Man Booker nominee Bangladesh-born British author Monica Ali participated in a discussion session on the second day of the ninth edition of Dhaka Lit Fest. The session titled ‘Beyond Brick Lane’ was held at Abdul Karim Sahitya Bisharad Hall of Bangla Academy on Friday afternoon.
Director of Dhaka Lit Fest Sadaf Saaz accompanied her during the session. Apart from talking about how she became an author, she took part in a Q-A session as well.
Monica Ali was born in 1967, in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Her father is a Bangladeshi and mother an Englishwoman. Later she moved to Britain in 1971 when she was three and a half years old. She made her debut as an author in 2003 with her novel named ‘Brick Lane’ where she wrote about a Bangladeshi family living in UK. Through her novel Monica Ali also depicted the experiences of refugees in Britain.
‘My mother came to a village in Bangladesh from England without knowing the language, religion or culture of this country. When she was a newly married bride, people used to come to see her as she was a white lady,’ said Monica while
sharing the story of her mother’s marriage.
When asked about why she chose to be a writer, she replied, ‘I always wanted to be a writer from a tender age. I used to read a lot. But I started writing just after having my first baby.’
There is no alternative to reading she said. Writers must read all types of writings by different authors around the world to gather ideas and enrich knowledge.
What strategies she follows before writing?
‘I imagine conversations of my novel’s characters. Basically the voices instruct me to write, I don’t give them any directions,’ Monica Ali replied.
Presently she is writing a novel about two families living in London. She did not disclose further information of the novel as she is still working on it.
Does she plan to write a sequel of Brick Lane, was a question posed by an audience. ‘I don’t have any plans as yet. I have got huge criticism about the character named Shahana as many want to know what happens to her next,’ Monica replied.
In the novel Brick Lane, Monica has used Bangladeshi names for her characters like Nazneen, Shahana, Hasina and others. What was her thought behind selecting the names another audience asked. ‘I just felt the names suited the characters depicted in the novel. I don’t sit with a name list,’ explained Monica.
After 48 years Monica Ali returned to Bangladesh along with her husband Simon Torrance to attend the ninth edition of Dhaka Lit Fest. She said that soon after she landed, she sent photographs to her children. ‘I would like my children to visit Bangladesh. I am sharing my experiences with them and now they are jealous,’ laughed Monica.
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