Question Time with Rachel Billington


Rachel_BillingtonQ. Which other EAFOL 2016 participant are you most excited about?

Timberlake Wertenbaker is a fascinating writer who I’ve admired ever since her play about British convicts shipped to Australia called Our Country’s Good. Recently her adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace was broadcast over a full day on BBC radio. She is an original who fires my own imagination.

Q. Which book(s) are you reading now?

I’ve just finished a terrific biography, King of Kings: The Triumph and Tragedy of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. It is written by the Emperor’s cousin, Asfa-Wossen Asserate who has lived in Germany since the coup in 1974 which saw the Emperor and sixty others, including Asfa’s father, murdered. It is a fascinating study of a country and its leader whose history often reads more like fiction than fact.

Q. Which literary character would you invite to dinner? And why?

I would invite novelist English Virginia Woolf who, unlike her long serious face as shown in photographs, had a sharp wit and would keep the conversation on its toes.

Q. There have been some interesting additions to the dictionary over the years. Which word would you remove?

I’m not sure whether ‘interact’ is old or new but it always annoys me, particularly when I use it myself. This year ‘gifting’ as in ‘the gifting season’ is top of my abominations.

Q. Who would write/ illustrate the story of your life?

My friend, Hilary Spurling, is a great biographer and is, at present, writing about my uncle, novelist Anthony Powell. I fear our friendship would not make her particularly kind to me – the duty of a biographer is to the truth not the subject – but I have no doubt she would make me seem interesting. I would like it to be illustrated by my cousin, James Reeve, a fantastical painter who has lived a lot of his life in Mexico, and would give added colour and invention.