Catherine de Saint Phalle has written six novels and a memoir, Poum and Alexandre, shortlisted for the Stella Prize. Her latest novel, The Sea & Us, is published by Transit Lounge.

Toby Twirl Tales No.2
Sheila Hodgetts
I remember sitting on the edge of my bed, in a room where everything was red, for hours – ploughing through it. It was hard. I was about six. But at the end, I realised, with dawning wonder, that I didn’t need anyone to read to me anymore. I could open a cover and vanish inside it whenever I wanted.

Catherine de Saint Phalle says On the Road did not initially appeal to her.

Catherine de Saint Phalle says On the Road did not initially appeal to her.Credit:

The Thousand and One Nights
I prefer novels where you can dive deep and really lose yourself. When I saw how many separate stories there were, I felt as nonchalant as Harun al-Rachid, the caliph of Baghdad, was with Scheherazade. But, with each story, I stepped deeper into an intricate world where I lost all my bearings. Soon I realised that the patterns of my brain were changing. I was thinking differently. This book gave me a sense that I had a template inside me to help me live – a kind of SIM card of the soul.

A Life
Guy de Maupassant
I remember a sort of esoteric feeling of wonder when I read A Life. I think it gave me a foreboding of my own life. I shudder as I write this. Time did not exist for me yet. When I finished it – it did. I suddenly understood the passage of years, the travel of time, the way it takes you from one place to another. The character described had a magical effect on me as if I knew that in spite of all the pain, meaning was at hand.

On the Road
Jack Kerouac
I read On the Road well into my thirties. A friend advised me to read it and I always read books advised by friends. On the Road did not attract me; it felt like a “bro” book. But as soon as I read the first few lines, about Sal Paradise’s miserably weary split-up and his feeling that everything was dead, I dived into a sea of compassion. Something happened to me that made me leave myself completely. It was a kind of mystical experience.



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