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's in your personal literary cannon?
DoveyI would say “Waiting for the Barbarians” by Coetzee. I would say . . . It’s not fiction, but I would say “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” by Joan Didion. I would say . . . I don’t know if it’s a great . . . but “My Life as a Man” by Phillip Roth. I would put that in my canon. And anything by Margaret Atwood maybe. I’m trying to think of a fifth one. Maybe ____________ the periodic table. I’d put that in there. I guess there’s nothing really in common with all of them except that they all, to me, succeeded in making the novel what it is meant to be, which is an objective form of communication that I think, when done really well, actually builds empathy in the world, and a kind of compassion, and a sort of imaginative compassion. And there’s a kind of humility to them as well in the sense that they accept their own limitations as works of art that, as again, sort of honest about the . . . this weird creative process.
Recorded on: 12/6/07