Anytime – and we do mean anytime – there is a new Toni Morrison interview or book or appearance, we pay attention. Not just because she is a 1988 Anisfield-Wolf winner, but because she is a literary treasure. She is 81 now, having spent roughly half her life as an author of note and with is comes the freedom and space to say exactly how she feels about any given topic.
She recently sat with a writer from the Daily Telegraph for an in-depth interview in advance of her latest work, a play, which opened in London this month. In it, she collaborates with director Peter Sellars and Rokia Traore to retell the story of “Othello,” one of Shakespeare’s most-known works, this time giving more depth to Desdemona, Othello’s lover and wife.
In the incredibly rich interview, Morrison talks candidly about a variety of subjects. We pulled some of the best quotes:
On her son’s death:
“People speak to me about my son – ‘I’m so sorry for you’ – but no one says, ‘I loved him so much.’ I was busy in grief, which I don’t expect to stop. Suddenly realising that the last thing my son would want was for me to be very self-involved and narcissistic and self-stroking. It stopped me from writing. Which doesn’t mean you stop feeling the absence. It was being willing to think about it in a way that was not self-serving.”
On why she wanted to take on Shakespeare:
“Black classically trained actors love the role because it’s one of the few times that they are the stars. So the same old version gets repeated. And I didn’t find justification for that conventional view in Othello. I was interested in a different rendering of her.”
On where she considers home:
“I live in places that I love. And I’d hate to lose them. The house on the river I’ve been in since the Seventies. But home is an idea rather than a place. It’s where you feel safe. Where you’re among people who are kind to you – they’re not after you; they don’t have to like you – but they’ll not hurt you. And if you’re in trouble they’ll help you…”
The whole interview is worth a read – we think you’ll find it one of the highlights of your day.