04 May 2014

Adriano Bulla: The Road To London

2 Comments Book Reviews

Through a Goodreads Discussion Group I came across “The Road To London” by Adriano Bulla, which was Book of the Month.  The book was up against a traditionally published and commercially successful book but to my surprise I clearly preferred “The Road to London.” 
It is a very artistic account of a personal journey, from youth to growing up, from Italy to London, from in the closet  to being ” out”, from group member to individual. 18990618

Told in an episodic narrative the book also includes poems, music lyrics and letters. 


A light… A birth… A journey… An escape-not just from the whispering noise of expectations but from the growing awareness of a different life, a different path, a different quest. The greatest love letters are written in prose but bring forth the poet’s heart, awakening in the receiver an equal passion-or so the writer hopes. This love letter tells the story of how I reach London, how I reach you, My Dear, how I come to love so deeply, so truly and completely. The journey was not easy, beloved. I faced many ugly trials on this narrow path-but also tests that were… Fun, naughty, spicy and the stuff of memories which will make me smile into my old age, whether you are with me or not. I have no regrets, My Dear, except one… Just one…

I fed off the athmosphere and the compelling tone of the writer and am glad to present him today in an interview.

ME
Tell us a little about yourself as writer and as person.

As a writer, I love experimenting: I could never stick to a format, a style or a structure. I have to try something new every time I write. I also have big issues with the whole idea of ‘genre’… I don’t have any problems mixing different genres, even mixing prose and poetry, I don’t want to be constrained by predetermined rules, and I hope I never will. As a person… That’s harder to say. I am actually a joker. I know people who know me as a writer think I’m dead serious, but the reality is that I can turn anything into a joke, in particular into innuendos. I can’t help it.

Tell us about your writing history. When was the first time you decided to write and when was the first time you did?

I started writing poetry as an adolescent; I guess I did it in order to create a world I alone could understand. Like most teenagers, I was, and in many ways still am, afflicted by angst, and like most teenagers I had no one to talk to about the deep uncertainties that were troubling me: confusion about my own identity as a person, especially because I was leading the life of a bohemian young man outwardly, yet, deep inside,  I felt totally insecure about who I was, both in terms of my intellectual identity, fought if you wish between James Joyce and Pink Floyd, and, of course, my sexuality, as I never fully identified with a typical gay man, but never really felt I was straight either. I was a boy suspended between contradictory realities and without the courage to come clean about either of these worlds, so, I created my own world, an almost impenetrable world of words.

Tell us about your book and how it came about.

I had never thought I would be writing a novel until she (The Road to London is a ‘she’) came to me unexpectedly, like most beautiful things, while dancing in a gay night club in London. The words just started coming to me, and they did so for a couple of months, every Friday night, and I simply wrote them down when I got home on a Saturday (or Sunday). The whole novel was born in club, apart from the last chapter, which I wrote on a sunny day sitting on a bench in the Rookery, a park in South London near where I live. The difference between The Road to London and my poems is that the novel is open to the reader: although she is in both prose and poetry, I think she is accessible. My poems were written as a way of hiding from the world, The Road to London was written as a way of talking to the world.

When did you decide to publish your story?

The Road to London was first meant to be published in 2008, I had a publisher, but the recession hit and they folded. Then I left her in a drawer for years, till I hit rock bottom: in 20013, I found myself in a state of total and utter depression, I had lost all confidence in myself, and was about to do something very silly. But then, the very first words of the novel came back to me, ‘Yes, I will, yes. I will save the world, the universe and you.’ I myself had never fully understood what they meant. I’d never worked out who ‘you’ was. In a way, I am sure that ‘you’ is my best friend, Stephane, to whom the novel is dedicated, but I also think that ‘you’ can be me… What I mean is that the novel gave me a reason to live, to pick myself up and show to myself that I was not worthless, that there was still something I had to do in this world, that I still had words I wanted to share with other people. So, I looked for another publisher; I must say that I was lucky, as it did not take long before I received offers, and ended up choosing Glastonbury Publishing / Mirador because they ‘gave me good vibes.’

Did anyone influence you / encourage you to become a writer?

Lots of my Italian friends have always believed that I was ‘wasted’ as a teacher and should become a full-time writer, and I have kept them waiting for years and years. One in particular, Daniele, has been nagging me to publish for a long time now, but I am at heart a very shy person, and because The Road to London does have some autobiographical elements (though it is by no means my autobiography, as some people seem to believe), I hesitated for a long time. On the other hand, I don’t think I could write about something in any credible way if I had not lived it myself, so, for example, even if the story of the Boy in the novel is not my own, lots of his dreams are actually ones I have had.

