Julia O’Faolain, 23 June 1994
My topics are exile, memory and the imagination, and I plan to approach them through a story which has been haunting me. It is an old one about a mermaid: one of those mythic creatures dreamed up by lonely sailors and fishermen who fancied that they had seen beautiful naked women sitting on rocks among the waves. Possibly what they really saw were albino seals gleaming in the moonlight. Maybe the sailors were dazzled, misled by wishful thinking – or had had too much to drink. In the story I am thinking of a fisherman has children by a mermaid, and fearing lest she leave him and go back to the sea, removes and hides her tail. The story has variants but in the end she always finds the tail and goes.