Dame Hilary Mantel has said she is intending to take Irish citizenship to “become a European again” and escape the “shame” of living under the current government.
In an extensive Q&A interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the two-time Booker Prize winner said prime minister Boris Johnson “should not be in public life” and revealed that she was “baffled” by the popularity of the monarchy.
Speaking about home secretary Priti Patel’s approach to immigration, she said: “We see the ugly face of contemporary Britain in the people on the beaches abusing exhausted refugees even as they scramble to the shore.
“It makes one ashamed. And ashamed, of course to be living in the nation that elected this government, and allows itself to be led by it.”
Dame Hilary also came to the defence of fellow author JK Rowling following the controversy surrounding her views on transgender rights. She called the attacks on Rowling “unjustified and shameful”, adding: “It is barbaric that a tiny minority should take command of public discourse and terrify those who disagree with them.”
The 69-year-old writer recounted a recent incident where a university “misgendered” her as “they” not “she”. “Being a woman means a lot to me,” she said. “I do not want my womanhood confiscated in print”.
She revealed she was going to write and complain until her husband convinced her to let the mistake pass.
The Wolf Hall author also criticised the government for “diminishing the country’s standing” with its recent cut to the foreign aid budget.
She said that she had met Boris Johhnson a number of times, adding: “He is a complex personality, but this much is simple – he should not be in public life. And I am sure he knows it.”
Dame Hilary’s autobiography, Giving Up the Ghost, is now coming out in Italy and she told interviewer Antonello Guerrera that writing it allowed her to be open about her endometriosis.
She described the condition as having “devastated my life”. And added that, although she had not wanted children when she was young, she now yearned for grandchildren.
The author, who was born in Derbyshire but had Irish immigrant grandparents, said: “I might breathe easier in a republic, and may be able to arrange it. I hope to loop back into my family story and become an Irish citizen.
“I feel the need to be packing my bags, and to become a European again.”