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Interview With Segun Afolabi

Segun Afolabi Segun Afolabi was born in Kaduna, Nigeria. In 2005, he won the Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story “Monday Morning”. He is the author of the short story collection A Life Elsewhere and the novel Goodbye Lucille. In this chat, he gives insight into what stimulates him to write and how he forges on when he experiences a writer’s block. He currently lives in the UK.

Where and when do you write best?

Usually in the morning—at home or in a coffee shop. If there’s a deadline, then any time, anywhere.

What book(s) changed your life?

Every book I’ve read has altered my perception of humanity to some degree, from Omar Rivabella’s profound Requiem for a Woman’s Soul to The End of the Affair by Graham Greene.

Who are your literary heroes?

The list would include, in no particular order, Jamaica Kincaid, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, JM Coetzee, James Baldwin, Lorrie Moore, Graham Greene, Toni Morrison, Albert Camus . . . Actually, the list could go on for pages and pages.

When did you know you were going to be a writer?

I never knew. I still don’t know. I just happen to be someone who writes in my spare time so I’ve never really thought of myself as a “proper” writer.

How do you celebrate when you finish writing a book?

A special dinner, a short holiday etc—piecemeal, with each finished draft.

Do you reread your published work?

Only to prepare for public readings, although it will be interesting to read them again when I’m old.

What is the last thing you read that made you laugh?

A couple of moments of absurdity in Jose Saramago’s horrifying novel Blindness.

What stimulates the writer in you?

The world and the multitude of (real) stories every day, more absurd and sorrowful and humorous than anything a fiction writer could dream up.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I just continue to write, even if I know it’s no good.

Who is your perfect reader?

Anyone who takes the time to pick up a book and read it and think about things in this increasingly hurried and superficial world.

If you could own any painting, what would it be?

Probably “Hotel Room” by Edward Hopper—it’s on permanent display at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid.


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