Would you say there is a message in your books beyond the story? Do you find it is well received and picked up by the reviewers? Are you happy with the reception so far?

Yes,  there is a message beyond the story: The Road to London is a cry for freedom, the freedom to be whoever you want to be, the protagonist, whom readers simply call the Boy, grows up un a very homophobic environment; he is not a perfect person, not at all, in fact, in his early life, he is himself a bully, and, having enjoyed the approval and respect of his friends as a leader in his small ‘gang’, he finds it hard to admit to himself that there are areas of his personality, in particular his sexuality, which do not conform to expectations. In a world where boys are meant to be dominant and masculine, his gay and fetishist/ submissive sexuality is something he cannot admit to himself. Thus, he finds himself divided between his thirst for social acceptance and his need to be himself. This is possibly why he starts lying not just to his friends and family, but to himself, then seeks shelter in his dreams, by which I don’t mean his ambitions, but the dreams he has at night, yet, the days remain grey and offer no space where he can express himself, so, he starts taking drugs and drinking excessively, and hallucinations start replacing reality. His romantic life takes place partly in impossible love stories with his mainly straight friends, and in part in mysterious letters he writes to his great love, called My Dear, maybe an ‘imaginary lover’ he meets in a gay club in London.

I am impressed with the way the novel has been received by reviewers and critics so far: although different readers seem to have read the novel in totally different ways, but this is one of the peculiarities of The Road to London, that she is not a story that’s ‘written in stone’, and she allows, actually she asks, readers to contribute to her meaning, to add their own stories and perceptions of the world to hers, the reviews have been incredibly enthusiastic. I’m not just happy with how the novel has been received so far; I’m ecstatic.

Who would you hope plays them in a movie version? download (4)

The name that comes to mind is Xavier Dolan: he likes to explore impossible relationships and has a very artistic flair in his films; I think he would be ideal for The Road to London.

Did you have it all planned out before you write your stories or do the characters and story surprise you?

No, I never plan what I am going to write. I don’t even decide if I want to write… I could never be a poet laureate. I find it impossible to predetermine what a book is going to be about, what will happen to a character, how they will speak, behave or react to an event. When I start writing, it’s because I feel an urge to write that I cannot resist, and I haven’t got the foggiest idea how the story is going to turn out, what will happen next and how the characters will fare in it. All I do is put emotions and feelings into words; if an event is necessary to create a feeling, then that will take place in the story, otherwise not. I am much more concerned with human beings’ reactions to events, meaning their emotional and psychological reactions, than with the events themselves.

What would your character(s) say about you?

I think each one of them would find something in common with me. Even those who seem evil at times would say that the origin of all that evil is in me, not in them.

What do you like best about writing? What’s your least favourite thing?

Words have their colours, their rhythm, their sounds, their smell, and their flavours for me. When I write, it’s as if I am totally engrossed in an explosion of senses: they mix, they match, they literally dance and sweat in front of me. I love that. I see myself more as a ‘facilitator of words’ than a writer: I see my task as putting them down on paper the way they wish to be. I find that beautiful. I like to be part of this process of finding new ways of expression, rather than forcing words to be written down the way I want them. It is the words that tell me what to do, not I who tells them where to take their place on the page. My least favourite thing must be a consequence of the way I write: I never know if I will be writing again; as I don’t force myself to write and I don’t plan what and when I am going to write next, I never know if will write a new novel, a new story or a new poem.

Did you have any say in your cover art? What do you think of it?

Yes, I did have a say in the cover art: I chose seven possible options and then discussed them with my publishers. I actually love the cover of The Road to London: to start with, and this has happened purely by chance, but I believe in Fate, all the covers of my creative writings have a bold head / face that resembles mine. I like to think that the face crossed by the stars and the clouds on the cover of The Road to London is just the face of the human soul in general lost in the cosmos. It could as well be the Boy’s face, or Seb White’s (a key character in the novel), looking down on us from the stars, but I don’t know. I know it is not the typical cover you would expect in what is regarded as a ‘gay novel’: we didn’t want two hunky men in an erotic position; the novel is very sensual and very much about sexuality and even sex, but she is much more about how the individual can find his (or her) way in life, against all odds, against the ‘thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to’. I also feel that those green eyes looking out of the cover see a whole world in front of them, the whole path to freedom, the future, the road to London, in fact.

What is your writing environment like? Do you need silence or music to write?

I write wherever words happen to come to me. I cannot distinguish between silence and music when I read or write, because I confuse signs, colours and sounds: I’m synaesthetic, you see, so, if you say a word, I see flashes of colours in front of my eyes, if I write a word, I hear music, sometimes I even see shapes moving in front of me. It’s a funny condition, but I quite enjoy it.

