Tuesday, 11 August 2015
Tuesday, 30 June 2015
Pat Lynch, I don't know who you are, but thank you for this incredibly long and accurate review of my first book!
"As a north side Dubliner born and bred, for a long time my only experience of foreign visitors to the city were oversized middle aged American tourists sauntering around Nassau Street. That or the gaggles of noisy teenage Spanish students taking up the top floor of local buses every school summer holidays. My only experience of Italians we had were to be found in the local chip shop. I’m not sure exactly when or how but sometime around the time of new millennia Dublin suddenly seemed to attract a whole new wave of visitor. And this time not just passing trade either. From all over Europe, and further afield, they gradually came. The ‘foreign national’ immigrant. From Nigerian refugees to the Polish labourers who helped physically build the Celtic Tiger empire, all found their place in the rapidly changing Ireland. Culturally the capital city lit up. From Polish food shops, the African infiltration of Dublin’s Moore Street, Parnell Street’s Chinatown, the quays Italian quarter, the Czech Inn, the Brazilian cafes, to the variety of workers to be found in the cities bars, restaurants and coffee shops. Long after its European counterparts Dublin had become a multicultural city. And such transitions can be colourful. Nowhere has this been more noticeable than on the sacred St Patricks Day when our new visitors and citizens, clad head to toe in green, truly celebrate this event in style all around town. And in a more joyous, vibrant and flamboyant way than I ever recall the Irish doing so. Although still relatively early days for such a melting pot absorption ‘they’ are gradually becoming ‘us’ as our paths intermingle. For me this first came to my notice with the new friends my sister was making at the various salsa clubs around town. Portugese, Spanish, Italian, even Iraqi! For a gay friend this came in the ranges of relationships and acquaintances with ‘hot’ new guys from Europe to South America. For me personally it came in the daily dealings of the city centre where I work, from the assistants in the local newsagents and coffee shops to the street entertainers on Henry and Grafton Street. Suddenly, in Dublin, the bigger world was all around us like never before. …And yet there is a sense that this new voice has yet to be fully heard. Indeed it has often been acknowledged that it may take a whole generation for those newly experiencing Ireland to fully express their impressions of same. Given Ireland’s own long decades of emigration much has been written about that. Indeed the book I had read prior to this was Colm Tobin’s ‘Brooklyn’ which movingly explored the historical plight of forced emigration from rural Ireland. So it was time to hear of the other experience, of those that have come to live here. And I was delighted to come across this book of one such young Italian man who came to live here in Dublin in 2007. Robert Sanasi is by his own admission one of the ‘on the run’ generation, those twenty something’s who are in no rush to settle down. Only partly pushed by economic necessity they fly the nest and find work in other European cities while also obtaining some of that much sought after life experience. Over six years from 2007 onwards the author made his home in Dublin with whom he seemed to quickly develop an affectionate love/hate relationship. Robert is immediately likeable albeit in that rather cliché view we have of Italians. He is passionate in his opinions and approach to everything. At times cocky even arrogant (a tendency to generalise negatively about northsiders) to but always heartfelt. Through the narrators broken English we can nearly hear him talk off the page to us in his own high power Italian accent!. Starting at the bottom of the chain in a series of dead end, but not the worst, call centre jobs he moves from hostel to couch to his own bed in various accommodations across the city centre. He is critical of Irish weather and food which he constantly compares to his beloved south of Italy. He becomes homesick and never more so than following a serious motor accident involving his brother back home. Here we really get a sense of been lost in an alien environment at the worst of times as he frantically has to get time off from work and make his way back to Italy in a state of blind panic. Family, friends and the memory of same feature largely. Back in Dublin he finds his feet and soon sets about one of the book’s biggest quests. That of girls and sex and love. Admittedly initially shy and conscientious he soon shrugs off any catholic guilt as he jumps from one young woman to another. These are usually foreign ladies (in addition to the food and weather he doesn’t like Irish girls either!) that he meets in Diceys or any number of the city centre’s favoured bars. Romeo chat up lines (Sanasi writes poems for his lovers) lead to passionate encounters in bar toilets, stairwells and various bedsits. For each brief encounter our narrator searches for poetic depths to the experience. Indeed this is the other main quest of the book. That search for adventure and the meaning, if any, of same. Sanasi also travels a lot and hilariously everywhere compares more favourably than Dublin. But he always returns even when he says he won’t. Indeed there is a question mark over what it is that brings him back to start here again and again that is never fully defined or explored. Clearly inspired by his literary hero Kerouac, Sanasi indulges in a similar train of thought process at times. Diving head first into a prolonged description or emotion he obsesses to a point of near euphoric madness. It’s a nice touch but one that only underlines the limitations of the writer’s broken English. While charming and endearing throughout much gets lost in translation. This combined with the many typos and spelling errors makes you wish that the book had first found its way into the hands of a really good editor. Also while entertaining and in good company with Sanasi, there are times when you wish for more depth and far more analysis. But overall he does the best with the tools he has. Those quibbles aside I loved this book! It spoke to me of the things I love about the updated contemporary Dublin that I find myself in, which when it comes to immigration, is still in its infancy. Somedays I am convinced I see more foreign national faces around Grafton Street than Irish. Tourists aside, and for those that stay and for the time they are here (Sanasi finally left after six years) they are the new Irish. It was good to see my beloved city through one of their eyes…highly recommended!"