Leila Samarrai: A good author is he who isn’t afraid to speak his mind
Interviewed by Tamara Lujak for the online magazine Afirmator.
A master of the short story form, Leila Samarrai is a published award-winning author. She loves writing, stating that literature is her life, she dreams of having her own manager, like American authors do. Inspired by the Pythons, Charlie Chaplin, as well as everyday events in Serbia, she writes brief, jocular, satirical short stories, filled with anger and bitterness of relief. Delve for a moment into this world of hers.
What is the author’s mission?
LS: His mission is to be a good writer and that’s about it. I think this was the main thesis of Joseph Brodsky.
Why do you write?
LS: I write out of pleasure, and because I think I have something to say.
Where do you get your ideas from?
LS: It’s simple, I bang my hand against the table, a genie appears from the magic lamp, bows and says “What’ll ya have, oh Magistra Ludi?!” I then make a wish that gets instantly fulfilled.
What makes good poetry or art and how would you define the craft of the poets?
LS: Art is a game. Poetry as well. At the end of the day, you either know how to play it or not…
What, according to you, is a good author?
LS: A good author is he who isn’t afraid to speak his mind; he who dictates the art of the verse. A scribbler who merely keeps quiet and enjoys being lauded is nothing but a reader with nothing of importance to do. He whose written word trickles from his wounds into the world and onto paper is not afraid to both praise and criticize, this is what he strives towards.
What is literature and the purpose of art to you?
LS: Survival of the human species.
How did you come to the idea of publishing Boris K. (Everest Media, Belgrade, 2013)?
LS: In the age of absurd events in Serbia, which clash common sense, it wasn’t all that difficult to be inspired, to write an absurd satire in the manner of Monty Python, or even Chaplin or a science fiction space-time traveler, which would reflect reality in the mirror of old woman Valentine. Pythonesque burlesques interspersed with a Kafkaesque atmosphere reflected in the name of the titular hero are merely some of the references that build up the overall feel of the novel. Why Kafkaesque? Because Boris K. is, even with all of his Johnny Bravo capabilities, merely a regular, tiny man in a sophisticated cog of the system which makes mincemeat of the sophisticated, but grinds it well. The Johnny Bravo effect, the muscles of the superhero are but a part of this comedy of the absurd, because the hyperboles I like utilizing, sometimes to their upper limits in order to strengthen the absurd and highlight it in the process, are but one piece of the comedy and that comedy, so to speak, gets more comical.
At International Belgrade Book Fair, with Zoran Stefanovic, the reviewer of my book “The Adventures Of Boris K”
How did Boris K. come about?
LS: First of all, if we don’t take into account the scientific theories of existence of parallel universes, in the present day Serbia as it is, unfortunately, we can notice that in order to merely survive the people need to live in some sort of personal universe, to be ‘deluded’, as the British would say. Those with more creativity can craft up to five-six roles… Don’t many of the Munchausens find refuge in their own lies? Still, Boris K. moves through worlds of alternative history and his fate is resolved in a satirical science fiction novel which is in the process of creation, and all of this close to the encounter with the aliens of civilization number 5. But more on this some other time…
Can we expect a sequel to Boris K.’s adventures?
LS: As someone who feels at home with long form writing, I admit that would be rather easy work were it not extremely difficult to someone whom struggles with rationality, mathematical focus and dramatic precision, but let’s say it takes time for the plot to come together, the answer is as follows: you can, the ideas are everywhere (I agree with Plato on this one), maybe not as soon as I would want them to. Boris K. is not just a short story, he is an omnipresent avatar and a portrait of an undisciplined, yet witty cosmopolitan man. And he demands only the best of plots, a beginning, plot points, my favorite peripety and a witty resolution with hints of bitter irony aimed at the society around us.
What are you working on at the moment?
LS: Like a sculptor I chisel away at a novel made of tangled tales waging wars for each individual sentence. This work does not demand precision in the sense of a well-rounded plot, it is fantasy in and of itself, a fantasy where the awoken sleepwalk. The novel fits my narrative sensibilities which focus both on the plot and the character nuances and has the attributes of magical realism, therefore I’m good at it and enjoy working on it. I hope to leave a footstep in the snow with it somewhere in the distant north, where the plot is happening…for the future storytellers of the same genre (magical fantasy). Officially this genre does not exist, or rather is not named as such. There is magical realism, but this is a work of magical fantasy.
Any advice for upcoming authors?
LS: Don’t walk the same track as others. Break patterns and remember that Kafka was extremely insecure. He considered himself a bad author, which he masked with hysterical laughter (a sort of compensation for shame) whenever his friends were talking him into reading his works aloud. Also, he wrote them late at night. This is not the type of advice you should heed if you’re an early bird.