3.1 On Being Unmoored: Chang-rae Lee Charts Fiction with Anne Anlin Cheng (SW)

Season three of Novel Dialogue launches in partnership with Public Books and introduces some fresh new voices into the mix. John and Aarthi welcome Chris Holmes, Emily Hyde, Tara Menon, and Sarah Wasserman into the ND pod as guest hosts. And have they brought a series of scintillating conversations with them! In our series premiere, Sarah sits down with acclaimed novelist Chang-rae Lee and Anne Anlin Cheng, renowned scholar of American literature and visual culture at Princeton.

The conversation goes small and goes big: from the shortest short story to the totalizing effects of capitalism. Chang-rae is no stranger to such shifting scales: his novels sweep through large stretches of time and space, but their attention to detail and meticulous prose makes for an intimate reading experience. Chang-rae’s latest novel, My Year Abroad, fuels a discussion about how we can form meaningful bonds in current conditions (hint: it’s often around a table) and about the specters of other, better worlds that haunt Chang-rae’s fictions. He discusses his relationship to his own work and the benefits of taking an “orbital view” on his writing. Chang-rae also offers a tantalizing glimpse into his current project, a semi-autobiographical novel about Korean-American immigrants in 1970s New York. In response to a brand new signature question for the podcast this season, Chang-rae reveals the talent he wishes he could suddenly have… one that Anne already possesses!

Mentioned in this Episode

Listen and Read

Audio: On Becoming Unmoored: Chang-rae Lee Charts Fiction with Anne Anlin Cheng

Transcript: 3.1 On Becoming Unmoored

4.2 Light and Sound: Boubacar Boris Diop with Sarah Quesada Novel Dialogue

Boubacar Boris Diop is the author of Murambi: The Book of Bones, (Indiana UP, 2016; translated by Fiona McLaughlin), an unforgettable novel of the Rwandan genocide that blends journalistic research with finely drawn characterizations of perpetrators, victims, and bystanders. In this episode, Mr. Diop reads from Murambi, translated from French by Fiona McLaughlin, and speaks to Duke professor Sarah Quesada and host Aarthi Vadde about how his work on the novel spurred him to rethink his language of composition. Mr. Diop wrote his first five novels in French, but after Murambi, shifted to Wolof, the most widely spoken language in his home country of Senegal. Asked to describe the difference between writing in French and writing in Wolof, Mr. Diop sums it up memorably: “When I start writing in French, I shut the door; I shut the window…I don’t hear the words I’m writing. When I write in Wolof, I hear every word.” Sarah and Mr. Diop discuss whether translation can be an ally to a Wolof worldview or whether the sounds that Mr. Diop hears through his window will inevitably be lost to readers who encounter his Wolof novels in English or French. Their dialogue suggests that, while Wolof represents a form of linguistic emancipation from the legacy of a French colonial education, there is also discovery and freedom in raising the literary profile of Wolof for an international audience. Mr. Diop’s Doomi Golo: The Hidden Notebooks is the first Wolof novel to be translated into English and an excerpt from his second Wolof novel Bàmmeelu Kocc Barma is available in translation here. In response to our signature question of the season, Mr. Diop proposes that the Wolof word “keroog” is very difficult to translate but not impossible. And it spurs an impromptu comparison to the Spanish word “ahorita,” which like “keroog,” blurs the distinctions between present, past, and future. In an episode about personal and political memory, nothing could be more fitting! Mentioned in this episode: –Toni Morrison –Gabriel Garcia Marquez –Mario Vargas Llosa –Ernesto Sábato –Léopold Sédar Senghor –Doomi Golo: The Hidden Notebooks –Les Petits de la guenon (French Translation of Doomi Golo) –Bàmmeelu Kocc Barma – literally translated as Kocc Barma's Grave (Diop’s second Wolof novel) –Malaanum Lëndëm – Diop’s third Wolof novel –Alice Chaudemanche (French translator of Malaanum Lëndëm) –Pierre Nora – French historian –Marianne Hirsch –“Sites mémoriaux du génocide” – memorial sites of genocide (term used by UNESCO that qualify as heritage sites.) –Rwandan term – “ejo” (similar to keroog) from the language: Kinyarwanda Find out more about Novel Dialogue and its hosts and organizers here. Contact us, get that exact quote from a transcript, and explore many more conversations between novelists and critics. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  1. 4.2 Light and Sound: Boubacar Boris Diop with Sarah Quesada
  2. 4.1 “Sometimes I’m just a little disappointed in English”
  3. 4.0 Novel Dialogue Season 4: Transitions and Translations
  4. 3.6 Why are You in Bed? Why are You Drinking? Colm Tóibín and Joseph Rezek in Conversation
  5. 3.5 The Romance of Recovery: Ben Bateman talks to Shola von Reinhold (AV)

Image credit: Anne Anlin Cheng, Roots

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