Sunday, September 23, 2018

Esi Edugyan

Esi Edugyan’s new novel is Washington Black. From her Q&A with Slate's Isaac Chotiner:

Isaac Chotiner: What are the particular challenges of constructing a book around a central character whose humanity and personhood are constantly being assaulted?

Esi Edugyan: I guess maybe the challenge is to remember to show that not all is darkness for him. He is somebody who has been denied every human right up until the time of his escape. He’s somebody who is searching for a sense of himself and is becoming a fully real human being, and that’s his journey.

There’s so much research that one does about the history of slavery and the legacy of slavery, and it’s important to depict the brutality of that. But what I really wanted to do with this novel is to show the transition from leaving the brutality of that kind of a life behind into regeneration, into trying to construct a new life. The challenge is to balance the light and the dark, I guess.

Novelists have different ideas on how much research they should do, but this seems like a subject that a novelist would want to do a significant amount of research on.

Yeah. The novel took about three years to write all told, but I started researching shortly before I started writing it. I’m somebody who will do research throughout the whole process almost until the very end. I was reading a lot about slavery and then found a few sources on how slavery manifested itself in Barbados specifically. I read deeply about that as well as reading about slave forts on the coast of West Africa. My parents came from Ghana, so 10 years or so ago we made a journey so we could visit our extended family. We visited Elmina and we visited Cape Coast Castle.

But I also did some research into things like historical science. How people went about collecting marine specimens and how they cataloged them. That was really fascinating. Of course, the invention of the first aquarium...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue