المشهد الروائي المعاصر في إسكوتلاندا.. حوار مع الروائي روج غلاس
روج غلاس روائي اسكوتلاندي معاصر يكتب النقد الأدبي والقصة والرواية. يعمل بتدريس فنون الكتابة في جامعة ستراثكلايد في غلاسكو. كانت له علاقة قوية مع كاتب اسكوتلاندا الوطني ألاسدير غراي مؤلف "لارناك". وهي سلسلة روائية تذكرنا بعمل دوس باسوس المعروف "الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية". وأثمرت هذه العلاقة عن كتابة سيرة غراي بعنوان "مذكرات مدير أعمال غراي" الذي فاز بجائزة سومرست موم. يتناول غلاس في رواياته نماذج من البسطاء و يستعمل ألسنتهم ويبتعد عن البلاغة المركبة والمعقدة. ليتمكن من تصوير معاناتهم وغضبهم اللامحدود من الظروف. أول روايته كانت بعنوان "بدون ألعاب نارية" وظهرت عام 2005. وتبعها مجموعة قصص تجريبية بعنوان "أمل المولودين حديثا" عام 2008. ثم "حب وجنس وترحال وموسيقا" 2014. وهي قصص من أدب الرحلات وتطوف كل قصة بلدا برفقة امرأة مختلفة. ويسجل غلاس في هذا الكتاب خلاصة آراءهه عن شرق أوروبا وتحولات الدول الغربية ومعناة جنوب أمريكا وجنوب شرق آسيا. وذلك بلغة شاعرية وجريئة محشوة بالديناميت، كما ورد في تعريف رواية "العراب" لماريو بوزو يوم صدورها. ويخيم على القصص أفكار غريبة تردم الحفرة التي تتوسع بين الإنسان الغربي المثقف وأحلامه. ولد روج غلاس لأبوين يهوديبن في مانشستر. أقام فترة في القدس وتل أبيب. عمل في الكيبوتزات لتوفير لقمة العيش وسداد تكاليف الدراسة. ثم أغرم بمدينة غلاسكو واختار الإقامة فيها. يشعر بالانتماء للإنسان العادي البسيط وللطبقة العاملة. وينأى بنفسه عن تفكير وأجندا العقل الإنكليزي المحافظ. شارك في عدة دورات من مهرجان الكتاب الدولي في إدنبرة. وأدار ندوة علاء عبد الفتاح بالاشتراك مع الروائية المعروفة أهداف سويف. ولنكون فكرة عن موقفه من قضايا المجتمع المدني والعلاقة المحرجة بين أسكوتلاندا وإنكلترا وبقية أوروبا أج ينا معه اللقاء التالي. النص العربي منشور في صحيفة العالم)
حاوره: صالح الرزوق
The Scottish Novelist Rodge Glass: I Am a Jewish, but I Believe in Human Rights For Everyone Including the Palestinians
Rodge Glass is a contemporary Scottish critic and fiction writer. He teaches creative writing at Strathclyde University. He maintained a close relationship with Alasdair Gray, producing a comprehensive book on his work and career. His fiction follows the people of the bottom, portraying the working class, when in agony and troubled, where knowledge and culture are not of an important value. Apart from the poetic flow adopted in his narrative, he used spoken language or the original tongue of real life. His debut was No Fireworks, 2005, followed by many experimental long and short narratives like Hope For Newborns, 2008, Love Sex Travel Musik, 2014; etc. To understand his motives and attitudes we had this interview with him.
- Do you think Scottish fiction is different from the English and the European narratives?
Answer: I think all nations produce a huge variety of valuable stories, and that those stories are not always seen or read. I was born in England and chose to live my adult life mostly in Scotland. The societies have a lot in common – but Scotland certainly has a hugely rich tradition in fiction that I fell in love with when I moved to Glasgow in 1997. Alasdair Gray, Agnes Owens, Jackie Kay, Kathleen Jamie, James Kelman, so many more. It’s a wonderful tradition. As Scotland is a small country sometimes dominated by England, not all the great writing sees the light. Europe has so many diverse nations in it, again I think it’s hard to generalize. But some of my very favourite writers come from these traditions too.
- Had devolution reshaped Scottish literature. I mean did it bring Scottish literature into a new era with new literary elements other than the plot. I mean literally the discourse itself?
Answer: Yes, certainly the discourse changed. Not all Scottish writers were pro-independence for Scotland but many were and still are, and many campaigned for independence in the 2014 referendum. The nation has produced much debate and writing since then that has sought to explore what modern Scotland is like, partly connected to England, but also feeling disconnected from it. As I type today, we have yet another Conservative Prime Minister the UK did not vote for. In Scotland, there are very few Conservative voters. You see that disconnect in all sorts of ways across the culture.
