Sunday, August 17, 2008

Preeta Samarasan

Preeta Samarasan was born and raised in Malaysia, and moved to the United States in high school. After spending several years ostensibly working on a dissertation on gypsy music in France, but all the while writing fiction, she decided to switch tracks. She recently received her M.F.A. from the University of Michigan.

From a Q & A about her novel, Evening Is the Whole Day:

I love the presence of ghosts in the novel. Did you envision using them from the start? Do you think that "ghosts" or reminders of the past are more prevalent in Asian cultures than in Europe or the U.S.?

I had the idea of the grandmother's ghost from the start, because she's so present while alive that it didn't make sense for her just to disappear when she died. That is the only kind of ghost I believe in in real life – a person so full, so there, that they don't simply vanish when they die; they linger in our consciousness (in this case, Aasha's consciousness). As for the other ghosts – I can't speak for all Asian cultures, but ghosts are a very important part of Malay culture (and therefore Malaysian culture in general). There's a very rich and array of ghosts, each type distinct from the others, each one wanting different things from the living. No Malaysian schoolgirl hasn't worried about the hantu kum-kum in the school toilet or the pontianak behind the bicycle shed; people speak about these ghosts in the matter-of-fact way one might discuss family members. So yes, at some point it occurred to me that it would be interesting to reflect this worldview in the novel.
Read the complete interview.

The Page 69 Test: Evening Is the Whole Day.

--Marshal Zeringue