Friday 10th January 2020
Q1) The first book you ever loved
The Broken Wings by Khalil Gibran is the first book that really inspired me. Though the story is set in Lebanon I felt a personal connection to the writing as at that time I was living in Pakistan and social issues of religious corruption, the rights of women and the weighing of wealth and happiness were parallels that resonated within the society I was living in. Philosophy as well as poetic language is beautifully interwoven in telling the story of unrequited love of the central character, a Lebanese student falling in love with Selma. It powerfully depicts emotion as comes through when the narrator hearing of Selma’s death goes to the graveyard and asks the gravedigger about Selma’s father’s grave, to which the gravedigger says, Right here; I placed his daughter upon him and upon his daughter’s breast rests her child and upon all I put the earth back with the shovel.
Q2) The book you’ve read more than any other
The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon is a book I’ve gone back to many times. I have great admiration for the authentic voice of the novel, infusing English language with the voice of the Caribbean migrant characters. This language captures the disenchantment and thought-process of Selvon’s characters who have arrived in London from the Caribbean. Timeless in its depiction of the unfamiliar landscape, it continues to resonate today with displacement and vulnerability of the current refugee crisis.
Q3) A book you despise
There’s been no book that I’ve ever despised, but if I were to choose one book that could be more accessible and simplified in terms of language then that would be The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. I think it’s a great book but would have loved it not being so rich in texture and style.
Q4) A book full of beautiful writing
My book of beautiful writing would be A Disaffection by James Kelman. It is a powerful examination of working-class experience, making one stay on the page because of its lyricism, philosophy and interiority, making it an accomplished work of art.
Q5) The book you’ve been meaning to read for years, but haven’t
Inspired by Russian Literature and having heard so much about this novel, I’ve always wanted to read Mother by Maxim Gorky. I’m really interested to read the political agenda explored through the story.
Q6) The book you’re reading currently
Girl, Women, Other by Bernardine Evaristo is the book I’ve started reading. It’s a stunning page-turner told in prose and poetic style and a book that rightly deserves a much wider readership. I’m looking forward to following the lives of the 12 characters.
Q7) Your favourite short story
Raymond Carver’s short story Are These Actual Miles? is one of my all-time favourites. It’s a phenomenal story exploring infidelity and materialism and the impact of it on relationships. Stripped to the bare essence it leaves much room for the reader and is a compelling read.
Q8) Your all-time favourite novel
Sozaboy by Ken Saro- Wiwa. A war novel, the language of the book finds its expression in a very limited English vocabulary, or as the author himself called it "rotten English". This style comes from a certain segment of Nigerian society linked to the socio-economic and educational background of the speakers. Heartfelt and timeless, the destruction of war is reflected poignantly in these lines:
"I was thinking how I was prouding before I go to Soza and call myself Sozaboy. But now if anybody say anything about war or even fight, I will just run and run and run and run. Believe my yours sincerely." ●
Samina Chaudhry is the recipient of The Next Chapter Award 2019 at Scottish Book Trust. Her fiction has been published in various anthologies as well as online, including Scottish PEN. She has performed her work at the Linlithgow Book Festival and the Aye Write Festival. She is currently editing her novel, Half-Woman, set in Pakistan that traces the marginalisation of transgender people as well as exploring the themes of belonging and identity.