Posts Tagged ‘literatura’

(Català) Sant Jordi 2014: La llista d’autors Primera Persona

April 22nd, 2014 No Comments

Kamila Shamsie and Multicultural Writing

March 18th, 2014 No Comments

Bolaño Archive. 1977-2003 © Lidia González Alija

Many writers from all around the world have written about Barcelona, embracing the city as theirs. A great number of foreign gazes, from George Orwell to Jean Genet, to the first writers of the Latin American boom, for example Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa, who for years made the city the base for their European operations, to Roberto Bolaño who described his Barcelona in Consejos de un discípulo de Morrison a un fanático de Joyce (Advice from a Morrison Disciple to a Joyce Fanatic) – now being adapted for the stage – and Los detectives salvajes (The Savage Detectives), to Colm Tóibín and The South, to Richard Gwyn and The Colour of a Dog Running Away … have contemplated Barcelona. Very few, however, have depicted today’s multicultural metropolis. There are travellers’ chronicles – including Hemingway’s notes from his time as a correspondent – flashes from the past, glimpses of the fascinating red-light district known as Barri Xino, or of the cosmopolitan capital of the seventies when speaking Catalan was a private matter, but there are virtually no novels about today’s global metropolis or chronicles of this “global city” of more than 200 languages, in which there are neighbourhoods like the Raval where more than half the residents were born abroad. Among the writings of today’s newcomers, the “latest ‘other Catalans’”, there are only the novels by Laila Karrouch and Najat el Hachmini, the work of Matthew Tree, Stefanie Kremser’s Carrer dels oblidats and Carrer Robadors by Mathias Énard, but novels about the 23,000 Pakistani residents or the 6,000 Chinese people in Santa Coloma, the story of the Italian community, and the family worries and joys of the 8,500 Filipinos living in the city are yet to be written.

England is the great reference for multicultural literature in which, for several generations now, the narrators have depicted everyday reality in England’s hundreds of immigrant communities. Owing to the tradition of integration in this country at the heart of the Commonwealth, or simply because of its language, which was taught in the colonies, all kinds of accents and uses have easily been embraced and adapted (would we accept a novel about Barcelona in Spanglish, or Catalan mixed with other languages, when we already make such a fuss about the Spanish-Catalan hybrid we might call Catanish?) literary England today is replete with Zadie Smith’s districts, Vikram Seth’s interracial marriages and recent exiles, as Nadeem Aslam remarked when he was here some months ago. Indeed, in the Granta 2013 list of the top twenty young British writers, only 60% were born in the United Kingdom. The others hail from Ghana, Bangladesh, China and Pakistan and, although they write in English, they broaden the canon of world literature rather than the British one.

Kamila Shamsie, photo by Robert Burdock

Born in Karachi but now resident in London, Kamila Shamsie is one of these writers, and certainly one to be followed. Her novels portray this multicultural spirit from many angles since she writes stories of a worldwide reach with chapters set in Hiroshima, India, London, New York or Pakistan, and her characters, whether they are English or Indian, are not just that but also citizens of the whole world, each one with a rich personality and in touch with all kinds of people.

In this borderless literature a multitude of multicultural encounters and clashes take place, with Japanese girls falling in love with German doctors or English people with Indian servants, and these exchanges are described with intelligence and sensitivity, bringing out the preconceptions on both sides and portraying many-sided characters who make mistakes and rectify them. Prevailing most notably in her work is her neutral stance of never judging and treating all her characters as equals. This multicultural spirit also appears when Shamsie writes about languages because her novels are about communication and she upholds a multilingual world where every language one learns is a door opening into a new universe.

Finally, Shamsie manages macro and micro levels, constructing episode and anecdote with exceptional timing but always as part of a greater story, from the bombing of Nagasaki to the 9/11 attacks and the last war in Afghanistan. Here, there are no autarchies, no dividing walls or barbed-wire fences: the world is a single entity and everything is related. In Shamsie’s books, every city is a bridge, or a port where exchange and interaction occur, where one is moored but from which one will also sail away again. These are love stories in global cities, novels of individuals and how they fit into a world they don’t shrink from joining. Neither do they avoid dealing with religious issues or inequality or oblivion or forgiveness.

(Català) Barcelona a cau d’orella: Xavier Theros ens explica la ciutat

December 4th, 2013 No Comments

(Català) L’escriptor xinès Yu Hua, al CCCB

October 30th, 2013 1 Comment

“I Copied Out the Whole of Moby Dick by Hand”: The Secrets of the Writing of Nadeem Aslam

October 2nd, 2013 No Comments

We read novels to have a good time, or to learn more, or for the pleasure of letting ourselves be carried away by a good story, but behind every book there is always an author and a singular writing process, which may be long or short, pleasurable or tortuous, each with its own techniques and dynamics that we are rarely aware of as readers.

