Thursday, December 20, 2007

Best wishes

The faculty and staff of the English Department extend their very best wishes for a restful holiday and a good new year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

British Council website for Nadeem Aslam residency

Check it out.

Creative Writing Events Spring 2008

Feb. 1-29: British Council USA/Jenny McKean Moore Writer in Residence at GW: U.K. novelist, Nadeem Aslam (author of MAPS FOR LOST LOVERS and SEASON OF THE RAINBIRDS). In addition to visiting classes, leading a 700-series 1-credit one-month reading course, etc., Nadeem will participate in three public appearances at GW:

Feb. 7 -- 7 PM, Marvin Center Amphitheatre: a solo reading

Feb. 14 -- 8 PM, Marvin Center Amphitheatre: a joint reading with Indian novelist (and Math professor at UMBC) Manil Suri (author of THE DEATH OF VISHNU and THE AGE OF SHIVA [forthcoming, Feb. 2008])

TBD -- a panel discussion (still working out the date & details)

Three more readings in our Jenny McKean Moore evening series of literary events:

April 3 -- 8 PM, Marvin Center Amphitheatre: poet Vivian Shipley

April 10 -- 8 PM, Marvin Center Amphitheatre: poets Bruce MacKinnon (author of MYSTERY SCHOOLS [Washington Writers' Publishing House, 2007] and adjunct faculty in the English Dept.) and Stanley Plumly

April 17 -- 8 PM, Marvin Center Amphitheatre: poet Jane Shore (GW faculty member, whose new book is due out in April, 2008)

The annual Mount Vernon Poetry Festival (an all-undergraduate poetry competition started nearly 30 years ago by the English Dept. faculty of the former Mount Vernon College), tentatively scheduled for Friday, April 18, 2008, in Post Hall on the Mount Vernon campus

Four readings in the "Jenny 2" series for local and experimental writers, all held 5-6 PM in the Visitor Center [Smith Hall, Academic Center]:

Jan. 23 playwrights Chris Stezin & Marti DaSilva
Feb. 13 poet Myra Sklarew
Mar. TBD fiction writer Tony Medina
April 16 fiction writers Deena Shehata & Kathy Abdul-Baki

Monday, December 17, 2007

Nadeem Aslam Reading and Dessert Reception

Register Now, and Mark Your Calendar for Thursday February 7 at 7 PM

Fiction Reading and Reception with Author Nadeem Aslam
2008 British Council USA/Jenny McKean Moore Writer in Residence at GW

You are cordially invited to attend a fiction reading by renowned author Nadeem Aslam, 2008 British Council USA/Jenny McKean Moore Writer in Residence at GW, author of the novel Maps for Lost Lovers. Dessert reception with the author will follow.

There is no cost to attend this event, but please register here by Friday, February 1.

In an unnamed town in England, Jugnu and Chanda have disappeared - and Chanda's brothers have been arrested for their murder. What follows is an unraveling of all that is sacred to the family, as the pious Kaukab tries desperately to square the traditional justice of her culture with the more personal consequences of their murder. Maps for Lost Lovers opens the heart of a family at the crossroads of culture, community, nationality and religion and expresses their pain and desire in a language that is arrestingly poetic.

Nadeem Aslam was born in Pakistan in 1966 and moved to the UK as a teenager, his family settling in Huddersfield. He studied Biochemistry at the University of Manchester, but left to become a writer. His first novel, Season of the Rainbirds (1993) won a Betty Trask Award and the Authors' Club First Novel Award, and was short listed for the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the Whitbread First Novel Award. His second novel, Maps for Lost Lovers (2004), which took 11 years to write, won the 2005 Encore Award and the 2005 Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize. Nadeem Aslam lives in London.

Nadeen Aslam is the first British Council USA/Jenny McKean Moore Writer in Residence at GW. The multi-year partnership between GW and the British Council will be on U.K. writers who are imagining the experience of diaspora, immigration, and intercultural contact, especially writers whose family heritage includes South Asia or the Middle East.

This event is sponsored by the GW Alumni Association and the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences English Department.

