Mexico | 2010
Chloe Aridjis grew up in the Netherlands and Mexico City. She studied for a BA at Harvard and gained her PhD in nineteenth-century French poetry and magic from Oxford. Her debut novel, Book of Clouds, won the Prix du Premier Roman Etranger in France in 2009. After spending five years in Berlin, she currently lives in London, where she is working on her second novel and a collection of short stories. She has published fiction and essays in journals in the US, Mexico and the UK.
One evening in mid October I received an email from Francisco Goldman asking how would I like to spend a few weeks writing in an old signal tower in Tuscany in the company of three very handsome dogs (photos included) and some rather charming human beings as well. It didn’t take me long to decide. I shuffled my plans and booked a flight from London, then packed a few books and sweaters and the first draft of my second novel.
The ancient tower where I stayed was the perfect port, a silent, marvellous place to reanimate and refuel, to corral elusive thoughts and rethink coordinates. I will always be very grateful for the weeks spent there.
Mornings I would wake up in my pink and white candy-striped bedroom and open the shutters that gave out onto a vast theatre of land, tracts of forest as far as the eye could see and, somewhere on a hilltop in the distance, a folly that seemed added just for me. A bad knee prevented me from going on substantial walks through the glorious autumn landscape but I became well acquainted with the grounds and especially with the wondrous dogs, who like fantastical beings would appear out of nowhere to say hello and accompany me a few steps before again disappearing into the foliage.
There was old Teddy, a wheezing Labrador in his twilight, and Alice, Beatrice’s beloved pug, who would sulk by the door each time B. stepped out, and the remarkable Paride, a truffle hunter with curly wooly hair and soulful eyes the colour of polished wood. Everywhere you went, the canine welcoming committee was there to help shake you out of solitary mode.
My human companions included the extremely kind and compassionate Emma, a poet from Australia, and gallant, bookish Ted, Beatrice’s young English assistant, and the amazingly sharp and lucid Beatrice herself, whose wildly rich past and that of her husband’s seemed pressed into the stone.
During the day few sounds reached me from the outside world apart from the gunshots of misbegotten Tuscan hunters. The most beautiful sounds came at night – the squeak of bats and the occasional screech of owls, essential tower talk.