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The Istanbul Quintet. Confluences and Intertwinings Between Life and Writing in Transculturality

This interview was published in the Faculty of Arts Newsletter at the University of British Columbia.

Il Quintetto d’Istanbul (The Istanbul Quintet) by Dr. Arianna Dagnino, Lecturer, Department of French, Hispanic & Italian Studies

What is your new book about?

Mobility is a fact of contemporary life. Whether voluntary or forced, experiences of relocation are shaping the lives of millions and, increasingly, literature is turning to matters of transcultural and translingual identity that follow such relocations. In this book, I set out to provide creative insights into the life and writing practices of five internationally renowned writers with complex cultural backgrounds and multifarious transcultural experiences across a number of countries; namely, Alberto Manguel (Argentinian naturalized Canadian), Brian Castro (Chinese naturalized Australian), Ilija Trojanow (Bulgarian naturalized German), Tim Parks (British naturalized Italian), Inez Baranay (Hungarian naturalized Australian).

Since I am a novelist as well as an academic, I decided to frame the interviews in a quasi-narrative of a visit to Istanbul, a city where cultures collide and connect, and where I (imaginatively) meet four writers. The fifth, Parks, is “diffused” throughout, a distant commentator on others’ views.

The resituated quotes of my “quintet” are stitched together with citations from the authors’ novels, my reflections, and extracts from my travel diaries, providing glimpses into my own transcultural journey as I comment on locations ranging from Moscow to Sydney, from Zimbabwe to the Amazonas.

What inspired you to write this book?

I was inspired by my life trajectory, my wanderings across multiple cultures, languages, professions (international reporter, literary translator, socio-cultural analyst), and landscapes.

I also wanted to experiment with a form of writing in which I could combine different genres and approaches: the journalistic interview, the literary essay, the fictionalized account.

Il Quintetto d’Istanbul (The Istanbul Quintet)

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