- Who are the most influential figures in modern Scottish fiction?
Answer: Scotland has a ‘Makar’, which is an ancient tradition, of having a kind of National Poet. A bit like the Poet Laureate in the UK but with no connection to the Royal Family. The last two, Jackie Kay and Kathleen Jamie, are wonderful poets but also prose writers of nonfiction especially. Kathleen Jamie’s essays are all about how we notice the world around us, how we engage with the world. The work is wonderfully generous in spirit. I like that. Also, I am bound to say it, but Alasdair Gray is the major 20th Century figure across so many forms – fiction, visual art, murals, portraits, polemics, plays – just everything. He was a giant. And such a wonderfully kind and giving man.
- What do you think of using spoken language in official literature?Do not you fear chaos in interpretation. Or even causing detachment in future among the people of one nation.
Answer: Yes, there’s always a chance of some kind of chaos in interpretation, but I simply believe that anywhere in the world, writers should be able to use their own voices, whatever those voices are, using the language in their mouths. In Scotland sometimes publishers think Scots cannot or should not be written, but there have been some incredibly successful books, such as Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh, which are written in a dialect of a small part of Edinburgh, and readers all over the world love that book. It is possible. I think that if we welcome those voices, nations become stronger, not weaker.
-What about realism?Do you really believe one can copy from reality without personal allusion and interpretation?Can realism be innocent and not subjective?
Answer: This one is easy for me! I don’t feel writers know better about anything that engineers or builders or drivers – but I can say that for me all writing contains some subjectivity. Every time you select a word, you reject another possible word. This is subjectivity for me.
-what do you think of Salman Rushdie . If he is a literary Problem why we did not hear much about other writers in danger like Taslima Nasreen (Bangladesh) and Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid (Egypt)??.
Answer: I'm not a big fan of Rushdie's work though I have read and enjoyed several of his books over the years. Naturally the attack on him recently has had huge news coverage - at the Edinburgh Book Festival this year, every event started with a single line from Rushdie, as an act of solidarity with him. Yes, there are many others suffering persecution we have not heard of, as there are murder victims who get lots of attention and many others (sometimes non-white victims) in the UK who do not get the same attention. And yes, there are so many silent voices, and silenced voices. Rushdie should have the same rights as all writers: to respond to the world as their conscience sees fit.
-The real turn in world literature started from Ireland with James Joyce and Samuel Becket, yet it was in English. Do you think it has a political value?. The Irish ego wanted to challenge the English ideals established by the classic norms in narratives. And why Scotland did not take a similar step to break away from the English space?Do you think Scotland is a hostage to the English experience?.
Answer: Ah, Saleh, this is the beginning of a much longer conversation, haha! Certainly Irish literature has political value, and plenty of value in literary terms. Some Irish writers, yes, wished to challenge elements of English dominance, and some still do. Others write with confidence about Ireland without even considering the English! I'm thinking of Kevin Barry or Claire Keegan, but there are many other major ones. My suggestion to you is that Scottish literature has in many ways sought to break away from the English space. But it is a more subtle step, partly as Scotland does not have independence and is a small part of the UK book market where Scottish fiction is usually popular when it is Scottish Crime Noir, which is very popular in England. Though Booker winner Douglas Stuart is an exception to this!
- How do you look at the Man Booker Prize?Original or only complementary - maybe with a political hidden agenda like Nobel prizes in certain occasions?Do you agree with its decisions when celebrating the experimental works of Olga Tokarczuk?. What do you think of Tokarczuk, Beckett and Proust?Fiction or general prose writers?Does modernity mean creating different styles recalling the acrobat in a circus or the work of a stuntman?..
Answer: I don't believe there's a big Booker conspiracy. I do think publishers push for their writers to be acknowledged by Prizes (we have SO MANY in the UK now!) as there are so few ways for writers to break through and find an audience if they do not win a major prize. Some people get very upset about these things. I don't. Some years I like the Booker shortlist, some years less so - but it is one of few places where genuinely literary fiction can be helped to find a big audience. I haven't read Tokaczuk or Proust, though I'm a fan of Beckett. I think of myself as a cheerleader for literatures of past and present, near and far. I don't mind that competitions exist, and certainly winning a Somerset Maugham Award helped me keep going as a writer. Even my nominations for prizes I did not ultimately win helped me as my books do not sell in large numbers. It's part of a highly imperfect industry - but one I am part of, regardless.
