E-mail:
Phone: 01 42 93 10 52
Portable: 06 83 27 23 80
Address: 75017 Paris, France

An interview with Maria Sweeney about “The Hour of our Heaven”

I had the good fortune to cross paths with Silva T. Wilson, a filmmaker and writer, at the Spoken Word get-togethers of writers held Monday evenings at Le Chat Noir in Paris. He devoured my novel in one week, declared to me it was the book of the year and requested to interview me. First he sent me these written questions but for the video he just invited me to speak into the camera. That was a bigger challenge for me.

What was the spark to writing this book?

I was there to witness my Mum, on her dying bed, having a transformation. Her body was limp, her voice but a whisper and then she saw something. Her eyes glistened as she stared ahead to the end of her bed to something awesome. I supposed it was The Light. She seemed to find this light or vision inviting, because she gently lifted back the bed-covers and turned her hand towards it, murmuring, “Jesus,” wanting to go.

I began to wonder what other people of other persuasions might see in that most final of moments, given that it probably came from our upbringing or expectations.

My search for understanding (14 years) was an adventure, an expedition, a discovery, because as I wrote, my story seemed to snowball from a village to a city, then to a planet.

Is it a gloomy story about death?

The book is entitled ‘The Hour of our Heaven,’ not The hour of our Death.

Of course the sadness of death is depicted, before we soar into seven idealised notions of what Heaven is. But well before we get to this place, we experience life in all its vibrancy in familiar and exotic destinations. At a quirky pace the narrative offers doses of delights and dilemmas, romance and religion, feasting and fasting, sex and disillusionment, song and dance, exuberance and despair. It is a curtain opener to the many different cultures in our world, through which we can debate which is better, reality or spirituality, freedom or allegiance. Seven perspectives are proffered. The reader can glide from one mind to another, empathy with each being on offer.

What are these seven perspectives?

Of a Buddhist who is so in love he wants to attach for life; of a Catholic mother suffering from cancer who believes in miracles and sees Jesus as her saviour; of a lonely Jew who dislikes intimacy but longs to be a father and a young unemployed Muslim who wants his existence to count; of a Hindu-dancer who wants her daughter to have better karma, an Agnostic-protestant who prefers to focus on sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll and finally an Atheist who scorns any God but comes to realise quantum physics is discovering invisible dimensions. They need to give the seal of approval to one another.

What is the role of your book or of literature in general today?

Some readers have said that this story weaves a fascinating tapestry, full of emotion and psychological depth and even that it is my duty to present this book to the world because it is pertinent to our epoch with all its conflicts, unexpected catastrophes, and clashing priorities. It could create harmony, bring personal inner-peace as well as inter-racial tolerance. I believe through literature we go deep to discover that almost everyone has a cathedral of thoughts and feelings going on behind the surface and that they are worth discovering. Literature allows us to juggle and explore philosophy, psychology and emotions until we strike gold in finding our own identity.

Speaking more about you, Maria Sweeney, what authors have influenced you the most?

I was enthralled when I read Anaïs Nin’s “Ladders to Fire” and identified with all its passion and intensity. I equally adored, “The God of Small Things,”by Arundhati Roy because of its haunting, rhythmic style of writing. Then being Irish, I have had the great pleasure to relive extracts from James Joyce’s Ulysses on the yearly Bloomsday commemorations. I have had the opportunity to perform extracts myself and discover more and more nuances.

If your novel were one day to be made into a movie, which films would guide us to depict it best?

‘The Da Vinci Code’ for its exploration of religion; ‘Forrest Gump’ for its quirky philosophy and the musical journey, and 21 Grams for its facility in recounting different human dramas. The link between the physical and metaphysical would need to be shown. There is one recurrent scene in ‘The Hour of our Heaven’ redolent of the vast calming desert in Bertolucci’s ‘The Sheltering Sky.’

Home Page