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Inez Baranay

Inez Baranay

Australian citizenship, immigrant background, transnational culture, cosmopolitan temperament. INEZ BARANAY was born in Naples, Italy, grew up in Sydney, Australia. Her latest novel, Turn Left at Venus, is an emotionally resonant portrait of the solitary and artistic life, lived adventurously across space and time, triumphantly celebrating the singularity of being, of age, of imagination, and of the 'getting ready' for the ending that life demands. gr chatted to Inez about how Turn Left at Venus fits into a women-centric trilogy, the various places that inspire her, and her favourite Aussie authors. 

You worked on Turn Left at Venus in a variety of places, including Turkey, France, Bulgaria and Latvia – how did these different locations influence the novel?

They were places that provided an environment in which I could write, especially the Writers House in Latvia and the Fiction Seminar in Bulgaria. In Turkey I had a job but could keep some days a week for writing, and the sense of leaving the complex everyday outside environment to immerse in the fictional world/s was very acute. The novel is full of the sense of being a stranger, always an outsider, and of living in different dimensions.

Similarly, the novel takes place in many locations like Kings Cross, San Francisco and Ubud – what made you want to explore these places?

I have spent time in all those places, vivid, affecting times, where I was fascinated by their earlier histories, which made me want to place a character there before I ever arrived.

The novel has been referred to as ‘fictive biography’ and ‘speculative fiction’ – what drew you to write in these genres?

Genre terms like those are applied by readers after the work is done. I was not so much wanting to write in any genres as wanting to write this particular novel. For Turn Left At Venus I was being drawn to feminist utopian visions, which led me to read and reread fiction that can (contestably) be called science fiction. The novel is centred on one main character, Ada Ligeti, the writer of much of this kind of fiction, bits of which are included. Scenes from Ada’s life is where ‘fictive biography’ comes in.

The narrative of the novel is broken up by chapters of online discussion around the titular Turn Left of Venus – what inspired these segments?

Spending a lot of time online.  A lot. And being intrigued by new uses of language--words and tropes, how swiftly they are adopted. Once I realised that my novel included excerpts from my main character’s fictive novels (including Turn Left at Venus), I knew that I was interested in knowing more about them through lurking on forums, discussion threads, blogs and the like where they were discussed. So I had to make all that up.

How much of the book is based on your life, and how much is fictionalised?

As the main character, Ada Ligeti, was born at least 20 years before me it is all fiction; to some extent of course I draw on my own life but I cannot measure that extent; even if these things could be measured my own measurement should not be trusted.

You said in a recent interview that you view Turn Left at Venus and your previous two novels Always Hungry and Ghosts Like Us as a trilogy. To you, what links these novels together?

The three novels are set in women-centred worlds, with a strong element of non-realist premises and strongly flavoured with queer desire. Always Hungry is about vampires in Amsterdam; Ghosts Like Us is about ghosts in Berlin. I knew there was a third novel, and that there would be aliens involved, which made me remember some science fiction I had read, and I mixed that up with an interest in feminist utopias and true anarchism. I think the writing style of these three have more in common than with other books of mine.

You recently moved back to Sydney in 2017 - What made you want to return to your roots?

I might have stayed in Turkey much longer if the political (and economic) situation there had not become so drastic. But it also felt like about time to return, so under the circumstances  it was more or less permanently, though I can never truly feel anywhere is permanent.  As it is with Ada Ligeti, Sydney is my first city, the one I have lived in longest, once knew best, where many of my oldest friends still live. Some new ones too now.

You’ve been teaching creative writing since 1989 – does teaching make it easier and harder to write for yourself?

It is not possible to write while teaching, I found. I have not taught creative writing for years. In Turkey I was teaching Australian Studies to Turkish students, quite different, and my week was divided into time for that and time for my writing, and I had summers off to devote to writing.

Who are some of your favourite Australian authors?

For fiction, I return to Shirley Hazzard and Patrick White; recent fiction I loved was by Melissa Lucashenko and Tony Birch. Poetry: Pam Brown and so many more. In non-fiction, Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu was thrilling, and work by Jeff Sparrow always admirable.

Published by Transit Lounge.