Basil Eliades: Renaissance Man
Basil Eliades is certainly a Renaissance Man when it comes to the arts. He’s a painter, as well as a poet, performance artist and most recently an author of travel fiction. Speaking in Tongues is his most recent
IP title. His previous poetry with IP is 3rd i
Assistant Editor Imogen Sloss caught up with him as he was packing his bags for the Venice Biennial.
IS: Basil, how would you best describe the nature of your book?
BE: Possibly because of my strange life, I tend not to see what everyone else is seeing. And I guess I’d prefer not to! Speaking in Tongues is a collection of short stories about the weirder aspects of travel – the kind of journeys you may read about, possibly dream about, but rarely experience. It is (hopefully!) intense, funny, sensual, and always offering a kind of heightened experience.
IS: In your writing, how do you choose what should remain factual and what can be fiction? How important is the truth?
BE: Given that these are all fictional stories grounded in fact, it’s pretty easy to choose what should remain factual – virtually nothing! Fiction allows enormous licence. But I have to say, life offers more bizarre experiences than I can invent. You can begin a story from any single point you choose – John Marsden famously gives character-writing lessons beginning with a single button. So on the road any one fact can be the basis for a whole story, but one relies on the real world to ground the rest of the story, to keep it located in time and space.
IS: What sparked the inception of Speaking in Tongues?
BE: I’ve been very blessed with opportunities to travel, and I have always written, and always written whilst on the road. It was inevitable that the stories would come together at some stage.
IS: What was overall the most interesting place you’ve visited around the world?
BE: I think the interesting bit is inside our heads! Nearly everywhere I go I am thrilled and mesmerised by newness. I don’t know that any one place is intrinsically more interesting than any other. But despite all that… Venice Venice Venice for the light, the feel, the stonework, the water. Paris because it’s Paris. Japan because it’s amazing, and Jane shared it with me. For sheer interesting-ness, however – India!
IS: As a painter and writer, what is the difference in recording your experience in images or text?
BE: Text allows me more room to play over time, to evolve subtle images through suggestion and play. Painting for me is more about an internal experience, less about the external world. But the images I draw whilst travelling might feed into a story, and equally they might evolve into a painting.
IS: What is your #1 piece of advice for someone who wants to reflect on their travels through writing?
BE: Do it!