Small talk: Anne Enright

Anne Enright made her name with her fourth novel The Gathering, which won the 2007 Man Booker Prize. Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1962, she studied at Trinity College Dublin and the University of East Anglia and became a television producer. From 1993 she devoted herself to writing, publishing her debut novel, The Wig My Father Wore, two years later. Enright’s short stories have been published in The New Yorker and The Paris Review. She is married with two children and lives in Country Wicklow, Ireland.

Who is your perfect reader?

Someone who gets the joke.

What books are currently on your bedside table?

A proof copy of The Yellow Birds, a novel by Kevin Powers, who is an American poet and veteran of the Iraq war. The White Man’s Burden by William Easterly, which is about the aid industry.

When did you know you were going to be a writer?

If you grow up in Ireland and read books then you really are obliged to attempt your own some time. It is not exactly a choice. I still don’t know if I am a writer. Believe me, there are days when I have my doubts.

What book changed your life?

A copy of The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell that I borrowed from a guy in my class and then returned, just as an excuse to chat to him, and we got married. So that book changed my life. But I don’t know if Russell’s arguments tilted my universe, one way or another. It is very hard to trace the effect of words on a life.

What is your daily writing routine?

I think, I mooch, I get distracted. I “work” all morning but don’t really do anything. The after-lunch dip can be quite a productive time, but generally it is all a kind of disaster, except for the fact that, once every couple of years, I have a book.

Where do you write best?

I don’t fuss about the details. There is no perfect place. Either you do it, or you don’t.

What music helps you write?

Classical music before Beethoven. The Romantics are too emotional and attention-seeking – they get in the way too much.

When were you happiest?

Now is good.

When do you feel most free?

When I am in the sea.

What is the best piece of advice a parent gave you?

“If James Joyce was worried what his mammy might say, he would never have written Ulysses.” This came from my own mother when I was 15 or so. It is a piece of advice she has come to regret since.

If you could own any painting, what would it be?

“Portrait of Diego” by Alberto Giacometti.

Where is your favourite place in the world?


What book do you wish you’d written?

I do wish I could write like some of the American women, who can be clever and heartfelt and hopeful; people like Lorrie Moore and Jennifer Egan. But Ireland messed me up too much, I think, so I can’t.

Anne Enright’s novel ‘The Forgotten Waltz’ is published in paperback by Jonathan Cape

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