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Pankaj Mishra and Kamila Shamsie in Conversation

A very thought provoking conversation on Guernica between Pankaj Mishra and Kamila Shamsie. They discuss the political novel, what it is and is not, why American novelists are not  political (are they fearful, Dave Eggers suggests), and what it means for a writer and novel to be ‘political’.  I think a lot of ‘American” writers need to be enraged about the income and class inequality in America, let alone what is outside of their borders (influenced by them/govt). But the stories being told are, usually, about adultery and drug abuse and not being as happy as the pursuit of happiness has promised– writers who’ve grown up in suburbia…. not so much they they are disengaged but that they are engaged with their ‘world’, their circle is smaller….? However some of the best writing remains on black/white/race… i.e. socially engaging. Also I think it important to remember that American fiction published is based on what American readers want to read therefore what American publishers will choose to publish… and so love stories between vampires and werewolves…

from the conversation:

Pankaj Mishra: Today, practically every country outside the West is undergoing an intellectual, political, and cultural churning, from China to Bolivia, Egypt to Indonesia, but we haven’t really had, after the 1960s, a major oppositional culture in Western Europe and America. The Occupy movement was so startling and welcome partly because it was the first such eruption of mass protests in decades.

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