How many rewrites does it normally take you for each book?

I write once, and I do not type: I write with a fountain pen on paper. If I change something, I tend to do it straight away as I am writing, I don’t go back to it and re-read it and maybe cut and paste or change sentences like people can do if they use a word processor.

What is your advice to new writers?

Write from the heart. Hide part of yourself in every one of your characters. Even if it’s a trait of your personality you do not like.

Who are your favourite authors?

There are so many… Woolf, Emily Bronte, Joyce, Milton and Dante very likely top my list of favourites, but I could go on for hours and hours. I tend to read the classics, all of them, and I find it hard to put them down. My favourite living novelist is Toni Morrison: she’s a genius and my favourite living poet is Derek Walcott.

What is your life like outside of writing?

I love History and I love Art. I used to go clubbing a lot, but now I’ve calmed down a bit… maybe it’s time to for me to go out a bit more.

What makes you laugh?

Satire, especially political satire and innuendos (I think I said that). I like puns and verbal humour more than slapstick.

Who would you like to invite for dinner?

Plato, for sure. If it’s true that the whole of human knowledge is only a footnote to Plato, I have so many questions to ask him. I would also like to invite Leonardo Da Vinci, I can literally burst into tears in front of his paintings.

What would your friends say are your best and your oddest quality? What would you name as those qualities?

Oddly enough, I don’t think my friends really know me that well: I’m sure they would all say that my best quality is my intelligence, and that would also be my oddest quality for them. Instead, I would think that my best quality is my heart, not my mind, and I would think my oddest quality is that if I give my word, I stick to it, no matter what.

Tell us about your other books?

Tales is a collection of short stories based on ‘minor’ characters or events in The Road to London, my favourite story in there is ‘The Housekeeper’s Innocence’, the story of a woman who gets raped when leaving mass, then decides to become a nun, but a sister shows her that she is a lesbian, so, she becomes a priest’s housekeeper instead, but when she sees the man who raped her in the congregation, she burns the church down. It’s based on one of the dreams of the Boy in the novel, a Kafkian dream. Ybo’ and Other Lies is a collection of poetry that I first published in 2005, it is quite experimental, there is a lot online about it, including articles on its erotic poems and on the ‘flickers’ a form of poetry I have allegedly invented. I have also written a grammar book, The Labyrinth of Grammar and a study on Dante and Coleridge, The Mariner’s Inferno.

What song would you pick to go with your book?

The ‘soundtrack’ of the novel is mainly provided by Pink Floyd, though there is a reference to ‘Live to Tell’ by Madonna, and other songs, however, the one I would choose to capture the feel of the heart of the novel, which is also quoted, is ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’ by Jaques Brel.

Tell us one weird thing, one nice thing, and one fact about where you live.

The weird thing very few people know about is that the first English Dictionary was written in Streatham, South London, where I live. A nice thing about Streatham is that is a very safe place and it has a real mix of people, and a fact… It’s still affordable to live here despite being a stone throw away from Central London.

Find Adriano and his books on
Twitter: @Bulla_Adriano
Bio
Born in Milan, Italy, and Londoner by adoption, Adriano Bulla has been publishing since 2005, when his first collection of poetry hit the shelves. Over the years, he has always tried unconventional and experimental ways of expressing himself, often crossing genres and refusing stereotypes in content, style and form. His style has often been praised for being intense, dense and surreal, and his themes have become more and more conscious of social inequality, in particular when concerning homophobia and the LGBT community, yet always exploring the emotional and spiritual dimension of the individual in search for freedom in an oppressive society.

 SYNOPSIS

When time and place play tricks with your birth, what can you do apart from creating your own imaginary world, then run away from your own creation, to a new life?

A boy is born, some time in the recent past, in Milan, Italy, yet backwards when concerned with ‘different’ sexualities, and Fate wants this boy not only to be of an intellectually and socially dominant nature, but of a sexually and emotionally gay and submissive disposition.

Unable to explain himself to himself, unable to relate to the world, this soul creates his own world, through dreams, drugs, alcohol and lies, while from a distant place, a club in London, and maybe from his future, if he ever learns to fly, letters to his beloved My Dear look back at his life in Italy with parallels in a romance yet to be.

He tries to be ‘normal’ and have relationships with girls, he tries to be honest, and open himself up to his love and friend, but life has decided only pain, rejection and suffering should come of it, for the time being at least.

But little glimpses into another, maybe possible life, sparkle here and there through his life, his dreams and into his heart….

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written by
Christoph Fischer was born in Germany in 1970 as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ is his first published work. He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.
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2 Responses to “Adriano Bulla: The Road To London”

  1. victoria dougherty says:

    What an emotional Escher drawing!

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