OPINION Fflur Dafydd

NWR Issue 103

Hay International Writing Fellow

‘There’s a sense in Mexican culture, of not making it easy for people to get to the heart of things.’ Arturo rolls over in bed and looks at her. ‘Like yesterday. You walked all around that park and you never saw the aquarium. You didn’t even know you were close to it. So you spent hours in somewhere quite ordinary, always on the fringes of something quite remarkable.’

Ela looks back at him and cannot help but think about her own country, where the centre is never very far from where you are. Where the centre is so visible, so apparent, it frightens people.

This extract is from a book that sprang into life while I was visiting the Xalapa festival in Mexico, as part of the Hay International Fellowship, 2013–14. It wasn’t the book I was meant to be writing, it was the book asking to be written at that particular moment. A fiction that grew organically from its conditions, out of an enclosed, ground-floor hotel room with the sounds and tremors of Mexican life permeating the floorboards, out of a mother who – free from her children for the first time in three years – was also feeling the tug of umbilical cords, stretching and snapping like rubber bands as she was writing. And this is how my journeying began. With an awareness that for all the literal, geographical shifts I would be making, the main shift was occurring within myself and my writing...

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