THE prize-winning novelist, Zadie Smith, and her husband have bought a disused farmhouse on the Sheep’s Head peninsula.
The author, whose third novel ‘On Beauty’ won the Orange Prize for fiction in 2006, together with her husband, the Northern Irish poet and novelist Nick Laird, paid in the region of €100,000 for the disused farmhouse and adjoining barn on the Goat’s Path.
Siobhán Burke, who is the marketing co-ordinator with the Sheep’s Head and Bantry Tourism Co-operative, said: ‘This is great news: I know the couple will be made feel very welcome in the area.’
They will be in good company because, as Graham Norton said in an interview this week in The Irish Independent, the Sheep’s Head peninsula in general and his holiday home in Ahakista in particular are in ‘paradise.’
Cork County Council has granted Zadie and Nick permission to redevelop their farmhouse and barn to create a five-bedroom home and a writer’s studio.
Normally, local authority regulations preclude blow-ins from new builds in environmentally sensitive areas, such as the Sheep’s Head peninsula, which received a European Destination of Excellence award in 2009, but their project is a re-build, not a new construction.
Siobhán Burke expressed the hope that the couple ‘will become part of the vibrant, cultural scene, including the internationally-renowned West Cork Literary Festival.’
Graham Norton this week described the summers he spends in West Cork as ‘fantastic.’ He said it is a place where he doesn’t feel the need to hide away from the press or the locals. And he’s more than happy to attend community events like the annual charity pub-quiz.
‘I give that impression that I’m visible, because what I do is say “yes” to two or three things every summer. And it’s no big deal. People are very nice to me in West Cork, and I love being there and I love being part of that community,’ he told journalist Joe O’Shea.
He also rather wisely said: ‘I think if you try to hide away and become a hermit, that’s when you go crazy, and that’s when you’ve got people jumping over the wall trying to get a look at you.
‘But if I’m out and about a bit, if I go to the pub occasionally, then people see you around, you’re not like a panda, it’s not like, “Oh my God I SAW him!” People kind of bother you less, they just get used to seeing you around. And people bother you less anyway in West Cork.’
That is something that is certain to resonate with Zadie Smith and her family, who divide their time between New York and London.
In a Sunday Times interview, Zadie said: ‘The peace I find in New York comes because there’s less focus on me. There are 30,000 writers in Manhattan. You walk past Jonathan Franzen every other day.’
In West Cork, we are proud to call producer Lord David Puttnam and actor Jeremy Irons ‘blocals’ – blow-ins who are accepted as locals.