Tuesday, April 20

Exciting days: Naoise Dolan and the novel of sentimental precariousness | Culture


Naoise Dolan, in a recent promotional image, in Dublin.
Naoise Dolan, in a recent promotional image, in Dublin.

Naoise Dolan (Dublin, 29 years old) and her Exciting days (Today’s Topics) began to go around the world after her compatriot, the successful author Sally Rooney, included in the summer of 2018 an excerpt from this, her first novel, in the scout magazine Stinging Fly. The rest, as they say, is history.

It stars Ava, an Irish girl who teaches English to children in Hong Kong. He lives with his partner, Julian, a banker whom he has met there. She is not in love with him. It is to some extent drugged by existential precariousness and the absence of a future. Although it is not convenient to do this just a generational reading. Because in Dolan’s case it has more to do with the writer’s autism. As the conventional world is incomprehensible, and in many ways absurd — his illness is not severe — his vision is that of someone who observes everything from the outside. And sometimes she cannot do anything other than, like her protagonist, let herself go, without thinking too much about what she should or should not be doing in order not to be considered, for example, a good or bad feminist. “I don’t know if Ava and Julian’s relationship is toxic. For me something toxic is something undoubtedly harmful. And their relationship is beneficial for both, although neither is entirely good for the other. “

This is Dolan speaking from his apartment in Dublin. It is painted white because otherwise, he says, he would not be able to sit down “every day writing a thousand words and answering emails.” He shares a flat, so he spends most of his time in his room, trying to control a constant urge to water his two floors. “I know I shouldn’t, because it would drown them, but it’s the only way I feel like I’m taking care of them,” she says. Like Ava, she also spent time in Hong Kong, and it was there that she wrote the novel.

Cover of the novel 'Exciting days', by Naoise Dolan.
Cover of the novel ‘Exciting days’, by Naoise Dolan.

Ava’s life changes when her partner goes to London for a while and Edith appears. They have the same age. She is lawyer. He takes her to the theater and leaves her tulips in the hall. Ava first wants to be like her, and then she starts to want her. “That’s one of the things that fascinates me the most about the way we gays are attracted to. When you are young and inexperienced, you are simultaneously discovering what kind of person you want to be and what kind of person you want to be with, and sometimes the two get confused. Ava is attracted to Edith, and at the same time, she’s telling herself that that’s the way she sees herself as a lesbian, ”explains Nolan.

Irish around the world

Ava is someone who has lost control of what happens to her. And it doesn’t matter to him. “Novels starring young people always speak of that kind of impotence,” he says. And mention The bell jar by Sylvia Plath. “It made a huge impact on me when I read it as a teenager. Talk about the awfulness of being a woman in the fifties, about the helplessness of not being able to overcome it. I don’t feel as crushed by misogyny as she does, but let’s just say that, considering the kind of climate apocalypse that’s coming, I can’t feel very lucky that that misogyny no longer exists. “

Dolan writes better away from home. “My inner chaos needs an outer chaos to order itself. I have always loved Irish novels around the world. Dublin seems small and suffocating to me in many ways, ”he says. She read a lot as a child and as a teenager, cheap editions of classics, until almost 20 she found Zadie Smith. “I did not have a good time at school, I was looking for a world within the world, the more full of details, the better,” he recalls, before saying goodbye, returning to autism and literature: “A novel like this is nothing more than a letter from love of a world that you don’t quite understand, and that at times you find it funny, at times absurd, at times unbearable. But in which you have no choice but to find your place ”.


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