robertogreco + fiction + aaronbady   2

Interview: Sofia Samatar « Post45
"SS: The relationship between fantasy fiction, and the whole African literature thing... So, I get questions a lot, where people ask me why I write this, and I try to answer them as best I can.

Is that an antagonistic question? As in, "why do you write fantasy rather when you should be writing real literature?"

I think it's a little bit antagonistic, but I also think it's genuine. I don't think people are asking it to be confrontational. They honestly want to know. But genre fiction—you know, science fiction, fantasy, Western, romance—all of them are set apart from literary fiction, in the way that our literature is divided. And since literary fiction is generally felt to be realist—which is totally not the case, but it is what people think—the question becomes, well, here is this dominant literature, here is The Novel, we have this idea of the novel as a realist form... That's where the question "why" comes from, the idea that writing fantasy is not a normal thing to do.

One way I address this is to turn things around, and look at how much older fantasy is than realism, how much more widespread in the world. How deeply a part of oral tradition fantasy is—and say, you know, explain to me, "Why write realist fiction?" Because fantasy is not the fringe, really, if you take narrative as a whole. It is the center.

So, there's that answer. But that doesn't work, right? Because we are still looking at things the way they are now, the way literature is divided. So then I go to my other answers. One of them is that I don't know. I wrote my PhD dissertation on the Sudanese writer Tayeb Salih: I wrote it on the uses of the fantastic and the uncanny in his work, plus a comparative piece where I was looking at Ibrahim al-Koni of Libya, Ben Okri of Nigeria, and Bessie Head from South Africa/Botswana. I was looking at how all of these writers are using the fantastic and the uncanny in their work. I did this, in part, to try to figure out why I am drawn to this literature. And I failed! I failed, Aaron. I still don't have a satisfactory answer for my attraction to this kind of literature."

[Compare to https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:0a82a9f1b371 which references Stephen King saying something similar (https://web.archive.org/web/20151003010112/https://ayjay.tumblr.com/post/101627096303/michiko-kakutani-who-writes-reviews-for-the-new )
and Ursuala Le Guin doing the same (http://www.rc.umd.edu/sites/default/files/imported/reference/wcircle/leguin.pdf [.pdf] via http://designculturelab.org/2014/10/23/three-uncertain-thoughts-or-everything-i-know-i-learned-from-ursula-le-guin/ )

Update (4 March 2015): here's another Ursula Le Guin to add to the mix, this one referring to some Kazuo Ishiguro in the NYTimes:
95. “Are they going to say this is fantasy?”
http://www.ursulakleguin.com/Blog2015.html#New and http://bookviewcafe.com/blog/2015/03/02/are-they-going-to-say-this-is-fantasy/

Update (10 July 2017): a thread: https://twitter.com/zunguzungu/status/884431966900113408

"What would you say if I told you that there was a thing called Science Fiction that exists [screenshots]

It's unfair to Ghosh--he's a better reader than the "why no climate fiction?" hottakes citing him--but it's become an annoying cliche.

If what you mean by "contemporary fiction" doesn't include Speculative Fiction, then contemporary fiction will not speculate about futures.

You could go a step farther: the "contemporary" in that sense of contemporary fiction is composed by literally removing the speculative.

The link to that "On the Media" episode on fiction and climate change, btw: https://www.wnyc.org/story/on-the-media-2017-07-07/

This is well put. If contemporary fiction doesn't address it, it's a structural erasure of writers that do, not a lack of them. [screenshot of https://twitter.com/nathangoldman/status/884420124752719872
trope of asking "why aren't writers writing about X?" is weird imo. seems meant as way of asking why don't people care about X...

..by asking why don't writers care. but almost always some writers do care and are writing about it. more interesting question is...

