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This interview is taken from PN Review 163, Volume 31 Number 5, May - June 2005.

Choosing Who One Is: a conversation with Patrick McGuinness Chris Miller

CHRIS MILLER: Tell me something about your background? You had a childhood ful of displacements.

PATRICK McGUINNESS: Yes, my mother was from the French-Belgian border; the nearest large town was in France, though as in all border settlements one has an accentuated sense of difference. Rather as colours seem more strikingly themselves as they get closer and closer to the edge. My father was a third-generation Irishman who never thought of himself as other than English. I'm very conscious of being made up of a number of different nationalities. I was brought up partly in Belgium, partly in Venezuela. The first language I spoke was Spanish followed by French, and I began to speak English aged five or six.

And there was a period in the Congo?

Not for me. My parents were in the Congo during the 'tran-sition', which was especially difficult for my mother because she was Belgian, but I was born in Tunis. And we were actually in Teheran during the Revolution, 1977. I remember with my sister being - I would have been nine - being in the Embassy when it was attacked and burnt down. I lived in Romania from 1986 to 1987 and I missed the Revolution there by two years. I felt rather cheated because I'd had such a difficult and distressing time; Romania under Ceaucescu showed you that boredom could be an extreme state, a form of suffering, passively ...

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