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‘Political thoughts should come into fiction organically’

  • Published at 06:29 pm November 9th, 2018
web-dlf-Arif Anwar-Olga Grjasnowa-converse -Kelly Falconer
Arif Anwar, centre, in conversation with Olga Grjasnowa, left, and Kelly Falconer, right Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Two novelists talk about process and philosophy of writing at DLF

“I try not to think of the reader when writing, as a service to the reader,” said Arif Anwar. The author was talking in a panel discussion held on the first day of Dhaka Lit Fest at Bangla Academy. 

Moderated by the founder of Asia Literary Agency, Kelly Falconer, the panel consisted of German writer Olga Grjasnowa and Bangladeshi-Canadian novelist Arif Anwar.

Olga Grjasnowa said, while political themes should be incorporated in fiction, it should not be driven by agenda, but should emerge organically. “There are some questions that writers have to ask. One of the questions that I keep coming back to is the question relating to organized violence,” she said.

Born in Baku, Azerbaijan and currently based in Berlin, Germany, Olga Grjasnowa’s debut novel “Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt” (All Russians Love Birch Trees), received wide acclaim after publication in 2012. She has since received the Klaus-Michael Kühne Preis and the Anna Seghers-Preis awards for her works. 

Arif Anwar said he “prefers to know where the writing is going” while talking about his process of writing. “Some people write 50 thousand words and then decide it’s not going anywhere. I can’t do that,” he said. 

Born in Chittagong, Bangladesh, Anwar previously worked for BRAC, one of the world's largest non-government organizations, on issues of poverty alleviation, and for UNICEF Myanmar on public health issues. Currently living in Toronto, Canada, Anwar’s first novel “The Storm” has been praised for its intricate structure and dexterity, with Chitra Divakaruni in The New York Times Book Review calling the novel “...a fascinating, ambitious work, stretching across decades and countries and capturing troubled moments in each.” 

Olga Grjasnowa also decidedly prepares for her writings and carries out extensive research before starting to write. “I spend a lot of time doing research. I spend at least 6 to 8 months in research work before writing the first sentence,” she said. Her second novel “Die juristische Unschärfe einer Ehe” (The Legal Haziness of a Marriage) was published in 2014 and both of her novels have been adapted for the stage and are currently being prepared to be filmed. Her latest novel “Gott ist nicht schüchtern” is set to be released by Oneworld in 2019.

When asked if he thinks about the reader’s perspective, Anwar said that he is narcissistic in his approach and prefers to think about only what he wants to write about and what he is going to enjoy reading. But the purpose is not to serve himself, he says, rather it is to serve the work and ultimately the reader. “Thinking about how the reader will receive the work taints the process in ways that might be irrevertible,” he said.