- In your novels and stories you mentioned a handful Arabic names such as Bin Laden, Palestine, etc.. do you have any thing to say on the modern Arabs, in politics, culture or religion??
Answer: I have a great deal of respect for Arabic cultures and on my courses I work with Arab students and teach Arab writers alongside Western ones. I was at the event celebrating Arabic work at the Edinburgh Book Festival only last week. I try not to make generalizations but I think that as a Jewish person it is important for me to say that I believe Palestine has a right to exist and that all peoples should work together with equal rights. Many Jewish people in the UK share this view, and often support Palestinian causes. I cannot tell anyone else what to think. I can only give my own view.
-what was the event in Edinburgh about?.
Answer: I acted as Host, or Chair, the event discussed "You Have Not Yet Been Defeated" by the blogger Alaa Abd el-Fattah, who is currently in prison.
- What does Palestine mean to you?. Do you think it exists or the case is just like East Germany. A state from past days. Only a history??.
Answer: As I say above, I think it is a real place, and that the people in that place deserve to be treated with humanity and respect, and that this is currently not the case. I have very little hope of things change or improving, and I do not want to speak for Palestinian people, that is not my place. But this is my view.
- Your books spin around individuals. You do not pay too much attention to the places. That is true when you wrote on Arizona. You mentioned Arizona but only like a stage hosting events and humans. Do you have any comment.
Answer: Yes, for me place is moveable, my interest is in the subjectivity of complicated, frail and compromised human lives. This is what tragedy is. Sometimes environments can be crucial in writing I love – I just finished a book about the great Dutch-Australian-Scottish writer Michel Faber, whose works are all about our interaction with the environment. But I am different, I think. In the Arizona story, Arizona could be anywhere. It represents escape. Many people need a fantasy or dream of another place in order to be able to cope with their mundane daily lives.
- Compared with James Kelman, Alasdair Gray and Alexander Trocchi you concentrate in your fiction on the inter relations between the characters and their preoccupations, their general trends while ascending on the ladder of life. Others preferred to explore the internal life of their heroes. I.e. you touch emotions but do not turn it into internal struggle. why is that?
Answer: Ah! Yes! This is a big difference in my work, I think, I agree with you! I often discuss this with my students – I prefer to show less of the internal world. Characters reveal themselves in what they do, what they see, what they notice, through the five senses. I never have several pages of a character thinking about things! Though I do love writers that do that, my of my favourites understate.
- Do you have a plan for a change in your approach in future novels?
Answer: Yes, I’ve just finished a big political novel about a Chilean immigrant to Scotland who leaves Pinochet’s Chile in 1974 and rises to become Britain’s first immigrant Prime Minister. It mixes fact and fiction, like some of my previous work, but is overtly political for the first time.
- You do not repeat Alasdair Gray's fiction. What you borrowed from him after years of close friendship.
Answer: My approach to how I try to treat other human beings in the main thing I took from him, and I take still every day. Compassion. Generosity. Understanding. Imagining the other. This is the magic of fiction for me, and Alasdair taught me that. He was my writer’s education.
- Heavy British critics like Terry Egalton, Patrick Parrinder did not shed a light on your work. Only the younger generation praised your books. Why is that prejudice?Is it a constant and repeated conflict between the generations. Does it reflect an Oedipus complex.
Answer: No, none of that worries me – I don’t need that praise and understand that only a handful of writers can be recognised at any one time. I write because writing and reading helps me make sense of the world around me. I am not a great mind. I do not want to tell other people how they should live or how they should write. And I love writers of all generations. I have been very lucky!
- Does your academic life interfere with writing fiction?Does it make the process slower? What do you say about other novelists who held academic positions such as David Lodge, etc.
Answer: Certainly, this life makes your own writing process slower – but it also provides a great sense of belonging, clarity, and it makes me part of something I love. I enjoy reading the work of my students and trying my best to support them. Of course I am slowed by this choice of mine but I am very lucky. Many writers have nothing. I have a good job in a lovely University, where I get to write sometimes. This world of ours is filled with horror and suffering. I am extremely lucky, and don’t want to forget that.
- Any prospect you see for Scottish fiction in future?Do you think Gallic would revive or dialects would lead the way for a different path securing a separate space for Scottish literature among other European literary spaces, French, Italian, Russian, Italian, etc...
Answer: I think Scottish writing will simply keep on opening up to new voices, traditions, immigrant communities and to dialects, languages etc. I think there will be less control of old traditions. But who knows, haha! Not me! Like you, like everyone, I can only guess.
*Interviewed by Saleh Razzouk