In conversation with Taylor Le Melle, Natasha Soobramanien and Luke Williams discuss their collaborative writing process and their approach to storytelling in relation to their book ‘Diego Garcia: A Novel’.
‘Diego Garcia: A Novel’ is a story about grief, friendship, solidarity and art. But above all, it is both an account of the Chagossian people’s forced expulsion by the British government from their homeland in the Chagos Archipelago to make way for a US military base, and an attempt to bear witness to the many forms of Chagossian resistance. The novel asks:‘How do you a tell a story that needs to be shared, if it is not your story to tell?’
They will talk about using autofiction, documentary and a heightened form of fiction to think through this question with one another and the reader.
To attend, please RSVP. Admission is free.
Edinburgh 2014. Damaris and Oliver Pablo, two writer friends, are adrift in the city following the death of Oliver Pablo’s brother. Every day they try and fail to get to the library to write. On one such day they meet Diego, a poet who has taken the name of the island his mother was forced to leave as a child. What follows is an attempt by the two writers to learn more about this suppressed episode in British colonial history, its legacy for the Chagossian people, and what the story of their ongoing struggle means for everyone.
Winner of the 2022 Goldsmiths Prize for fiction, ‘Diego Garcia: A Novel’ was described by judge Ali Smith as: ‘a paean to connectivity and a profound study of the tragedy of human disconnect. At its core is an excoriation of a set of specific colonial foulnesses and injustices: the forced depopulation of the Chagos Islands and their expedient use by the UK and the US as a military base and bargaining chip. At its heart is an experiment with form that asks what fiction is, what art is for, and how, against the odds, to make visible, questionable and communal the structures, personal and political, of contemporary society, philosophy, lived history.’
Natasha Soobramanien (UK/MRU) and Luke Williams (SCT) became friends in 2001 while studying writing at the University of East Anglia with W G Sebald, from whom they learnt that‘the present tense lends itself to comedy whilst the past is naturally melancholic’. Their collaborative practice has evolved through an ongoing conversation around reading, writing and politics and their novel ‘Diego Garcia’was published in 2022 by Fitzcarraldo Editions in the UK and Semiotext(e) in the US. Recently, Natasha and Luke have been thinking through how best to offer support and care to fellow writers, including one another. Luke lives in Cove and Natasha lives in Brussels. Natasha is an advisor at the Rijksakademie.
Taylor Le Melle is a writer. They especially gravitate towards stories that employ a trope of dead or otherwise absent main characters. They planned to ingest rosemary early each morning, for clarity, until further notice.
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