By Sukant Deepak
New Delhi, Jan. 30 (IANS): For a long time, the idea of a woman in early adulthood making disastrous decisions swirled around in her head. The scene where Anna-Marie and Sanjay are waiting at the bus stop and Anna-Marie decides to go home with him is the genesis of the book. “Perhaps people can identify with the basic instinct that informs our desires,” she smiles.
There’s a conscious style at play that comes effortlessly into the book. There is a certain confidence in the reader to understand the radical acts that seem so easy. In British-Asian Selma Carvalho’s exquisite fiction “Sisterhood of Swans” (Speaking Tiger) brimming with emotion, not just experience, somewhere there is an unseen abyss of gravity that you cannot resist.
This may be Carvalho’s first work of fiction, but even his non-fiction floated in a lyrical style. “Most stories of Goa emerge from academics, as it should, where the writing is often dense. I wanted to write accessible narratives about my particular area of research which is the presence of Goa in East Africa. Is colonial,” she told IANS and writer Maria Aurora. Couto, who took her under his wing and encouraged Carvalho to venture into fiction.
Believing that the short story is the gateway to literary writing because it allows you to perfect your craft and validates the writer quite quickly, she remembers being regularly shortlisted in literary competitions in the United Kingdom, to the point where she had about forty-odd long/short lists on my writer’s biography.
“The publishers of this book acquired the rights to my short story collection which had been a finalist for the SI Leeds Literary Prize. They then encouraged me to write a novel. Sisterhood of Swans is my first long-form publication,” says- she. .
Adding that even though she can’t talk about the universality of femininity, on the whole, women still yearn for a companion with whom they will find fulfillment.
“‘We belong to the brotherhood of swans seeking to mate for life…our kind is doomed to disappointment.’ The second line from which the title emerges is the most telling line. Given the complexity of the human condition, a soulmate or even a long-term companion is often a figment of the imagination. Human relationships are complex organisms with a myriad of conflicting desires . Long-term monogamy is a multi-tentacled monster,” she says.
Although she has lived in the United States for several years, and now in the United Kingdom for almost fourteen years, the author says that she is essentially from the Persian Gulf diaspora, which does not allow for any sense of citizenship. Thus, she grew up in a Goan milieu, always with Goa as her centripetal location, and yet from childhood informed by the diversity prevalent in the Gulf.
“I wanted to create characters that were very different from the tropes that occur in Goan literature, usually bhatkar (landed aristocracy) versus mundkar (tenant/oppressed). I wanted to write about modern characters, feminist women with degrees in university and men who are charming cross-cultural womanizers.These characters live within the canon of Goan literary endeavor but exist universally.
Ask her who Carvalho is essentially – fiction or non-fiction, and she believes both are disciplines of discovery. Adding that while a great deal of documentation of Goa’s history and culture must take place for it to survive as a trace of their collective narrative, she says, “Over the past five years, the old guard of the intelligentsia of Goa has faded and it is time for my generation to take over. I feel a tremendous responsibility to serve my state, to chronicle and document, and so I find myself returning to this process as a moral obligation.
Carvalho’s first book “Into the Diaspora Wilderness”, published 12 years ago by the independent press Goa, 1556, founded by journalist Frederick Noronha, laments: “There is an ugly literary pride which rejects independent publishers, which which is ironic, given their role in discovering Booker Prize winners, preserving regional histories and works in translation.”
After finishing writing new novels, ‘Horton’ and ‘And So To All Tyrants’, which explore relationships, truth and the immigrant as ‘other’. She started a non-fiction book called Goans of Zanzibar. , 1865-1910.