Meet the best-selling novelist Simonetta Agnello Hornby

Internationally acclaimed Italian author, Simonetta Agnello Hornby was a special guest at the Melbourne Writers Festival 2015 and participated in a special event at the Italian Culture Institute of Melbourne (IIC), which was centred around the topic of “Travel and Inward Journey”.

Born in Sicily, she studied English at Cambridge before obtaining a law degree in Palermo. After furthering her studies in the United States, she moved to the UK to start a legal career and married an Englishman with whom she had two children. As well as being a successful lawyer, Simonetta Agnello Hornby is an accomplished novelist. Her first novel, La Mennulara (The Almond Picker), published in 2002, became a bestseller and has been translated in twenty-four languages.

During her stay in Melbourne, she kindly made herself available for an interview by Segmento’s Laura D’Angelo.

Mrs Agnello Hornby, after getting a Degree in Law in 1967 you moved abroad (USA, Zambia and London). How has the travel experience helped you to become a writer?

I met my husband in England and this is why I left Sicily. I have never re- gretted this choice. Everyone can live happily regardless of the location and express their own potential.

If you had stayed in Italy, would you have become a writer?

Who knows? I became a writer by chance, or maybe this was my destiny. I am a pragmatist, while a writer’s career can be very dicey; it forces you to travel around the globe, an aspect that does not suit with being a mum. Anyway writing is amazing and meeting the readers is the best part.

Even though you settled in London, all your novels are placed in Sicily. Where do you call home?

London is my home, even if my sacred place, my Uluru, is Monte Pellegrino. I couldn’t live without it for long.

Does the “journey” involve issues like loneliness and isolation?

Not necessarily. For sure, it brings remoteness.

You even wrote a kitchen book… what’s the solace you get from cooking?

Cooking makes us feel human, as we usually cook what we eat, different from animals. This act reaffirms my human nature.

Writing can be an inward journey. In your case, do you write to ‘stay’ or to ‘go’?

When I do it I don’t move at all! More then travelling I dig within to find myself and ‘that’ myself is my home.

Have you ever thought of moving back to Sicily?

I would go back there only if my children did it. I wouldn’t like them to take long trips just to visit me.

Today travelling is very easy and accessible. On the other hand, refugees from underdeveloped countries undertake a journey, which is more similar to a frantic odyssey. What is the real essence of traveling?

I do not have any answer for that. In the past people couldn’t leave easily or, on the contrary, there were forced to do it (as the refugees today). A one-way journey desperately looking for something to eat. Nowadays we privileged have many chances to go easily, the most important thing is to have clear ideas about the choices we undertake. To go means accepting positively all the changes and be eager to integrate in the new country to avoid disharmony.