Episode 46: Shazia Hafiz Ramji Interviews David Chariandy (part 1)
Jan 15, 2023
In the first episode of this two-part interview, David Chariandy describes his writing process and as well his fraught relationship with narrative conventions, particularly as they are prescribed by institutions. This interview is, in one word, “generous.” Shazia Hafiz Ramji and Chariandy cover such vast terrain from the ways emotions are commodified, to the responses of his work across continents, his own love of storytelling, and his relation to Caribbean poetics. Be prepared to navigate anger and joy, poetic ruptures in storytelling, and Chariandy’s deeply evocative body of work in this fantastic interview.
Shazia Hafiz Ramji’s writing was shortlisted for the Malahat Review’s 2022 Open Season Award for Fiction and the 2022 Montreal International Poetry Prize. She is the author of Port of Being, a book of poems drawn from field recordings, surveillance maps, and overheard conversations to reclaim the author’s experience of being stalked. It was a finalist for the 2019 Vancouver Book Award, BC Book Prizes, Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, winner of the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry, and has been assigned in classes taught by David Chariandy and Chelene Knight. Shazia is a PhD student in English at the University of Calgary. She lives in Calgary and Vancouver.
David Chariandy teaches contemporary literature, and specializes in Black, Caribbean, and Canadian fiction. He also teaches creative writing. His scholarly criticism has been published in journals such as Callaloo, Transition Magazine, The Journal of West Indian Literature, Postcolonial Text, The Global South, and Topia, as well as in academic books such as The Routledge Companion to Caribbean Literature and The Oxford Handbook of Canadian Literature. He has co-edited three special issues of journals, most recently Transition Magazine 124 “Writing Black Canadas.” His first novel, entitled Soucouyant, was nominated for eleven literary awards, including the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award. His second novel entitled Brother won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Toronto Book Award, the Ethel Wilson Book Prize (BC Book Prizes), and was named a book of the year by The Globe and Mail, The National Post, The Toronto Star, The New York City Public Library, Kirkus Reviews, Esquire Magazine, and The Guardian, among other periodicals and institutions. His latest work is of creative non-fiction entitled I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You: A Letter To My Daughter. David’s books have been published internationally and translated into several languages. He is a 2019 winner of Yale’s Windham-Campbell Prize for a body of fiction.
7:00 – David Chariandy’s writing process.
10:03 – Reference to a conversation with Dionne Brand on narrative as colonial export.
12:53 – The interruptions of poetry.
15:26 – The influence of trauma on the shape of the telling: interrupted form and “a critical perspective of narrative.”
17:20 – Disciplinary pressures and the work of capital “A” Art.
19:36 – Capitalism is brilliant at appropriating and commodifying emotions like anger.
20:16 – I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You and how children of colour start to figure out the world at a distressingly early age.
21:40 – Intimacy as joy in the closing words of the novels Brother and Soucouyant: “volume” and “eyestache.”
25:17 – On learning to read and Chariandy’s strange development as a writer.
26:36 – “I wanted more than what I was being taught in school.”
27:04 – On reading the first non-white author, James Baldwin, in third-year university and finding Austin Clarke’s work on the lives of Black domestic workers in Toronto. He also mentions George Elliot Clarke and Rinaldo Walcott.
28:15 – Dionne Brand and Austin Clarke take Chariandy under their wing: “…there was a recognition of what I wanted to do.”
29:29 – The Black community is no monolithic thing.
30:46 – On how the Caribbean lives in Chariandy’s work despite never having lived there.
33:19 – The importance of creative reading in creative writing.
34:41 – On Toni Morrison’s Playing in the Dark, reflections on reading white American literature.
36:21 – How Alistair MacLeod inspired a short story that admitted Chariandy into a creative writing class.
38:00 – On Alice Munro.
42:00 – The inavailability of emotions.
TIA House recognizes the generous support of the Canada Research Chairs program and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. We also appreciate the support of the Faculty of Arts and the Department of English at the University of Calgary, where our offices are housed, as well as the guidance of Marc Stoeckle at the Taylor Family Digital Library.
TIA House is run by Larissa Lai, Shuyin Yu, Ryan Stearne, Shazia Ramji, Rebecca Geleyn, Mikka Jacobsen, Benjamin Ghan, Amy LeBlanc, Marc Lynch, and Mahmoud Ababneh.
Our Intro/Outro music is Monarch of the Streets by Loyalty Freak Music, accessed from the Free Music Archive