Yara Rodrigues Fowler speaks about her debut novel which was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize
Yara Rodrigues Fowler is a British-Brazilian novelist who grew up in South London. Her first novel, Stubborn Activist, was published to critical acclaim in the UK in February 2019. Yara was named one of The Observer’s new faces of fiction in 2019 and longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize. This interview was conducted via email communications.
What are you reading at the moment?
At the moment I’m reading a book called We are made of diamond stuff by Isabel Waidner. It was shortlisted for the Goldsmith’s Prize in the UK and I heard Isabel reading at the shortlist event. After that, I knew I had to read the book. It’s formally experimental and looks at queerness and class and fascism in England.
Is this going to be your first visit to Bangladesh? How do you feel about attending the DLF this year?
Yes it is my first visit to Bangladesh. I feel grateful to be so warmly welcomed and to appear on a panel with Monica Ali is a dream. I’m looking forward to getting to know more contemporary Bangladeshi literature.
Are you working on any writing project now?
Yes I am in the middle of a second novel. It will have a historical narrative and a contemporary narrative which I’ll weave together. They’ll be Portuguese and English again, Brazil and London again. Like Stubborn Archivist follows Brazilian and British women; it’s about sexuality, dictatorship, family, remembering.
Your novel Stubborn Archivist has been termed in a Guardian review as “a pleasurably London novel”. Would you care to reflect briefly on the writing process of your acclaimed debut?
Yes - and not only that but it is a south London novel. But I wrote the novel in all sorts of places. On the coast in São Paulo, sitting on airport trolleys, on the London Underground, in my local library. I was working full time and I became very burnt out balancing the two.
Do you write in the Brazilian or Latin American or English tradition? Or, do you combine all these different traditions to create your own?
I combine them. I cannot escape the influence of the British novel and so I disrupt its form, it’s narrative wholeness and sureness. This is one sense in which the book is a stubborn archive itself. In terms of the Brazilian tradition, I refer often to the popular songs of the dictatorship period, where coding and silence was necessary to avoid censorship. Silence and blank space are always present in my writing, particularly where violence is involved. My writing is also very dialogue driven—again to work against the European privileging of the written word. I work with stories handed down between women—another stubborn archiving of sorts.