Friday, September 1, 2017

Books on the Waterfront and Other Cultural Adventures

     Last year, the Ubud Writer's Festival was the highlight of my writerly year. 
The rice paddies and temples of Bali competed with authors from Indonesia, Australia, the United States and lots of places in between.
     This year, I'm spending three days in Morges, a lakeside village about 20 minutes from Lausanne by train. I had noticed white wedding-style-tents all along the shore when I sailed by earlier in the week. Now they are inhabited by authors, hundreds of them, and their books. As the mother of a son and daughter who preferred books to ice cream as children, and the daughter of a librarian, I know better than to resist the lure of unread books.
     The session I wanted to go to wan't to start for a few hours. A snack was needed. I ate a chocolate gopher. No, a gauffre---Belgian-style waffle. You would go for it, too. After all, at literary festivals you are allowed, rather encouraged to play with words. The gopher vendor agreed, and found a picture of one to show to his co-chef.
     Not quite time yet. A visit to the museum in the town castle was next. It's famous for its collection of toy soldiers. Miniature armies, I would say, acting out famous battles from history. Not my thing.
     A temporary and very special exhibit was in place: "Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy; An elegant friendship." As she was, and still is, my ideal, resistance was futile.
The Woman, the clothes, oh my.
More striking to me than the encrustations of the evening dresses, the exquisite sewing of tiny folds was the textures that Givenchy could utilize. 
Wool Coat.
In his eyes, this dun colored weave becomes a slightly military, but shapely coat.
As I left the chateau, I noted the chiseled careless perfection of the stone.
Worked stone.

     Satisfied by taste and sight, I moved into one of the tents, where the authors are seated behind their stacks of books. Laure Mi Hyun Croset was born in Seoul in 1973, adopted by a Swiss family, and lives in Geneva. She loves the French language, and teaches French to immigrant children in Geneva. I bought her 2010 memoir, which is called Polaroids, and cannot wait to start reading it and exchanging emails with her. 
     I huddled under another tent to wait out the rain for a round table on the future of the Irish novel. The session sonwas conducted in English by Matthew Wake, who owns Books, Books, Books, the English language bookstore of Lausanne. Translation was provided by the indomitable Lesley Viet-Jacobson .
The panel: Anne Enright, Paul McVeigh and Donal Ryan. Uh-oh, more books!
     Matthew had brilliant questions to throw at the panel, and they answered in kind. My favorite response to the state of publishing, which is quite healthy in Ireland, was a reflection on how things used to be: it used to be that Irish writers had to get published in England, because "Liberal England loves to read about things that trouble them." (Anne Enright) Paul McVeigh talked about the difficulty of being a Northern Irish writer, but most helpfully for me as a writer, he talked about writing as a gift to himself. Anne Enright's answer to the question, How do you write from the mind of someone who is very much unlike your self: "Go Very Still," was a gift to me. Donal Ryan expanded on this to talk about the allowing your pre-linguistic intuition to generate your words. Paul McVeigh re-iterated his note "Give yourself permission."
     Wow. And to think that it happened along the Waterfront, and there's still more on Saturday and Sunday, including the author of my beloved Limerick's City of Bohane , Kevin Barry!

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