All that is can become more or less through interpretation.
It was Valentine’s day. I switched on the television and watched the film ‘The Kite Runner‘. Then, as if by lucky coincidence, I watched something that was also about a storyteller. This time, though, it wasn’t a film but a short interview. The interview was in the series, ‘Meet the author‘.* On this occasion the writer who had been invited for interview was Naseem Aslam. He had just succeeded in publishing his latest novel, ‘The Blind Man’s Garden‘.
In the course of his interview he said that ‘we’ had just lived through an extraordinary decade – beginning with the terrorist attacks on the USA – and the destruction of the twin towers in Manhattan – and ending with the ‘Arab Spring’ and some of the subsequent regime changes. He thought that we have been witnessing ‘a clash between an incomplete understanding of the East and an incomplete understanding of the West.’ I thought he put this very well. And, I really liked the way Nadeem Aslam spoke: He had great charm. Then, as the interview moved on he said something about what he was trying to do in his work, in his writing:
“My work is just an exploration of my own life … To see what saddens me, what delights me, what things I believe are worth loving and what things I believe in life are worth changing … I begin with the conviction (and it is my deepest conviction) that there is nothing extraordinary about me – so if something is true of me there is every likelihood that it is true of six billion other people on this planet. So I think as a writer you have to find that place where you and everyone else are on the same level … and that is how I think the work ends up connecting with everyone else on the planet.”
As he said these things I thought of the way his remarks echoed those of Carl Rogers who, ages ago, had emphasised that ‘what is most personal is also most general’. But, above all else, Nadeem Aslam struck me as a deeply educated man. I think he’s an exemplary person.
*The series ‘Meet the author‘ is broadcast on the BBC news channel. Each interview lasts for about 5 minutes.
“Well, the American dream is raising [yourself] way up above what you started with … And achieving something way beyond what anybody had dreamed you would achieve. And that’s exactly what she [Jackie] has done.” (June Downs)
Note: June Downs was featured in the Storyville documentary “Versailles”. The documentary was about a man and a woman (called Jackie – who is referred to in the above quote) – who wanted to build the largest habitable mansion in the USA.
Someone had made a film about a man who had been trying to build the largest habitable mansion in the USA. It was modelled on some idea – some phantasy idea – about the palace at Versailles. During the film, one of the man’s maids told us about her father: he had lived in faraway lands; he had, she told us, always dreamed of living in a concrete house. She emphasised the fact that this had been his lifelong wish. But ‘it never happened.’ He did not have enough money to buy the house of his dreams. However, by way of everlasting consolation, we learned that he was buried in a concrete tomb.
[The film was made in a series called ‘Storyville‘ that was broadcast on BBC Four.]