Avni Doshi, shortlisted for the Booker Prize: “It’s surreal”

Her debut novel “Burnt Sugar” was shortlisted for one of the world’s most prestigious literary awards, the Booker Prize 2020. We meet Avni Doshi in Dubai where she resides.

Jane Witherspoon, euronews:

“You have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2020 for your first novel. Congratulation. What does that do to you? “

Avni doshi, shortlisted novelist for the Booker Prize 2020:

“It’s surreal. I didn’t think I would get this far, that’s for sure. Already when my name appeared on the long list, it was a huge surprise.”

Jane Witherspoon:

“It’s one of the biggest literary awards in the world. And you get there with your first novel. It’s a good start.”

Avni Doshi:

“Yes, indeed. I have been working on this novel for over seven years. So already the fact that it is published, that it is in bookstores, I felt that like a huge accomplishment.”

A mother-daughter story marked by illness

Jane Witherspoon:

“Tell us about the book and the story it tells.”

Avni Doshi:

“The novel tells the story of a mother and her daughter – Anthera and Tara – who have a very difficult relationship. Tara, the mother, has Alzheimer’s disease. Her daughter therefore faces the difficulty of take care of a woman who never really took care of her. “

Jane Witherspoon:

“Where did you find the inspiration for this story ? “

Avni Doshi:

“You know, I imagined a lot of it. I’m particularly interested in relationships between women. There’s also my grandmother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about four years ago. C ‘that’s why, halfway through writing the novel, I incorporated this element of Alzheimer’s disease because I was doing so much research on this disease. “

“I learned by writing”

Jane Witherspoon:

“How did you get into writing? Have you always been a writer? What prompted you to pick up a pen and write your first novel?”

Avni Doshi:

“I’ve never been a great author. I’ve always been a great reader. And originally I studied art history. But I’ve always enjoyed reading literary works. . And when I was twenty, I started to take a great interest in contemporary fiction. But I don’t know what made me decide to write. I just felt the urge. “

Jane Witherspoon:

“How was the writing process? Did you feel the blank page angst everyone is talking about? Did you find some aspects of writing really demanding and difficult?”

Avni Doshi:

“Writing the book felt like an uphill battle. I didn’t know what I was doing. I have no training in writing. I never did a master’s degree or any creative writing course. I learned while writing. It’s through each draft that I really learned to write. And it’s really the mistakes that made me go the most in this whole process because they showed me where I was wrong and what I needed to improve. “

Jane Witherspoon:

“If you had to start from scratch, would you do it differently?”

Avni Doshi:

“I would tell myself not to be that stubborn. I think throughout the writing process it was very difficult for me to give up some aspects of the book. But, you know, there’s a saying that goes than in what we wrote, we must kill what we love the most. I should have learned a little earlier while writing, to kill what I love most. “

“I have always been a little away from every society in which I have lived”

Jane Witherspoon:

“One of the challenges of writing a book, I guess, is making the story universal and making it interesting for readers around the world. You grew up in New Jersey. You live now. in Dubai. How did that help you write this book? “

Avni Doshi:

“I think I’ve always had an outside perspective on things for a lot of my adult life. I’ve not been living in the United States since I was a little over twenty. So, I’ve always been a little bit removed from every society I’ve lived in. And I think a lot of times that sort of thing gives an observer’s point of view. Like that, you can testify to other people’s stories. And I think that helped me a lot. “

Jane Witherspoon:

“Why did you feel like you were on the margins? Why did you feel like you were apart from every society you lived in?”

Avni Doshi:

“When I moved to India around the age of twenty, I thought I would really feel at home there. But since I had grown up in America, you know, I was different. was different. My credentials were different. My upbringing was different. And so, while in a way I felt at home, I was also out of society in a way. “

Emirates Literature Festival: “They do a lot to promote literature”

Jane Witherspoon:

“We are in Dubai. How important is literature to this region? I know you are very invested in the Emirates Literature Festival. Can you tell me about it and tell me what it brings? “

Avni Doshi:

“I find the UAE Literature Festival just amazing. I think its organizers do a tremendous amount to promote literature across the country, across the region. They invite internationally renowned authors to come here and participate in conferences. . And it’s really great. I’m really proud to be involved in their process. I would like to see more efforts at the local level. I know that there are people who are working on certain things. so can’t wait to see what happens in the future. “

Jane Witherspoon:

“You mentioned the local level. Why is this important for the authors of the region of have a platform here ? “

Avni Doshi:

“For me that is really important and, you know, we are in a time where there are more and more young designers living in Dubai. And it would be wonderful if they could benefit from masters in writing programs. and that there are more literary journals established in the region, in the country. So there are things that could be done, perhaps even residencies or scholarship programs for writers from there. foreigners come to live here and work with students from here. “

“Literacy must be a priority for any government and any society”

Jane Witherspoon:

“What do you think of the level of literacy? Because not everyone has the same chance as us to have access to books and to have learned to read. There are still children around the world. who have none of that. “

Avni Doshi:

“Yes. For me it really has to be a priority for any government and any society to really encourage reading and writing. I think it’s through them that people kind of have access to life. and that their situation improves. So, yes, I believe in countries like India, it is really important that literacy is at the forefront of any political agenda. “

Jane Witherspoon:

“As a woman and in particular a successful woman, what would you say to those who are considering writing a book? What advice can you give them based on your experience?”

Avni Doshi:

“Everyone is hoping that there is a particular method or maybe a course that they can take. In fact, the most important thing is to sit down at your desk every day and concentrate. I also thinks reading is probably the best teacher for writing, to find out about the work of those who wrote before you. I think that’s really how I learned a lot about writing . “

Jane Witherspoon:

“What would winning this Booker Prize mean to you?”

Avni Doshi:

“I just can’t get over the idea. I think it would be too big for me to fully realize. It would be amazing. What more can I say? It would be a dream come true.”

Jane Witherspoon:

“It would change your life.”

Avni Doshi:

“Yes, that’s clear. But my life has already changed.”

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Avni Doshi, shortlisted for the Booker Prize: “It’s surreal”

Hank Gilbert