Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Still More Writers, French and Irish

    Saturday's round table, "Déplier la mémoire"  brought together three women who've written about aging: Lorraine Fouchet, Marie Javet and Fanny Wobmann.      I struggled to understand, French, not the aging part. Maybe that's why I spent the rest of the afternoon in the English programming, held in a stone basement, or cave. "Dystopias, Utopias and Places of Escape" featured German born Emanuel Bergmann, Californian Claire Vaye Watkins and British Rachel Joyce. Each of their books makes me wish I had more time and more space in my luggage, but there is always Amazon Kindle. Bergmann's tale brings together a young dreamer and an aging magician. Claire builds on California's drought to summon up a grim future of climate refugees; our historic crimes against minorities and mother nature circling ominously. Joyce's book is also about a community resisting unwanted change.
     By now it was pouring rain, so I stayed in the Cave, for a discussion of "Irish Encounters: Turbulent Families" with Anne Enright and Donal Ryan, whom I'd heard on Friday, and Sara Baume.  Anne Enright and Donal Ryan had already had great fun laughing at themselves as Irish-writers and not-Irish-writers. Sara Baume, who has extraordinary blue eyes, which she says are actually gray, is both writer and sculptor, so her modes of working, writing in the morning and art in the afternoon, is inspiring to me.
     Emanuel Bergman came back to the Cave to participate in "Writing History," along with the Irishman John Boyne. Boyne's most recent book, The Heart's Invisible Furies is the story of a seventy year old gay Irishman, recalling his history in the Ireland of the 1940s through the Irish referendum which approved gay marriage.
     I arrived back to Lausanne, tired, drenched with the rain, and with my head full of ideas. I woke up Sunday, ready for more. First, I marched up to Mon Repos for a little Voltaire inspiration and a swim, and then it was down to the train to Morges. By the way, it is not pronounced like the place where dead bodies are kept, but with a soft squishy g, morsh.
     Sunday's English language panel was centered on "Place and Landscape in Irish Literature." Sara Baume was there, and Matthew Wake, of the English language bookstore moderated. New to me was Kit de Waal, whose first novel, My Name is Leon reflects Kit's years as a lawyer and judge in England's family court. Kevin Barry wrote City of Bohane, about Limerick, from whence my great and great-great grandparents immigrated to New Orleans after surviving the famine of 1847. Barry's Limerick is a dystopian vision of Limerick in 2053, and still spot on for the vibes the city had in the past and has now. His latest is a novel called Beatlebone which arose out of his cyling around Clew Bay, where John Lennon bought an island back in the late 1960s. I purchased the French translation, which is entitled Lennon's Egg, and then realized I might not hear Kevin Barry's voice through the translation. He told me he's not read it in French, but that bi-lingual friends have told him it works. Himself narrates the audio book in English, and so far it is making me laugh out loud.
     The last English language panel was all women crime novelists: Denise Mina, Ruth Ware and Sophie Hannah.  I am contemplating my father's ventures into the Annals of Crime for the New Yorker Magazine, so it was illuminating to hear how Denise based her book on a real notorious serial killer, using the trial transcript for dialogue, because indeed the truth was unimaginable. I have to admit that Sophie was the delighting discovery for me: she's been commissioned by the Agatha Christie Estate to write more Hercule Poirot!
     I ended the day at a workshop on memoir conducted by Susan Jane Gilman. Susan is a New Yorker by birth like me. Like me, her husband is here as a visiting scientist. Gilman's great strengths are the humor and the honesty of her memoirs.
     All-in-all, the combination of writers talking, singing really, and Susan Jane Gilman putting forward some structural and procedural practices has spurred me on my writers way. An impressive Book Festival!

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