Sunjeev Sahota: ‘I don’t see why I should benefit from migration when other people don’t’

Sahota is so far unscathed by professional rejection. He doesn’t know who his readers are, and doesn’t keep track of sales, but says he “can’t wait” to get stuck into novel number three, in which he expects to move away from autobiography to reveal the influence of South American magical realism. The “seed” is a scene from the life of his great-grandmother, who married one of four brothers and, because she and the other brothers’ wives were obliged to keep their faces covered and eyes down, didn’t know which man was hers.

It is an image that has stayed with him. “When I read fiction, I read to understand the world,” he says. “I’m not saying people who don’t read fiction are worse people. My parents don’t read fiction, most people I know don’t read fiction, yet they are really engaged and lead perfectly good lives. But, for me, there’s something about watching people go through their lives in this imagined space than enables me to go through life in a better way.”

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