...what forces make that writing invisible and what that might have to do with what broader cultures care about.
]

Related: a short thread I wrote on Kanishk Tharoor's collection as Fiction in the Age of Climate Apocalypse: https://twitter.com/zunguzungu/status/841638743123550208

The first paragraph of that Ghosh essay
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/oct/28/amitav-ghosh-where-is-the-fiction-about-climate-change-

"the irony of the “realist” novel: the very gestures with which it conjures up reality are actually a concealment of the real.""]
sofiasamatar  2014  interviews  aaronbady  fantasy  sciencefiction  genrefiction  literature  fiction  writing  africa  ursulaleguin  kazuoishiguro 
december 2014 by robertogreco
(NOT) Five African novels to read before you die – The New Inquiry
[in response to: http://theconversation.com/five-african-novels-to-read-before-you-die-33063 ]

"1. Yvonne Owuor’s Dust (2014). Everything changed when she wrote this book. It’s glorious and great, and brave and beautiful, and as you’re reading it, flip back and re-read the prologue, which is the poetry that the rest of the book works to explicate. Also, remember that it’s the story of an artist holding a paintbrush like a stabbing knife. This book is doing work. (alternate: Binyavanga Wainaina’s One Day I Will Write About This Place, which is pretty much all of those things too).

2. Shailja Patel’s Migritude (2010). This book is as beautiful as its cover, and I’ve learned almost as much from her writing as I’ve learned from her example. So brave and strong that you almost don’t notice the melding of an acute artistic sensitivity with painful self-reflection. So worldly that you almost don’t notice how rooted she is. So political that you almost don’t notice that she writes about love, always. (alternate: Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go, which is a lot more of those things than the “I’m not an Afropolitan” people seem willing to notice).

3. Alain Mabanckou’s Blue-White-Red (1998, 2013), African Psycho (2003/2007), Broken Glass (2005/2009), Memoirs of a Porcupine (2007/2011), Black Bazaar (2009/2102), Tomorrow I’ll be Twenty (2010/2013). Did you know that there is such a thing as African literature written in French? Neither did I! But Alain Mabanckou turns out to exist, and he’s a completely amazing and interesting and delightful writer, and as you can see from the dates above (original publications/translations), his English translators are slowly catching up with him. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because he’s funny and playful that he’s not deadly serious, and cruel. (alternate Francophone writer that is finally getting most of his stuff translated in the states: Abdourahman Waberi).

3.5. Oh, and what the heck, here’s a bunch of other novels written recently-ish by Africans, in French, that have been translated into English:

• Ken Bugul’s The Abandoned Baobab: The Autobiography of a Senegalese Woman (1982/1991)
• Gaston-Paul Effa’s All That Blue (1996/2007)
• Fatou Diome’s The Belly of the Atlantic (2003/2006)
• Gabriel Mwene Okoundji’s The Wounded Soul of a Black elephant & A Prayer to the Ancestors (2002,2008/2010)
• Léonora Miano’s Dark Heart of the Night (2005/2010)
• Edem Awumey’s Dirty Feet (2009/2011)
• Kossi Efoui’s The Shadow of Things to Come (2011/2013)
• Scholastique Mukasonga’s Our Lady of the Nile (2012/2014)

For most of these writers, this is the only book which has been translated in English, so for crying out loud, at least you could read that one book, you gauche provincial. (Alternate Europhone language whose African writers are finally getting translated into English: Portuguese. Look for names like Mia Couto, Pepetela, and Ondjaki.)

4. Hisham Matar’s In the Country of Men (2006) and Anatomy of a Disappearance (2011). Variations on a theme. Haunting, lovely, and wonderfully perceptive about masculinity and power, and his prose is crystal sharp. (Alternate Libyan novels: Ahmed Fagih’s Maps of the Soul, which is 618 pages and comprises the first three books (Bread of the City, Sinful Pleasures and Naked Runs the Soul) of his twelve novel epic, already published in Arabic.) (alternate African literary language that I can’t even begin to: Arabic. SO MANY BOOKS IN ARABIC.) (also, the Maghreb, what about them…) (what about the islands, do those count) (Africa is big)

5. Africa39: New Writing from Africa south of the Sahara. These are not at all the only interesting writers under the age of 39, but it’s a damned good anthology and a damned good list of writers. Most anthologies are not nearly this full of interesting surprises, and the level of quality is a lot higher than I had even hoped. And it’s 39 writers, from all over the place south of the Sahara, which is a lot of people and places. If you’re going to make an impossible list, it’s a good backstop to keep everything from sliding out of control (alternate: all the other books ever written by African people (alternate alternate: literature in non-European languages, let me know what you find)."
literature  africa  readinglists  aaronbady  2014  books  fiction  booklists 
november 2014 by robertogreco

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