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MG Vassanji

MG Vassanji

MG Vassanji

You have a doctorate degree in nuclear physics so how did your literary journey begin, what was your driving force?

Writing is not particularly a career choice it’s a calling-an obsession I felt I had stories to tell and would have sooner or later pursued writing. I was settled in Toronto when I decided to write with purpose – to finish, publish, and write something else. Writing is an art and to produce art you don’t need any limitation, you can be sweeping floors or operating brains.

You are still exploring your roots through your travels across India like rediscovering your past. How close do you feel to Indian culture?

When I was a youngster me and my peers used to look up to Europe rather than India but spending time in Europe there was a need to rediscover my roots a kind of a threat of loosing my Indian-ness and thus with every trip that obsession developed.
It was rather a strange feeling to identify so closely with India but I discovered something new about myself.

You were born in Tanzania, studied in the USA spent your mid- life in Toronto and have Indian cultural roots. How has this in between cultural life affected your identity as an individual.

My fifth book In between world of Vikram Lall addresses this particular issue.
The journey of migration of a northeastern Indian family into the beautiful, wild and alien world of Africa. For me , however, I am still discovering and re-discovering myself. Choosing one, would be like choosing between your kids and that’s just not possible. This life has given me stories to tell and by writing I feel my mission being achieved.
As you have been an immigrant and the international community is currently facing the worst refugee crisis. Your opinion on how we can address these social issues of walls, racism and Islamophobia.

It’’s always difficult to absorb yourself completely in an alien culture but it’s more about not losing your identity. The western world needs to stop looking at Africa as a country of poverty, famine and corruption. As much as we need aid for development we need the acceptance of our culture. The refugee crisis in particular happened after I finished my novel, but had this idea as a poor student from Africa coming to America to study that what if simply everyone started moving towards the north. In this book, I provided a logical answer:build a border. Not a simple fence, but all kinds of impediments to movement north.

Memory manipulation as an idea has been used by previous authors too. How does your work differ?

First of all, it’s a dystopian novel. It tells the story of a world where as you said memory manipulation is possible but what effect it has on reality and the various geo-political issues because only the rich could afford this technology according to the novel, so what happens to other part of the world the poor, the neglected, the refugees is also part of the book. The transition of generations where the old can rejuvenate into new generation there is no chance for the youth.

This is your eight novel and you have received tremendous appreciation for your literature. Any other projects you are currently working on?

Currently, I am exploring what it feels to be an Indian, not related to the many issues in the country and working on something from New Delhi.

About the Interviewee:

MG Vassanji is is the author of seven novels, two collections of short stories and two works of non-fiction. He is twice winner of Canada’s Giller Prize for fiction, the Governor General's Prize for best work of nonfiction, the Commonwealth First Book Prize and the Bressani Prize. He was awarded the Canada Council Molson Prize for the Arts, is a member of the Order of Canada and has been awarded several honorary doctorates. Born in Kenya and raised in Tanzania, he lives in Toronto and visits East Africa and India often.