Talking Books with K Anis Ahmed
The author on his debut novel and Bangladeshi writing in English
K Anis Ahmed’s first novel, The World In My Hands, examines the new paradox of the Third World – growth and prosperity amidst persistent instability and violence. We caught up with the author.
ELLE: Which of your two protagonists are you more like? Disgruntled newspaper editor Hissam or wealthy entrepreneur Kaiser?
K Anis Ahmed: I’m a bit of all of them; not just the men, but also Natasha [Kaiser’s wife]. I can relate to Kaiser’s disdain for shoddy behaviour and Hissam’s angst at the victories of the undeserving. Most of all, though, I relate to Natasha’s quiet, deep determination to fight for what she believes is rightfully hers.
ELLE: Politics, flawed relationships and how they’re helpless against external forces seem to be recurring themes in your writing.
KAA: Yes, they’re themes that have fascinated me since my twenties. The novel also explores ambition and its price.
ELLE: How has the transition from short stories (Good Night,Mr. Kissinger, 2012) to the novel been? Which form are you partial to?
KAA: In my case, it was a gradual and very helpful transition. I wrote the longest stories in Good Night, Mr. Kissinger last, and by the time I finished them, I felt quite ready for the long form. I want to explore the novel some more. Recently, I did a micro-fiction series, and even turned a few of those pieces into graphic fiction with the help of a terrific young Dhaka artist.
ELLE: Where is Bangladeshi English literature at, according to you?
KAA: Bangladesh is the least Anglophonic of the South Asian countries. As such, Bangladeshi English literature certainly lags a bit. I’d say we are, perhaps, where Pakistan was five to ten years ago. But we are also palpably on the cusp of a breakthrough. It won’t be a flash in the pan, but will come in as a lasting and enriching dimension to the idiom of South Asian literary expression.
ELLE: What will you work on next?
KAA: A new novel, possibly a comedy about foodies in New York. Their loves and passions, appetites and misdeeds.