By Aminah Sheikh
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?
Because eventually we will all be reduced to nothing – and that is something I refuse to accept, or believe.
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
Epigram Books released my first novel, Kappa Quartet, in September 2016. It was a conscious effort on my part, I believe, to have my first novel encapsulate who I was/am as a writer. For instance I believe in the essential premise of irrealism – that a gap exists between the infinite possibilities of the universe and the limited ability of our consciousness to perceive or understand it – and that a writer of fiction really shouldn’t be viewed as an oracle, or a sage, or provider of solutions. But I did, on a basic level, want to explore the various ways in which people learn to live and cope with feelings of emptiness; it was the baseline on which I built my stories and characters for the novel.
Describe your writing aesthetic.
As an observer of the world I believe in immanence; as a member of human society I believe in interconnectivity, diversity, and the power of shared experience; as a craftsman of words I lean towards simplicity, a lightness of touch, and a good clip, a steady pace.
Who are your favorite authors?
My favourite authors are Margaret Atwood, Michael Cunningham, and Haruki Murakami. And I will always be in awe of Stephanie Ye, David Mitchell, and Yoko Ogawa.
The only dead person I will credit as a favourite is Willa Cather, for Death Comes for the Archbishop.
What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.
It’ll have to be my current project. Titled Lovelier, it’s a book-length project that intertwines poetry with short stories to tell a complete but broken tale about a cast of millennials. They’re creative, ambitious, and yet constantly prone to failure, and so I adore them. I could have gone with a simpler structure, of course – I could have gone with one or the other, poetry or prose – but that’s just me. The pieces are all there, and I’m still waiting on the decision to cut half of it away or keep them all.
What’s your idea of bliss?
When you have nothing left to say.
What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?
The current political establishment.
What books would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?
Books on my to-read list that would be apt for the marshlands: Yann Martel’s The High Mountains of Portugal; Peter Nadas, for killing time; and definitely a few titles from Fitzcarraldo Editions, like Claire-Louise Bennett’s Pond, or Agustin Fernandez Mallo’s Nocilla Experience.
Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?
Assuming all of the humans are safe and all, I would grab my dogs and the turtle in the fountain.
Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.
Good Indians must party yonder; go in magical peace, Yam.
Daryl Qilin Yam is a writer of prose and poetry, born and based in Singapore. His first novel, Kappa Quartet (Epigram Books, 2016), was longlisted for the 2015 Epigram Books Fiction Prize. darylqilinyam.com
Aminah Sheikh is the Online Editor of Kitaab