Exclusive interview with novelist Marlon James


The university had planned to host novelist Marlon James as part of this year’s Gerhold Lecture Series in October; Unfortunately, the event had to be canceled due to numerous flight delays which prevented the author from arriving on campus in time for the event to take place.

The English department has tentatively rescheduled James for the Gerhold lecture on February 15. Fortunately, however, the chimes was able to interview James exclusively by telephone ahead of his scheduled arrival on campus in October.

James is a Jamaican writer whose novels often feature settings in Jamaica or Africa, and readers of his novels often wonder about the intent or meaning of these settings. Many readers and literary critics wonder if these parameters directly reflect James’ writing philosophy.

“As a writer, most of my writing tends to look back at periods of history while trying to delve into my own past or that of my people, or even just people who have been erased. I think history books tend to talk about famous people or rulers, kings [and so on] and not how everyone lived their lives or how they were affected by history,” James said. “Most of my books explore people who are touched by history, but who don’t really make the history books. It’s really me trying to understand a postcolonial society.

In describing Jamaica, James was impartial in his opinion of the country:

“I think Jamaica is everything people think it is and absolutely nothing people think it is. I think Jamaica is a country way above its weight, culturally; but , he’s still trying to shake off the yoke of history, even in 2022. And I think that makes us very self-determined and makes us very, very creative, incredibly creative,” James said. “Sometimes I’m even surprised at the cultural mark that Jamaica continues to leave on the world.But Jamaica also has issues that it must rise above and overcome if it is to be a great generation.

James’ passion for Jamaica and his amazing voices also became clear during the interview:

“Louise Simpson the poet won the Pulitzer. Michelle Cliff, Olive Senior, Mervyn Morris, Patricia Powell, Patricia Duncker; all these writers wrote fantastic and brilliant novels. by Patricia Duncker Mind-blowing Foucault is taught in almost all gender studies classes. We have always had writers who have had a great influence on American writers, even if they are not well known. They’re all brilliant and they all have books that deserve more readers,” James said.

Marlon James won the 2015 Man Booker Prize. Photo courtesy of the Booker Prize Foundation.

In 2015 James won the Booker Prize, the UK and Ireland’s version of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, making him an internationally renowned novelist. The monetary reward for winning the Booker Prize is 50,000 euros.

“[The Booker Prize] doesn’t [affect my writing]. It affected my bank account, which is great; but, at least in terms of what I write and how I write, it hasn’t affected me at all,” James said.

Many readers of James’s novels describe his writing style as “gender fluid», and he himself explained to the New York Times the variety of genres of books he enjoyed reading in his lifetime.

“I wasn’t such a snob because I couldn’t afford it. [growing up]. I read books people left lying around, books people gave me, books I could steal and books I could borrow. You know, the only category I really had for reading a book was that it was “next.” There were things I grew to appreciate in all of those books, and it’s the same approach I take to my writing: “everything but the kitchen sink,” James said.

Although James is also known as part of the LGBTQ+ communityhe doesn’t see himself inserting himself too much into his work.

“I don’t deliberately insert myself into my writing, but I see aspects of myself everywhere. Some of my characters say things I know I would have said, or they process something, judge people, or observe people like I would. So to say that I’m completely separate from my writing, I think, is maybe a bit off,” James said. “At the same time, I don’t necessarily want to insert myself into my stories; probably because I’ve been writing journals since I was 16. I’m already a character in my diaries, so I don’t know if I need to be a character in my novels. But, in terms of worldview, a lot of my characters share my worldview.

If you want to read any of James’s novels, check out the full list at his website. The postponed Gerhold James Lecture Series will take place in the spring semester on February 15.


  • Trinity is a triple major in English Literature, Creative Writing and Spanish. She loves everything related to the human sciences and likes to discover different cultures.

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