Irene Chias: ‘Take care of yourself. Nobody will do it for you’

Writer Irene Chias tells all in our Q&A

Photo: James Bianchi
Photo: James Bianchi

After working as a journalist for several years in France and Milan, Irene Chias settled in Malta in 2019, where she writes as a freelancer for Italian magazines and newspapers, and runs the blog Molto Malta on TgCom24. She published four novels in Italy, including Esercizi di sevizia e seduzione (Mondadori, 2013), now translated to Maltese as Mur Ġibek... (Horizons, 2022), and her latest Fiore d’agave, fiore di scimmia (Laurana, 2020), which is also being translated.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

Keep mulling for a bit over what I just dreamt. Then, if I am not in a hurry, I would consider the possibility of exercising while staying in bed.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Take care of yourself, nobody will do it for you.

What do you never leave the house without?

If you had asked me last month, I would have said chocolate. But I am getting out of that tunnel now.

Pick three words that describe yourself

Sensitive, courageous, impulsive.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Leaving my job and my previous life with no regret whatsoever.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Every couple of years, or more, picking up the stories of the Italian soap opera Un Posto Al Sole, studying characters and actors and assessing my ageing through theirs.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Don’t let anyone tell you who you are on the basis of what they expect from you (whether you deliver it or not).

Property and cars aside what’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?

In absolute, probably a plane ticket. In relation to my possibilities, my saxophone when I was 16.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

That I was going not to care at all about some things that used to trouble me.

Who’s your inspiration?

At the risk of sounding trite, I would go with Saint Francis, who got rid of material things and because of his relation to nature and non-human animals. I think that COVID was just a warning.

What has been your biggest challenge?

The illness and the death of someone I loved.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?

Probably what I will be doing anyway if I live enough – or farmer, cult leader.

Do you believe in God?

Not strictly, but I believe that there are many things we don’t understand that science has not even begun to untangle.

If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive, who would it be?

It would be Chilean writer Benjamin Labatut, to talk about his books and to practice my Spanish. Or maybe English writer Naomi Alderman, whose novel The Power I deeply loved.

What’s your worst habit?

Apart for the very few things I am maniacal about, I tend to be messy and chaotic.

What are you like when you’re drunk?

Witty and funny, at least this is how I see myself after drinking.

Who would you have play you in a film?

No idea.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Greed and bullying.

What music would you have played at your funeral?

Silence, that is the wind rustling in the leaves. It means I should avoid dying in Malta.

What is your most treasured material possession?

A letter.

What is your earliest memory?

A terrace in Sicily.

When did you last cry, and why?

Last week. Because.

Who would you most like to meet?

Your PM Robert Abela, to talk about the construction and hunting frenzy in Malta.

What’s your favourite food?

Since I’ve become vegan during the pandemic, I’ve discovered a new realm of tastes. However, I’ve always loved lentils. If I had been Esau, I would have easily given up my birthright for a dish of lentils too.

Who’s your favourite person on social media right now?

No one.

If you could travel in time, where would you go?

To the Paleolithic, to understand how we got it wrong right after.

What book are you reading right now?

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I am late, I know.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Freeze time.

What’s one thing you want to do before you die?

A psychedelic experience in Central America.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

At this very moment I’m listening to the second movement of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major.

In the shower or when you’re working out, what do you sing/listen to?

These days there is a song that I start my shower with: Looking for knives, by Dyan. Otherwise Veridis Quo by Daft Punk.