An interview with Kalani Pickhart, I Will Die in a Foreign Land (2021), a New York Public Library Best Book of 2021. Russia is again amassing troops on the Ukrainian border. There are threats of more sanctions from the US and the EU, but those come with a tacit understanding that there is likely little that the world can do to stop Putin should he decide to invade. It is within this frightening context that Kalani Pickhart’s extraordinary novel, I Will Die in a Foreign Land, enters the scene. The novel itself is a beautiful pastiche of forms: novelistic plots mix with songs and folktales, manifests of passengers killed in downed planes or in the melee of protest, diaries and recordings, all working to build a feeling, the urge for a democratic voice to speak against violence and despair. Kalani and I discuss the burden of writing true in a work of fiction, and so much more!
Books Recommended in this episode:
Absalom, Absalom!, William Faulkner
God Shot, Chelsea Bieker
The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish, Katya Apekina
The Power of the Dog (Film), Jane Campion
Chris Holmes is Chair of Literatures in English and Associate Professor at Ithaca College. He writes criticism on contemporary global literatures. His book, Kazuo Ishiguro as World Literature, is under contract with Bloomsbury Publishing. He is the co-director of The New Voices Festival, a celebration of work in poetry, prose, and playwriting by up-and-coming young writers.
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