Charles Lambert: A Stranger in Rome

25 November 2011

 

Charles Lambert, author of Little Monsters and Any Human Face, writes about his experiences as an expatriate author in Rome for the Context Travel website...

 

Early last year, I was asked to contribute to an event called Picador Day at Foyles, in London. My particular contribution was to take part in a discussion on Writing and Place and my first thought, as I found myself on a stage with Jim Crace, William Fiennes and Graham Robb (whose Parisians, by the way, I wholeheartedly recommend), was that I felt uncomfortably out of place.

I was there to talk about my latest novel, Any Human Face, set in contemporary Rome, and I chose to read a short excerpt from it in which the protagonist is described as feeling rootless. After the reading, when someone asked me a question about what it meant not to belong and how that might affect one’s sense of a place, it struck me that the most authentic experience of a place might not belong to the person who knows it best, who has lived there an entire life, but to someone who does not belong, who might only be passing through, whose sense of the place might be as transitory and self-conscious as mine felt, up there on the platform beside such luminaries as Jim Crace.

Discomfort, because travelling always involves a sort of discomfort, of dislocation, might also provide you with an acuteness of vision that’s denied the resident. Passing through, guidebook and map in hand, you see things the people who live there don’t see. Visiting or living in a place you have chosen means that your relationship with the place is pondered.

 

Read the full article on the Context Travel Website >