What does Immigrant Fiction and Dystopian Fiction have in common? You might be surprised! Award-winning Riverhead Books author Chang-rae Lee shares how is recently published book, ON SUCH A FULL SEA, reveals the dystopian nature of the immigrant story.
I wasn’t intent on creating a “dystopian” tale while I was writing On Such a Full Sea. This might seem hard to believe given the society I describe in the novel: a future world beset by environmental contamination and rigidly partitioned by class, where the ultra-rich live in securely gated ‘villages’, workers spend their entire lives in cloistered production settlements, and the citizens of the wild and unregulated ‘open counties’ that surround them are left to survive wholly on their own. Certainly when I was young I was an admirer of classic novels of dystopia such as 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, but in fact, in writing this book I didn’t want any models of the genre to guide me. I was simply working the way I have always worked, which is to imagine characters who find themselves at a pivotal moment in their lives, characters who are questioning their place in their families and communities and, in turn, that community’s place in the wider world. In this regard, I consider On Such a Full Sea to be more of an extension of my previous novels than any radical departure. Continue reading →
Award-winning Riverhead Books author Chang-rae Lee took the time to answer a few behind-the-scenes question for us about his new literary dystopia, ON SUCH A FULL SEA, which comes out in January 2014.
Lucy: The titles of your books (NATIVE SPEAKER, THE SURRENDERED, ALOFT) are easy to remember, but also poetic, evocative. Tell us how you choose titles in general, and how this title was chosen.
Chang-rae Lee: Choosing a title is rarely easy. I start thinking about possible titles early on in the writing, testing out candidates as I go along, for meaning and a certain ‘music’ – both have to feel right. ON SUCH A FULL SEA was especially difficult, and came quite late in the process. I happened to be reading JULIUS CAESAR by Shakespeare and came across the phrase in a famous quote by Brutus, in which he advocates via metaphor the seizing of an opportunity. I simply liked the ring of it, too, immediately picturing my heroine on the ‘tide’ of her adventure, and so leaped on it. Continue reading →