In our quest to offer you diverse perspectives, we present a Proust interview with the Irish Ambassador to India, H.E. Mr. Brendan Ward, which delves into aspects of his life beyond his diplomatic role.
Diplomatist: What’s the first book you ever remember reading?
H.E. Mr. Brendan Ward: As a child around the age of four, I read all the books published by Ladybird to help children learn to read. I still remember the rather anodyne adventures of Peter and Jane.
Diplomatist: Who’s your all-time favourite book character?
H.E. Mr. Brendan Ward: Probably Becky Sharp in Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair”. Not an admirable character, but a fascinating one.
Diplomatist: Who’s your favourite author of all time? Your favourite book by them?
H.E. Mr. Brendan Ward: Very difficult to choose one, but I would put Jane Austen in a very high place. Her letters show that she was even more acerbic in life than in her books. I think “Pride and Prejudice” is among the greatest novels in English.
Diplomatist: What genres do you love?
H.E. Mr. Brendan Ward: I enjoy historical fiction where it is accurate. I also have slight weakness for gothic novels.
Diplomatist: What author (who is still living) would you dearly love to meet?
H.E. Mr. Brendan Ward: Well I have met William Dalrymple, whose work I very much admire. Unfortunately, Martin Amis is no longer available. I think it would be interesting to meet Sir Salman Rushdie.
Diplomatist: Do you prefer paperbacks or e-books? Why?
H.E. Mr. Brendan Ward: I have never really taken to e-books so I suppose paperbacks. If I really enjoy and value a book, I like to have it in a good hardback edition like the Folio Society.
Diplomatist: What attracts you to a book? The cover? Blurb? Recommendation from others?
H.E. Mr. Brendan Ward: I read a number of literary periodicals like the NY Review of Books, the London Review of Books and the Literary Review. I often find very interesting new books from their pages.
Diplomatist: What book will you read next?
H.E. Mr. Brendan Ward: I am about to start “The India Way” by Dr S. Jaishankar, the Minister for External Affairs. I am sure it will be a thrilling read.
Diplomatist: Thoughts on prologues? Epilogues?
H.E. Mr. Brendan Ward: Not a huge fan, but I suppose it depends on context, like so many other things.
Diplomatist: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
H.E. Mr. Brendan Ward: Is there such a thing in this life? I find reading while listening to music and perhaps drinking wine makes me very happy.
Diplomatist: What is the trait you most deplore in others?
H.E. Mr. Brendan Ward: There are so many deplorable things about me that I am slow to find fault with other people. I suppose being boring, but as nobody can be aware of that trait in themselves it is very hard to fix.
Diplomatist: What is your greatest extravagance?
H.E. Mr. Brendan Ward: I have a bit of a weakness for very expensive silk ties. Of course, the tie is going out of fashion even in diplomatic circles so it is a real extravagance. I am also a fan of good wine, which tends to be both expensive and ephemeral.
Diplomatist: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
H.E. Mr. Brendan Ward: Making people that I care about happy, on the few occasions that I have managed to do so.
Diplomatist: What is your most treasured possession?
H.E. Mr. Brendan Ward: A little book of Irish poetry given to me by my late father. He won it as a school prize in the 1930s.
Diplomatist: Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
H.E. Mr. Brendan Ward: You would have to ask other people, since I consider my use of words to be apt and well judged in all situations. Apt and well judged perhaps?
Diplomatist: Who is your favourite historical character?
H.E. Mr. Brendan Ward: We can never know a historical character in any real sense. We just know their reputation. Some very great figures were probably difficult to know and impossible to live with. I suppose William Wilberforce for his great work.
Diplomatist: What evolution or part of the digital industry makes you happy?
H.E. Mr. Brendan Ward: I have mixed feeling about the digital industry, but I suppose the mobile phone must rank as one of the greatest inventions of all time. One of the greatest nuisances as well.
Diplomatist: If you could add one thing to your office, what would it be?
H.E. Mr. Brendan Ward: A larger couch to make my naps more comfortable.
Diplomatist: What motivates you at work?
H.E. Mr. Brendan Ward: It probably sounds sanctimonious, but even after nearly forty years, I still get satisfaction from the fact that I am advancing Ireland’s interests and contributing to a better world in a very small way.
Diplomatist: What’s on the top of your bucket list right now?
H.E. Mr. Brendan Ward: I still have not visited the fascinating country of Iceland so I hope to do so on my return to Europe.