Aminatta Forna was born in Glasgow and
raised in Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom. She is the award-winning author
Memory of Love, Ancestor Stones and The
Devil that Danced on the Water. Her new
novel, The Memory of Love (Atlantic Monthly, January 4, 2011), is a story about friendship, war
and obsessive love. It has been selected as one of the Best Books of the Year
by the Sunday Telegraph, the Financial
Times and the Times (U.K.).
On your nightstand now:
books I am reading in different places. In my handbag is Granta's latest edition; David Sedaris next to the bath; Hector
Abad's Oblivion by the bed.
Favorite book when you were a child:
White Fang by Jack London. I borrowed it from
the British Council Library in Freetown and read and re-read the story of a
wolf in the snowscapes of North America in a 40° C African heat. Recently I
bought it for my godson and found I could remember whole passages.
Your top five authors:
Ondaatje, Margaret Atwood, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Pat Barker, Josip Novakovich.
for structure, he is a real writer's writer. Atwood for vision. Pat Barker for
powerful realism. Ngugi wa Tiongo for language and imagination. Novakovich for humour,
even when writing about war.
Book you've faked reading:
I read law
at university and often feel poorly read compared to English literature
graduates of whom I seem to know a large number. I have never read Dickens,
something I once tried to correct, but failed in the face of the enormity of
the task. Same goes for Jane Austen. I bought all her books last year and discovered
I preferred the miniseries.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Quite a few
actually. Too much great writing doesn't get its due, especially if it is in
translation. Last year it was Laura Escoba's The Rabbit House, about a summer in a safe-house during the
Argentinean Dirty War. This year Hector Abad's Oblivion--finally translated into English.
Book you've bought for the cover:
but if I did it would be The God of Small
Things. I only noticed the poignancy of the cover when I was some way into
the book. Apparently Arundhati Roy photographed it herself. If you haven't read
it, go and buy it and you'll see what I am talking about. If you have, go and
take another look.
Book that changed your life:
Life and Times of Michael K by J.M. Coetzee, which won the
Booker Prize in 1983. It was writing with a purpose that went beyond
entertainment. Political writing is very unfashionable these days and most
writers will go out of their way to claim they are merely storytellers, but
writing out of South Africa at that time--Coetzee, Gordimer, Alan Paton, André
Brink--wore its heart on its sleeve and it was magnificent.
Favorite line from a book:
say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did."--Jean
Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea. Everything
the book is about.
Book you most want to read again for
the first time:
The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Because you have to
believe in magic.
Book you wish you had written:
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje.