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.