed your life?

Le coeur cousu (translated as The Threads of the Heart) by Carole Martinez. I offered this book to at least ten people because the story and the language are mesmerizing. Set in 19th century Andalusia, this novel is about a family of women with supernatural powers who struggle to remain free in an oppressive environment. The language is so superior to any book I’ve read that it discouraged me from writing in French! During my studies, I chose to translate a very difficult passage into English and I told the author at the Paris Book Fair that she was a nightmare to translate. She apologised and signed my copy: “Thank you for giving flesh to my paper characters in English”!

East Wind, West Wind by Pearl Buck. My mum tried to make me read this author for years so I reluctantly started. I ended up reading it in seven hours non-stop. The narrator is a woman in early 20th century China whose brother marries an American woman and whose husband rejects Chinese traditions. This novel deals with a country which struggles to keep its traditions at the time of great political changes. The theme of cultural differences could only appeal to me!

In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri. The author describes her obsession for the Italian language and culture and her journey to become not only fluent in Italian, but to write too. Reading this book was a very disturbing experience as she raised important points which echoed my life: why is someone fascinated by a specific language and culture? Why do some writers choose to abandon their mother tongue? Are they rejecting their own culture by doing so? I still haven’t found answers to these questions.

What has been the highlights of the year?

Graduating and leaving Ireland, moving back to Paris (without finding a job) before arriving in London (where I have found a job)! I always wanted to come back to the UK, so I attended The London Book Fair and seized the opportunity to meet the Atwood Tate team. The rest is history…

If you were the embodiment of a publishing business model what animal would you be and why?

Despite their bad reputation, I’ve always admired foxes (all the more since two of them are wandering around my place every night)! I think every business needs cunning to succeed. I like long-term plans, anticipating the next five years and developing strategies. I also love informing myself about what competitors do (that’s for the crafty part!)

Who would you invite (and why) to your fantasy literary dinner?

Without any surprise I’d do a remake of “the Dead Poets Society” by inviting:

  • Arthur Rimbaud – because he made me want to become a poet
  • Federico Garcia Lorca – because of his humanism, his melancholic tone and the gorgeous imagery of his poems
  • John Keats – for his rich and sensual language
  • Sylvia Plath – for the distinctive voice and rhythm of her poems, the fact that she mastered her craft so well and her complex symbolism.

On a more cheerful tone, all my favourite novelists are alive, and I even had the chance to meet some of them! I’d invite Elif Shafak, Carole Martinez, Jeffrey Eugenides, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt and Zadie Smith – I saw her in a restaurant but didn’t dare interrupting her dinner…

Bonus question: Give us one random fact about yourself. 

After living in an attic in Paris and a micro-studio in London, I moved (for cheaper!) to a Renaissance palazzo in Bologna. The wheel of fortune may turn again…

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