During his lecture at the CCCB, Nadeem Aslam wanted to share some of the secrets of his writing with us and he talked about his strategies for writing novels and about his beginnings as a writer. His are tips will be interesting for everyone who writes, but also for lovers of literature in general and for readers of The Blind Man’s Garden (in Spanish: El jardín del hombre ciego - Mondadori, 2013), his latest novel.

In this first fragment, Aslam explains the importance that notebooks have for him in his writing process. (You can hear this on the lecture video, minute 33:55)

Since about the age of 20, I have kept a notebook, in which I write down everything that I find interesting. It might be a comment of yours, a play of light on a blossom, a quote from a book, something I saw on the street… Now I have more than 100 notebooks. When I work, I sit down and write a chapter, then completely at random, I pick up one of these 100 notebooks, and look at the first thing that I wrote down. It might be a notebook from when I was 25, or 37, or 41, or from yesterday. Then I say: ‘Can I find a place for it here, in this chapter?’ If I can use it, I write it down, then I mark it with a small cross so that I do not use it again. Then I move on to the second thing, then the third, and I follow this process and go through the entire notebook. By the end of the day, the entire page will be scrawled with small notes and ideas that I will add to the text. Later when I edit it if I think it doesn’t work, I take it out and put it back in the notebook, because it is not a bad thought, it just doesn’t belong here; I know I will find a place for it somewhere else, maybe tomorrow or maybe in fifteen years time, or thirty. [...] In a longer chapter I can go through four, five or six notebooks, so on a purely practical level, I have been writing this book since I was 20, because there are thoughts in here from when I was 20… Apart from the notebooks, I am also a human being; I have a mother, a father, nephews, girlfriends… Those experiences then come in, because my first point of reference is always my own life. I may change things slightly to fit the needs of the narrative, of course, but if I am going to have a mother in my novel, my first reference will be my own mother.

The way in which Nadeem Aslam learned literary English also merits attention. The writer’s family went as refugees to Britain when he was 14 years old, and to resolve the problems with the language he read the great novelists, to the point where he even copied their works by hand (minute 41:40 of the lecture).

In Pakistan we were not rich; we were people of the left. If you are rich in Pakistan, you can send your children to expensive schools where they teach you in English, but I had gone to a government school where I was taught in Urdu, so when I came to Britain at the age of 14, I had very basic English, such as ‘This is a table; that is a floor’. At school in England the subjects that I did well in were sciences, because for sciences your English didn’t need to be good, you had to assimilate facts and reproduce them, if they happen to be in bad English it doesn’t really matter. But the subjects I was interested in, literature, history, politics and philosophy, for all of these you needed to write essays, argue with people, articulate yourself, and I couldn’t even write a paragraph. I went to university to read sciences, but in the third year, when I had been living in Britain for seven years, I said to myself my English is not good enough to do what I really wanted to do, which was to write. [...] Because I could not study the subjects that I liked at high school and at university, or take a B.A. or an M.A. or a PhD, I said to myself over the next ten years I’m going to do that. I would go to one person and say ‘Tell me who is a great writer’ and they would say ‘Thomas Hardy’, so I went and ready everything by Thomas Hardy, from the first novel to the last. Then I would go to person B and way ‘Who is a great writer’ and they would say ‘Nabokov’, so I would read everything by Nabokov. They said Faulkner, Joyce, Conrad, Lawrence; I read them all… Then I wanted to find out:  What is a paragraph? How many thoughts are allowed on a page? What is a comma? What is a full stop used for? So I copied out the whole of Moby Dick by hand. Then I copied out As I lay dying by William Faulkner, The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz, Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Autumn of The Patriarch by Gabriel García Marquez, Lolita by Nabokov, Black Meridian by Cormac McCarthy… I still have those pages, it was before the typewriter, I was doing them by hand. So it was very important for me to do that.

Next speaker: British writer Philip Hensher

Philip Hensher

Nadeem Aslam’s visit to Barcelona formed part of the cycle “Llocs/Lugares/Places. Dialogues with British writers” organised in collaboration with the British Council as part of the events associated with Kosmopolis, and other writers taking part are Philip Hensher, who will be visiting the CCCB on 8 October, and Edward St. Aubyn, who will visit us on 12 November 2013.