Mexican Bohemia in London - an interview wth Chloe Aridjis
That writer Chloe Aridjis loves words and their usage isn't surprising - but finding out that she shared a similar fascination with a taxidermy shop in an area of the capital we both used to frequent, is one of those endearing coincidences that make the Mexican novelist and curator such an intriguing person to talk to.
London, language, taxidermy and communication (or the lack of it) all feature in Asunder, her most recent publication. Following her debut novel, The Book of Clouds, she has produced another singular work, a slow burner featuring a protagonist so deftly drawn that the reader can't help feeling they recognise her - or someone like her - before the end of the first few pages.
The central character, Marie, a guard at the National Gallery is grounded by her job yet feels the pull of her past lives and loves. She's not unlike many young Londoners, treading water to stay afloat in the great metropolis. There's a restlessness, a yearning about her that belies the apparent stability of what appears - at least at first glance - to be a relatively straightforward role.
And while she probably wouldn't describe herself as restless, Aridjis has certainly moved around more than most other 43 year olds. Born in New York, the hometown of her mother, American translator and activist Betty Ferber, she has also grew up in The Netherlands and Switzerland where her father, Mexican poet and environmentalist Homero Aridjis held a number of diplomatic postings in the 1970s and 80s.
Having previously lived in the UK while studying for a doctorate in French Literature, she then spent time in the United States and Berlin, though she says London is the place to be. "All my things - and my cat - are here.
"Growing up, many of my cultural references - musical (The Smiths, Siouxsie and The Banshees) literary (Blake, Lewis Carroll, Hardy) were British and I always thought I would live here one day," explains the woman who, if she hadn't become a writer would have loved to have been "a painter", like her friend, the late Surrealist Leonora Carrington.
Lancashire - born Carrington moved to Mexico during the Second World War and was the subject of a well-received retrospective at the Tate, Liverpool which was co-curated by Aridjis - "it was a lot of work, like being a detective," - earlier this year.
We meet just after she has returned from visiting her parents in Mexico City where they run Grupo 100, a respected environmental NGO. But Aridjis feels the Mexican capital has changed so much since her adolescence there that it would be hard to live there again full time, not least because of the security situation.
"One feels the violence has reached the city now," she ventures. "The Mexico City I knew has mostly disappeared."
"Each time I come back to London I feel more certain that this is where I want to spend the rest of my life. It really does feel like coming home."
Flipside Festival runs from October 2 - 4 at Snape Maltings, Suffolk.