Longlisted for CBC Short Story Award (Canada)
Farah Ahamed has made the 2019 CBC Short Story Prize longlist for We’re Watching You.
A few years ago, I lived in Kampala. One of the things that struck me was the large number of Kaloli marabou storks, perched on the roofs and treetops, like sentries guarding the city. I felt they were policing me. At the same time, a friend was going through a breakup after an affair. The two ideas somehow came together when I started working on the story.
While writing, it occurred to me to experiment with second person pronouns. I thought the use of ‘You,’ could offer a certain accusatory tone, while ‘We,’ could give a ‘holier than thou,’ loftiness. I also wanted to play with the idea of a Greek tragedy; where the passivity of the chorus is set up as distinct from the activity of the main character. In my story, while the tragic protagonist acts in defiance of the limits set by society, the chorus expresses judgement of her, and its verdict ultimately pushes her over the edge.
Menstruation in Fiction
An essay published by Ploughshares at Emerson College.
A period is something I deal with, without thinking about it particularly, or rather I think of it with a part of my mind that deals with routine problems. It is the same part of my mind that deals with the problem of routine cleanliness.” In Doris Lessing’s 1962 novel, The Golden Notebook, the protagonist, Anna, worries about her period and how it will affect the integrity of her writing. In the early 1960s, it was unusual and brave for a work of fiction to mention menstruation, let alone explore it in such detail. Broadly speaking, in mainstream fiction, examples of menstruation are few and far between.
Until recently, the topic of menstruation has been universally regarded as taboo, shrouded in secrecy and mythology. Historically, in some cultures, men refused to acknowledge it, in order to maintain a romantic image of women. In others, it is still linked with ritual impurity and lunar madness, while in certain hunter-gatherer and mountain communities, it is viewed as a sacred time for female solidarity, associated with healing and psychic powers. These ideas and practices are reflected in those few works that deal with the subject, which incorporate themes of learnt shame and the existence of women “elsewhere” due to some form of negative transformation…
Shortlisted for Primadonna Prize
The shortlist for the inaugural Primadonna Prize has been unveiled at the Primadonna Festival weekend, dedicated to championing women writers.
Around 1,000 people attended the festival at Laffitts Hall in Suffolk with five authors in the running for the £500 prize and offer of representation by British Book Award-winning agent Cathryn Summerhayes at Curtis Brown…
The Primadonna of Anarkali Book Market
Listen to me read at 17.15.
Staring at Statues
Staring at Statues, published in Kitaab (South Asian Journal).
The longer you look at an object, the more of the world you see in it. No matter how particular the scene, if you stare long enough you will see the whole world in it.” These words, from the pen of Flannery O’Connor, refer to that split second when we can “see things for what they really are” and they led me to reflect upon which “objects” could offer an understanding of the “whole world”,
Recently, monuments across the globe have become the subject of controversy. After eighty years at the University of Cape Town, the bronze of white supremacist Cecil Rhodes was removed; at the University of North Carolina, Silent Sam, a Confederate statue, was taken down and, in San Francisco, a 19thCentury monument, Early Days, demeaning to Native Americans, was uninstalled. Where for decades they had previously stood accepted as part of the landscape, now these statues outraged viewers. Altered circumstances meant they represented an uncomfortable “truth”, which some argued should not be commemorated, but also in fact, ought to be erased…
A Paper Boat on the Ganges
A Paper Boat on the Ganges, published in Kitaab.
To Die in Benares, (2018) translated from the French by Blake Smith, is a collection of seven stories, which have this cathartic effect. I will illustrate this by analysing the first story A Paper Boat in the Ganges, which centres on the life of Fougerre who has to confront Aristotlean obstacles in his life; colonialism, mythological gods, and fate. Set in Pondicherry at a time when it was still under French occupation, the story covers almost fifty years and presents a compressed montage of brisk, vivid scenes each with intense gesture and detail…