Dara McAnulty remembers the day he started speaking, just five years ago, but not the day he started writing. “It has always been a way to share my experiences and my worldview with others. Very young, I looked for a slightly different way of making myself understood ”, he smiles. “When I say very young, it’s proportional to the rest of my life! “
Because Dara is 16 years old, her face eaten by thick-rimmed glasses and her hair falling down to her shoulders. Autistic, he dreads spontaneous conversations – “People are unpredictable! “ – but still lends itself to the game of the interview. It is with pen in hand that he regains control. “I don’t always know where I’m going when I write, but the end of the paragraph has to be somewhere in my mind. “
Its name means “oak” in Irish Gaelic – is that a sign? The adolescent describes himself as having “The heart of a naturalist, the mind of a budding scientist and the carcass of someone already worn out by the indifference and destruction plaguing the environment”. He divides his life between observing flora and fauna and trips to the library, where he immerses himself in books and encyclopedias. An urgent need to know, motivated by a mishap: when he was 3 years old, the disappearance of a blackbird whose song woke him up disoriented him. Since then, he swallowed up knowledge to weave “A safety net” which reassures him during his explorations.
A diary on the taming of its new environment
« I thought books would shield me from another surprise, but I’ve since learned that nature has many more in store! “, he smiles. However, he acquired a vocabulary and precision that forged the tone of his first novel, Diary of a young naturalist (1). A private diary which retraces in four seasons a year of his life, the story of a move, an uprooting and a return to calm. His unique sensitivity is combined with his expertise, his humor and an endearing frankness.
As a child, Dara tames nature in the parks of Belfast, where the chaos of the city « congestionnée » leaves room for the delight of the senses. As they move, the McAnultys, “United like otters”, settle in a village in the west of the country, where “The landscapes are the wildest, worn and battered by the Atlantic”. Then, they go east: the coast is fifteen kilometers away, the forest hardly further, and we see the Morne range which plunges directly into the sea, surrounded by fields “Luminescent” where the sheep graze. His book traces the taming of this new environment.
The teenager still has a lot to explore. On Rathlin Island, where he goes on a getaway for his birthday, he normally so cautious is overcome with enthusiasm and nearly falls off a cliff he was climbing. “I found myself face to face with a wild primrose, he recounts. We were both hanging there, her longer than me, the cows spinning like sharks at our feet. “
Fight against global warming
Dara McAnulty got involved with young strikers dropping out of school on Friday to protest against global warming. But it is through his writings that he finds the best way to be heard. “Why are we protesting? Is it out of fear of losing the world around us, or out of a desire to protect what makes it a wonderful place? » For him, it is the instinct of protection.
The young novelist quotes the myth of Pandora: “The box that contained all the evils in the world is hastily closed before hope spreads to Earth. The Greeks saw in this apathetic hope the greatest of all dangers: the idea that someone was going to fix things for them. “
For him, hope is “Necessary as long as it does not prevent action. I think we can change things, but we have to do it now. We are ridiculously close to disaster ”.
Recommended in the school program
Her book met with unexpected success in the UK, receiving the Wainwright Prize which rewards travel accounts or descriptions of nature. The jury recommended that it be put on the curriculum of all schools.
Since his release, several young autistic people have sent him letters. Thanks that are “The most precious of jewelry” and which arouse in him an emotion almost too intense to speak about it. He has already turned to other projects: a children’s book and a guide to the mythological landscapes of the Emerald Isle.
Son inspiration. “A moment of beauty that restores confidence”
Dara McAnulty draws her inspiration from the wonders of nature. “I was hiking on the Slieve Muck summit in the Mornes, when a fog bank rose, he recounts. A moment ago we were towering over it, and within seconds it became impossible to see our own hands! It only lasted a few minutes, but the sun was setting and its light filtered through the mashed peas, reflecting in the droplets to make it look like all the fog was illuminated. This moment of beauty gave me back confidence: whatever we leave behind, it is always possible to take root in a new environment. “