Fiction Finalist Rabih Alameddine in Conversation with Zeina Abi Assy
Zeina Abi Assy: How come Aaliya? What was it that you wanted to write and how did it take the shape of the strong and defiant Aaliya?
Rabih Alameddine: Interesting question, in that without her, there is no novel — she’s it. I’ve always been interesting in characters that occupy the margins of society, and in this novel I wanted to explore that in greater depth.
When I read the stories of Bruno Schulz I became intrigued by his history, how he was classified a “necessary Jew” and kept alive during the Holocaust by a Nazi commander who wanted a mural for his son’s bedroom. What makes a person necessary or unnecessary? I began to obsess about that. What makes a life worthwhile? Aaliya is old, single, childless, and doesn’t care much for people. She translates books, but nobody knows about her translations. Is she a productive member of society, and how do we decide what kind of life is worth living? Those are questions I wanted to pose in writing this book.
Fiction Finalist Lily King in Conversation with Hilary Wallis
Hilary Wallis: Euphoria is a departure from your previous work. What drew you to this story?
Lily King: It's funny how departures are often just accidents. I was just starting my third novel, Father of the Rain, when I stumbled on a biography of Margaret Mead. I got to this part when she was way up the Sepik River of Papua New Guinea doing field work with her second husband and fell in love with the only other anthropologist in the region, Gregory Bateson. It was a really short section of her biography, but it sort of lit me on fire. After that I had to find out everything I could about that five-month period in her life. I kept telling myself I wasn't actually going to write a novel about it, that I wasn't capable of writing that novel, but I couldn't stop researching it.
Fiction Finalist Marlon James in Conversation with Mallory McMahon
Fiction Finalist Chang-rae Lee in Conversation with Christine Chia