You will soon be in India to speak at the Jaipur Literary Festival. what are you looking forward to Have you visited India or interacted with Indian readers before this?
Ever since I had a roommate from Assam, Abhinav Bhattacharya, who taught me about India in 2007, I’ve always wanted to go to India. But more than that, in my opinion, India is a unique literary fountain that has produced such great writers as Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy and Anuradha Roy. In fact, Indian readers are very generous with my work. During and even before the 2019 Online Jaipur Literature Festival, they were his one of my most ardent supporters of writing.
Is it true that Indian movies are popular in Nigeria? Do you think this is due to cultural similarities? Have you seen any of them?
I grew up watching Indian movies.I can hardly remember now, but I can remember clearly Snake Girl Nagina (1986). Considered a classic for those who grew up in Nigeria (and other West African countries) in the 1990s, there were VHS copies. What made them so appealing to me was the fact that, unlike the American films we were used to seeing, they were often real Indians. appeared and many stories were told through music. This appealed to me. I think Indian cinema is still not as popular as it used to be, with Nigerian cinema (“Nollywood”) emerging since the early 90s and now dominating. But even its emergence, I believe, was inspired by the Indian film industry and its influence at the time. I have.
You’re a writer in your thirties with the rare distinction of being twice shortlisted for the Booker Prize and once serving on the Booker’s jury. What factors have contributed to your success as a writer?
I try to answer questions as honestly as possible, so trust me when I say I’m not sure if I’ve succeeded. Has my book reached a wide audience? Yes. Have I made any money from them? it is. Did I get some recognition? Definitely yes! But I still have so much to do that I don’t have time to think about what my last job did. I will immediately focus on: Struggling to complete something is the next challenge for me. So when you finish revising your third novel, you may feel like you’ve succeeded.
That said, as a work ethic, you have to believe that you have something to say and that you occupy your own space in a fictional world that only you can occupy. This is the only way you can save yourself from feeling like you are wasting your time and stay focused. Focus is the factor that separates great artists from struggling artists. It is very difficult to concentrate, to fully inhabit the world of the story, to the point that you find yourself living in the characters instead of simply observing them. In my opinion this difference is everything.
How do you feel about having your work translated into over 20 languages? Worried about your translation being true to the source? do you
For me, it’s one of the greatest joys of writing. To be read in different languages, cultures, etc. I always try my best to communicate with translators, but sometimes they don’t need my help (laughs). I became good friends with some of them. For example, French or Norwegian translators.
when is the next novel road to country Scheduled for release? Are you planning to revisit some of the themes explored in fishermen (2015) and minority orchestra (2019)?
thank you! It will be released in February 2024. We had to move from 2023 due to some delays in finishing work. A historical fiction that attempts to recreate the air and world of Biafra, a country that existed off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, through the eyes of a young man who was drafted into the Biafra army against his will. It shares an affinity with these other novels in that it incorporates a mystical element into its structure that works alongside the historical realism of the story’s plot.
what research needed to be done road to countryand to what extent does it draw from lived experience?
What a great question! This was a real painstaking job for me. I have read so many books and spoken to so many people who have fought or experienced war. I have learned a lot, much of it from real life experience. Furthermore, the atmosphere and worldview of the story is not fiction, but a reconstruction of history. In fact, the inspiration for this novel goes back to his 1993. When I was probably about eight years old, he traveled from Akure in western Nigeria to his hometown in the eastern region. When I got there, I noticed that many people were deformed in some way. This has never been seen so rapidly in the West. A boy in his twenties with no limbs, and a woman whose face was partially eaten away by a mouth kanklam. When I asked her mother what happened to these people, her mother replied:Obua” means “war”. Since then I thought I was going to write about war.
What aspects of Igbo culture do you think feed your creative work the most?
I haven’t given this much thought, but there seems to be some resilience in working on big themes that can’t be easily pushed out of your head. It’s a universal ideal. Of course, it has a unique Igbo spirit. Especially if you take the lesson in the context that I took it.
You teach a course in fiction writing and African literature at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. What do you find most rewarding or frustrating about being a teacher?
(Laughter) That’s a balanced question! Teaching creative writing is like asking healthy people to stand up straight. The problem, or rather, what you want is for them to stand perfectly straight and still. cannot stand perfectly upright. This is the biggest challenge. I know you talked about it in parables here, but really you’re saying that you’re teaching the technical stuff, the sense of how fiction works, cosmetics effectively, but the student’s It’s hard to create that gap from the deepest depths of consciousness where profound fictional ideas arise if they don’t already have it. Another thing is that writing is a big gamble and I am teaching people how to step into this world of gambling and win. It’s not easy and sometimes I ask them to hide their pens and wear lab coats, but I can’t say that. You are their teacher!
That said, I don’t think I would be the writer I am today if I wasn’t constantly reading other people’s work in progress and honing my editing skills by helping shape their work. It feeds the work.
What advice would you give to someone who loves writing and wants to publish, but doesn’t have the means to get an MFA in creative writing?
Do other things and make yourself a complete person first. Write only if you must. But if you have to write, read well first. Again, this is the case you have to write. In writing, don’t get caught up in groupthink. Never follow fashion. Don’t let trends dictate what and how you write. Don’t write against an agenda or write to ‘change’ the world. Please be honest. Even if it feels lackluster at first, it’s bearable. believe me. Finally, if you need the space and time, apply for an MFA. They can help and you don’t have to pay anything. Sign up for the Oxbelly Writer’s Retreat starting January 8, 2023, or come and study with me at the University of Nebraska.
Chintan Girish Modi is a freelance writer, journalist and book reviewer.