London, New York, Paris: always travelling, always writing

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The Independent Travel
Gay writer Edmund White's US passport reflects his lifestyle - regular trips between New York, Paris, and London with sojourns in gorgeous destinations with glamorous friends. "Here's one for July '94 from Florence," says White. "I was going to see the writer Gregor von Rezzori who lives in this wonderful house with a big tower where Bruce Chatwin wrote all his novels." A 1985 stamp for Syria reminds White of a funny incident."I was going out with a very cute French boy, and we came out of the mosque in Damascus and there was a tribal chieftain surrounded by his men. He took one look at this boy, grabbed him by the hand and started hauling him off. I grabbed the other hand and was pulling back. We were all laughing, but it was a tense moment. We were with the wife of one of the leading architects in Europe, one of the most beautiful women in France.She was vexed that the chief hadn't tried to carry her off!"

White has lived in Paris since 1983 when he won a Guggenheim scholarship and left New York, which had been his home for 22 years. He explains: "I liked the idea of living in Paris for a year and then one year became two, and two became three, and I just never went back. Partly because so many people in America were dying. I felt, `I don't really want to go through all that.' Then once I got to Paris everybody began to get ill too." White was diagnosed HIV positive in 1985, but remains in good health. He has two entries in his passport for Australia. The first is for 1988 when he went to the Adelaide Festival. He says: "I met a lot of people who later became very good friends - Michael Ondaatje, Kazuo Ishiguro, Julian Barnes." His second visit was in February 1995 when he went to Sydney for the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. "The Museum of Contemporary Art paid my way over to give a talk about Robert Maplethorpe because they were having a huge exhibition of his work and I had known Robert, worked with him, and written essays about him. The rest was just fun and I had a good time going to all these parties!" With all this unadulterated fun, one wonders when White gets the time to work. "I write while I travel," he explains. "I live now with writer Michael Carroll and we both write in notebooks. We don't write on computers. If you have a nice little notebook you can write anywhere - on the train, on the plane. We are always writing and always travelling."

"The Farewell Symphony" by Edmund White, the final auto-fictional novel of the trilogy which began with "A Boy's Own Story", has just been published by Chatto. Price pounds 16.99.