>> Delighted to see “Norwich” author Anjali Joseph longlisted for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize today for her second novel, Another Country. I call her a Norwich author because, well, she lives there now (and I met her at the lovely Franks Bar on Bedford Street when I interviewed her for The National), but in fact she was born in Mumbai, and has also lived in Paris and London – which are the three locations for the book.
It’s really good to see Joseph alongside the likes of Orhan Pamuk and the 2012 Booker-shortlisted novelists Tan Twan Eng and Jeet Thayil, because Another Country is neither an straightforward read nor simple to explain. Essentially, it tracks the protagonist Leela’s journey through her 20s as she moves between the three cities mentioned above (not Norwich!). But Leela is a strange, diffident, almost distressed soul who finds relationships difficult to maintain and self-confidence hard to come by. And her life doesn’t take place against the backdrop of great drama.
As I said in The National back in June, this absence of discernible narrative is a gamble, but hugely exciting as a piece of writing. Via Leela, Joseph explores the “stuff you don’t usually read about in novels”, such as the dull monotony of a dead relationship.
“It’s not heroic if your protagonist is having endless, petty, repetitive arguments,” she told me. “But we all have them, don’t we? I wanted to ask why we have them.”