European Union Prize for Literature

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13 June 2018

Interview with Sunjeev Sahota

At the end of May, EUPL 2017 UK winning author Sunjeev Sahota and 2014 UK winner Evie Wyld met at the London Review Bookshop to discuss the Prize, the state of European literature and Britain's place in the post-Brexit international literary community. The discussion was moderated by Catherine Taylor, critic and former EUPL jury member. This was the occasion for EUPL to ask a few questions to Sunjeev Sahota 

“Sci-fi would be cool, though increasingly the world feels frighteningly strange and removed enough already, without needing to make it further so.”

What was the trigger, what made you decide to write the story of these four characters and to have them thrown together in Sheffield?

The characters of Narinder and Randeep came first, along with their relationship to each other, and everything else spooled out from there. I always knew I wanted to try and write a big book with a big cast -- a kind of doffing my cap to the novels I used to love reading.

If you were one of your book character, which one would it be? Why?

Narinder has a quiet charisma and is unashamedly herself, both qualities I find appealing.

Did you bring a part of yourself to the story? (in the analysis of the characters, their description, etc.)

My knowledge of Punjab and of the life undocumented migrants lead in the UK definitely informed the novel.

Is there a specific genre/style that you have not tried yet and would like to write in?

Sci-fi would be cool, though increasingly the world feels frighteningly strange and removed enough already, without needing to make it further so.

Has EUPL opened new horizons for you? (Literary events in other countries, selling rights for translations into new languages, networking with other winners, etc.)

It's made a huge difference to the numbers of European translations of my work, which has been enormously gratifying.

What’s the language you would love to be translated into? Why?

Punjabi, because it's the language I grew up hearing; Urdu because it's beautiful. I've been watching The Bridge recently and find myself taken with Danish, too.

Have you had a chance to read books by other EUPL winners, especially those coming from your own country?

Yes! I already knew Evie Wyld's and Adam Fould's work and it's a real honour to join them on the list of prizewinners.