Guy Gunaratne on his Goldsmiths Prize-shortlisted novel In Our Mad And Furious City, “authenticity” in fiction, and why you can’t write about London today without understanding how the city sounds.
Guy Gunaratne is a journalist, filmmaker and novelist from Neasden, north-west London. His debut novel In Our Mad and Furious City follows three young Londoners, all second-generation immigrants – Selvon, Ardan, and Yusuf – and two older characters (both first-generation immigrants). Set around a single estate in north-west London, and told over 48 hours, the story was sparked by the 2013 killing of Lee Rigby by extremist Michael Adebolajo. The book was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018 and has been shortlisted for the 2018 Goldsmiths Prize.
Why do we need the Goldsmiths Prize?
Well, there can be this notion that the most interesting questions concerning the novel have already been answered. But to assume that is to believe that the novel exists outside of all else that changes in society. This prize reminds us that as we move on, so does the novel, so do the questions, and that there is so much more that remains unsaid and unsettled. Every year this shortlist feels like the continuation of that conversation
The Goldsmiths Prize was set up to reward fiction that “breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form”. What can an “innovative” approach offer the reader (and writer) that a more conventional novel might not?
I’m not sure what’s meant by “innovation” when it’s used in these terms. I think the sort of books that are often described as innovative just offer different ways to explore or animate an idea or a feeling. And that’s not nothing. These books find new keys to open you up. I have a sense that this is embedded into the heart of the novel, though. Maybe some novels are more attentive to this than others, I don’t know.
Perhaps the most striking element of In Our Mad and Furious City is its command of voice. The three young London men who narrate much of the novel speak in voices which are both colloquial – peppered with slang – and commanding in their authority. How important is voice for you in fiction? How did you ensure that voice felt authentic?
Yes, voice was how this novel shaped itself. Writing this book often felt like an act of listening. Is that a strange thing to say? I was only concerned with making sure I gave each voice it’s due care. But “authenticity” is one of those words that needs challenging. Authenticity in relation to whom? It’s a word that needs to be released. I wasn’t so concerned as to whether or not the voices measured up to “accuracy”. They needed to sound true to the place, but that was more to do with making sure the rhythm and cadences worked well on the page. There is an interplay between each voice that I was more interested in. The dialects have their own logical internality which then …read more
Source:: New Statesman