February 7 2008
7-9 PM
Cloyd Heck Marvin Center
Amphitheater, 3rd Floor (Reading)
Room 308 (Dessert Reception)
800 21st Street, NW
Washington, DC

Monday, December 10, 2007

Nadeem Aslam in Residence from Feb 1-29, 2008

We are pleased to announce that Nadeem Aslam's visa has been granted, and that the GW-British Council Writer in Residence has been rescheduled for Feb. 1-29. Mark your calendar now for the evening of Feb. 7, when Aslam will read from his work at the Marvin Center. Details will follow, along with a complete list of the events we are scheduling.

We will also sponsor a one credit reading course in which interested students will read three novels with Aslam and write a very short paper. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The course will meet three or four times over a three week period, most likely on a Tuesday evening. If you are a GW undergraduate English major who applied in the fall and are still interested, please let me know and we will reactivate your application. If you did not apply then and would like to now, compose a one paragraph statement about why you would like to take the course and send it to me by Friday December 14.

Watch this space for more information about the GW-British Council Writer in Residence. For more on Maps For Lost Lovers, see the small essay below, reprinted from the Faber website.

The book can be seen as an overview of race in Britain over the past 50 years. During the writing of it I lived in various cities and towns but always within the Asian neighbourhoods – the air there seemed rich with relevant stories, so much so that at times I felt that all I had to do as a writer was to provide surfaces for those stories to coalesce onto like dew on the petals of a flower.

But really there is no message for others in the book. Writing is my way of understanding my life, my place in the world, and the workings of my consciousness. If my writing is of value to anyone else then it's simply because I am an ordinary man, one of billions - if something is true of me then there is a very good chance that it is true of others also. But there is no conscious attempt to be universal or relevant.

A year or so into the writing of the book I realised that it needed to be bigger than I had planned. So I stopped working on the forward thrust of the narrative and began working instead on exploring the characters. I wrote a 100-page biography of each of the main characters. This took four years, and only then did I begin thinking again about the storyline. I used only about 20 pages from each biography, but it was important to have written the other 80 pages, to have understood the characters in this manner.

I am a Pakistani man living in Britain like the characters in the novel, so there will inevitably be questions about which part of the book is autobiographical. I always think of an apple tree - a stock and a graft. The stock - the bit with the roots, the bit that draws water and nutrients from the soil - is my life; and the graft – the sections that produces flowers, fruit, that is home to birds and insects – that is the novel. Both bits are dependent on each other.

This new book continues the work begun in the first novel: the themes – the struggle between Islam and modernity, the place of women and minorities in Islamic societies - are the same. The territory is the same: this book is just a flag of a deeper colour.

Maps for Lost Lovers is the story of a family and its relationship to the place where it lives. I kept thinking of Giacometti who as a very young boy had spent several days sketching again and again a boulder in the distance – trying to work out its relationship to the landscape within which it existed.

The book does have a strong Muslim component to it: although I am not a believer, I am culturally a Muslim – grew up looking at Persian paintings, read Urdu ghazals, listened to stories about Muhammad from my mother while falling asleep as a child. The book in many ways is about the classic theme of Islamic literature: the quest for the beloved. The book wouldn't be what it is without 1001 Nights, the Koran, Bihzad.

Walking around Ground Zero last year the friend I was with asked me how I felt. Being there made me feel angry and disappointed with myself. Had I, as a human being and as a writer, done enough to expose and condemn the smaller-scale versions of 9/11 that go on in Islamic societies every day? If me and people like me had acted earlier, discouraged and prevented those smaller crimes, then perhaps the criminals wouldn't have had enough strength and opportunity to plan and execute the mass murder of 9/11.

I had to exist hand-to-mouth for eleven years in order to write the book but I was able to do it because my father – who comes from a politically-inclined bohemian family in Pakistan – had taught us from a very early age to loathe money, so it has never in my life bothered me that I don't have money (and the things it brings) as long as I am doing something that is spiritually rewarding. In the final stages of the novel I had to ask the Royal Literary Fund for financial help – and I turned down part of the money they were offering me. I took what was enough to keep me writing the novel, wasn't interested in having money.

An age seems to have passed since I began the book. I feel like Rip van Winkle – I am using e-mails and text messaging to locate and contact friends from my earlier days, all this was very rare eleven years ago. It's seeped into everyday life slowly over the last decade, but I had removed myself from the world in order to write my novel so to me it's very sudden and very disorientating.

-- Nadeem Aslam, May 2004