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Piotr Siwecki talks with Ania Vesenny about her flash fictions, melancholy and her novel

How do you find subjects for your stories?

Most of my stories start with an image. A line of poetry, something I've seen or heard, a scene from a dream. When the image is strong and stays with me, a story will follow.

You’re a mother. Do you think that being a mother changes your writing? I mean: do you feel it pushes you to choose subjects to write about? I mean: do you write about things you’d like to talk about with your kids someday?

I'm sure being a mother defines my writing on some level, but it is not a conscious decision. I think that if I were choosing subjects with my children in mind, my creativity would be stifled. Besides, it is difficult for me to imagine my children past the age of my oldest, and she's seven.

Let’s continue the question of being a writer: do you think that writing is a job as many other jobs in the world?

Yes. Anyone who really wants to can learn to write reasonably well. Most of it is a skill. It can be learned, and it can be lost without practice. It is like playing the piano. But one has to have a certain mindset in order to want to write. In the same way that one has to have a certain mindset to want to be a teacher, or an architect, or veterinarian.

In ‘Geometry of Love’ you write about the human need of exotic and the human need of love. The man here, in this story, pays attention to small things but so is the woman here... well, in short: (as a reader I feel I am on girl’s side, hate this man but try to understand him - does it mean something?) could it be that it was your intention to make reader think it is the picture from the war between genders and that we are all cripple, that in this war we are all guilty civilians?

It is difficult for me to think about my writing in such abstract terms as the war between genders. I think we are all, as humans, are crippled in one way or another. Even if beautifully crippled.  Even if we don't know about it. My intentions usually are to recreate a moment. This is why I love flash fiction so much--often a moment of our existence is enough, and I can focus on it. I think our subconscious is powerful enough to provide intentions--both for the writer, and for the reader.

There’s a lot of nostalgia, melancholy in your writing... where does it come from? Does it have something to do with so called Russian soul (I thought about this term because you were born in USSR, you love Pasternak)or should we rather think that this is how we all really are?  I dare to ask about this because you write about immigrants and they have Russian origin: in Snowrise Liuba’s daughter seems to be rooted into western society but Liuba seems to be out of the time and space and her kind of absence is of course doubled because she has a cancer (or perhaps its Liuba who is really deep rooted in the world... but it does not mean she feels rooted into society...I cannot stop thinking about this...)

Maybe it is my Russian soul, maybe it is how we are. I don't think I have a way of knowing. But I have a special relationship with Russia. Not even the "real" Russia, but the one I knew from the old Soviet movies. Which, of course, was a fake Russia. My parents made sure I knew what was real and what was propaganda, and I was growing  up very politically aware, at least for a child. Yet the cinematography of that time affected me on some level.

You’re writing a novel as you once said. Could you tell us more about actual state of the novel? I read there would be some memories from USSR. Thinking about trendy things in nowadays world... I thought about multiculturalism... I thought about Josif Brodsky and other immigrant writers and the whole thing called Cold War...  I also thought: perhaps writing about Russia is somehow Ania's own way to recognize her own identity? You once said, you’re immigrant and so are some of your protagonists... do you think that origin, nationality, tradition means a lot when it comes to think about ones actual life situation and how could it help the others to understand their lives? Is this, I mean tradition, history, personal past important in your own writing? What about ideal reader of your stories, of your novel?

As you say, Piotr, of course, one's past is very important to one's writing. I don't think it can be otherwise. But my ideal reader is not necessarily an immigrant. My ideal reader is someone who enjoys literary fiction and loves to be challenged by what they read, loves to be fully engage by the writing. Loves sentences as much as he or she loves the plot. This is what I love reading, and this is what I end up writing, I believe. The novel is tentatively called Swearing in Russian at the Northern Lights, and is set in Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, a territory on the North East of Canada. Iqaluit a small town, the population is about 8000. However, the protagonist, Katya, is from Moscow, and she dwells on memories of her childhood in Russia. It is a magical realism novel of fables, legends, ghosts. Readers follow Katya's day as she struggles with her isolation, creates worlds made of memories and imagination, navigates friendships on the internet and in her "real" world. What is real and what is only imagined is not always clear to Katya, and as she tries to save her dying brother in Moscow, and feels her magical powers are failing, she is on the road of self destruction that doesn't end too well for her.

I just heard some good news about the publication of the novel, but I am not able to provide you with any official details yet. It is exciting time!

You live in Iqaluit. Please, tell us something about your life in the town at the end of the world.

Iqaluit is at the end of the world, you are right. We just moved from it to Halifax, Nova Scotia, but Iqaluit will always be in my heart. This year we made a midnight bonfire during the summer solstice, at the national park at the end of the town. It was a windless night, and very warm for Iqaluit standards, maybe about 15C. I wouldn't say it was bright as day, but it was as bright as an early summer evening--dim light, with the sky pale. A lemming darted from under my feet when I hiked up the hill, to watch the sun approach the horizon and  then start rising again. And in front of me--hundreds and hundreds kilometers of the same landscape; the same rocky tundra, stretching towards the North Pole. Living up north is a truly special experience, unlike living in any other place.

Thank you.

niedziela, 29 listopada 2009, themerson
Tagi: Ania Vesenny

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