Ceridwen Dovey is a South African born novelist who now lives in New York. After receiving her undergraduate degree from Harvard in 2003, Dovey returned to South Africa to write a novel. Blood Kin, the result of that work, was published in 2007 to critical acclaim: the novel was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Informed by Dovey's South African roots, the novel tells the story of a fictional military coup from the perspective of the overthrown leader's portraitist, chef, and barber. Dovey is currently completing a PhD in Anthropology at New York University. Dovey doesn't see a conflict between her two passions. "Both anthropology and good fiction are full of thick description and a layering of detail," she says.
Question: What pressures do young writers in New York face?
Dovey: I guess there’s a sense of pressure perhaps that I avoided because it really was unexpected. And perhaps you know for writers who have taken on in New York, and you know . . . who have agents, it’s just a much more sort of stressful environment. And the stakes are much higher, it seems, and it sort of places a kind pressure on young writers where it’s almost like they kill the goose that lays the golden egg. And they put so much pressure on this writer to perform in certain ways, but also to be framed in certain ways. And there is this sort of obsession with . . . with youth and with young authors in America that’s quite . . . quite dangerous I think. Because it’s . . . It sort of takes the . . . I think it can often make young writers forget why they’re doing it, or why they started writing in the first place and start doing it for the wrong . . . the wrong reason.
Question: Do they have a chance of maturing within the industry
Dovey: I don’t know. I mean I guess it’s case by case, but I think you’ve gotta have a strong sense of self and your own . . . what you’re prepared to do. But in the long run it’s like, you know, do you love it enough to keep doing it your whole life? And so perhaps that’s it. It’s the sense of these, you know . . . a phenomenon that’s slightly problematic. Because instead of seeing it as a kind of lifelong learning curve that you’re on – like you’re learning the whole time – as opposed to this, you know, precocious individual who has got it right in their twenties, which I think is impossible; instead of seeing it in this long term perspective as something . . . a craft that you’re gonna learn about your whole life.