Having dealt with hippy-days Morocco, Esther Freud has now moved on to punk—era London. Sue Wilson talked to her about drugs and adolescent angst.
With the enthusiastically-received publication last year of her ﬁrst novel Hideous Kinky. Esther Freud (Sigmund‘s great-granddaughter. Lucien's daughter. Clement‘s niece. Bella‘s sister and Emma‘s cousin) became the latest in the renowned Anglo-Austrian clan to make the artistic grade. Barely twelve months on. her second novel P'erless Flats joins its predecessor in the bookshops — quick work or the vagaries of publishers‘ lead-times?
‘lt was actually quite quick.‘ Freud says. ‘I was so excited about Hideous Kinky being accepted that. having thought when l was writing it that I‘d never be able to write another book, I suddenly got this incredible burst of energy and wrote about two-thirds of Peerless Flats in ﬁve months. though it then took about another eight months to ﬁnish. The fact that people had read and liked the ﬁrst one gave me a lot of extra conﬁdence.‘
Where Hideous Kinky described travels through Morocco in the late 60s through the eyes of a ﬁve- ycar-old. Peerless Flats follows the adolescent adventures of sixteen-year-old Lisa in late-70s London. Having recently moved from the country.
Esther Freud: ‘I wanted to show how different people’s perceptions of someone can be to how they’re actually feeling inside.’
she struggles to cope with life in cramped emergency
; council accommodation with her mother and small 3 brother. longs to be more like her streetwise older I sister Ruby (who takes heroin and goes out with a
convict's son). and ﬁnds herself slowly falling apart under the strain of being the only sensible member of her family. As with the ﬁrst book. the story on the surface seems closely to resemble Freud‘s own; is
Lisa listher in disguise?
‘Both books are slightly autobiographical. but an awful lot about them isn‘t,‘ Freud explains. ‘With
Hideous Kinky there was no getting away from the
fact that I did do that journey as a child. but because i don't actually remember rntrch about it apart from
visual memories. I had to make a story that would
hold together as a book. Peerless Flats was different in a way; the story isn‘t remotely my own story.
- though some of the circumstances are similar. l
started off wanting to write about addiction. from the
point of view of someone who wasn't that way ‘ inclined herself. Also. I wanted to show how , different people‘s perceptions of someone can be to
how they're actually feeling inside. how atria/ingly capable some people are of hiding the distress they’re
Although in the book Ruby‘s habit lands her in a hospital rehab unit. the subject of drugs is treated with admirable matter-of-fact realism. ‘l suppose that was one thing I really wanted to achieve.‘ Freud says. ‘because when l was a sixteen-year-old in the 70s drug—taking. for me anyway. didn't seem like a bad thing. there was a kind of glamour about it. There weren‘t all these adverts on TV. it wasn‘t thought of as this terrible thing — it was the end of the whole punk era. when to be cool was to be as wild and destructive as possible. I felt rather in awe of people who behaved like that. and I wanted to treat it from that perspective in the book.‘
Now working on her third novel. Freud was recently named by (iranta magazine as one of Britain's top twenty young novelists. an accolade which carries pressures as well as rewards. ‘I don't really know what my feelings are about that] she says. ‘lt's flattering. certainly. but there’s always the worry that
one day you‘ll ﬁnd yourself on another list. one of
those “Whatever Happened To . . things. The more
successful you’re perceived to be. i think. the more
closely people will scrutinise your work — which is fair enough. really. It does make you more nervous about having a book published. but as this is only my second. I hope people won't start going for me too hard just yet.’
Peerless Flats is published by Hamish Hamilton at
£74.99; the paperbaek o/‘Hideous Kinky is published by P ’nguin at £5.99.
listlier Freud will be reading and talking about her work at ll'ittet‘sitme 's Edinburgh George Street bra/tell on ll Mare/t — see Events listingsjor details.
_ Trial by ordeal
Sue Wilson speaks to gay priest Father ; Bernard Lynch about his challenge to ; :IInd Christian dogma: A Priest (in I rial. Most people assumed he was guilty. As the 1989 trial of gay lrlsh-born 5 priest Father Bernard Lynch for child abuse began in flow York there a general belief, according to one TV
the eyes of God, Lynch had become the victim of a witch-hunt by the church and legal authorities.
Father Bernard Lynch
the AIDS pandemic, the loss of so many that I knew and loved,’ Lynch explains. ‘And at times more painful than the disease itself was to see people trying not to feel that they deserved this, that it was a punishment from God for their own behaviour - to see a lot of people dying very lonely deaths. That’s a roundabout way of saying why I wrote this story - a lot of this homophobia is far as the Vatican is concerned, he a result of ignorance and indoctrination by those who should know better; a lot of it came from churches, from so-called Christian
2 woman - fully alive‘ - I believe that,
f that human authenticity and religious
i authenticity are one. Unfortunately
l the converse is often true — often you
do not find freer people in churches.
But if we don’t have more joy from what we believe, then there’s something wrong with our beliefs.’
While Lynch knows that at present he is a voice crying in the wilderness as
remains convinced ‘that time is on the side of love. I’m not optimistic, but I am hopeful - hope goes beyond optimism.’
reporter ‘that a dirty old man had been I
caught, and let’s hope they hang hlm’. Three days later, however, the charges were dismissed, after it had become clear that the prosecution case, in what Lynch has called ‘a trial of my very soul’, rested on fabricated evidence. Thanks to his work with gays and lesbians, the AIDS ministry he had founded, his high public profile and his attempts to explain gay relationships as valid, loving unions in
lie now tells his story in a new book, A Priest on Trial. lie describes growing up in County Clare, his early awareness of his vocation, his long struggle to accept his sexuality and the fulfilment he found working In New York — and how it was all brought crashing down around his ears. What made him decide to relive, through writing, such a deeply traumatic experience?
‘Traumatlc is an understatement, but
the biggest trauma in my life has been
“90133 ‘A recent survey showed that 78% of "’5 "0t "aid to $88 Whit lVIICh’s views practising Catholics in America favour
infuriated the Catholic establishment the ordination of women,’ he
" Simply Put. his Christianity Places continues. ‘Up to 90% practice
People, in a” the" human diversity. contraception, 48% approve of the
before the Church. ‘I come from the blessing of same-sex unions — that’s
belief that between God and us there where it’s at; when people say ‘the
is "0 ‘betweeii’: H8. 0' She. or church’, are they talking about the
whatever, made you as you are, wants Vatican, or are they talking about the
you to give back what you are, not people? Because the voice of the
what the Church tells you to be. people is the voice of Cod.’
There’s a saying from a 3rd century , A Priest on Trial is published by
saint: ‘the glory of God is man - or | Bloomsbury at £16.99 !
The List 26 February—l 1 March 1993 67