Politics Is Inherent in True Stories
Walter Mosley is the author of more than 34 critically acclaimed books, including the major bestselling mystery series featuring the character Easy Rawlins. His work has been translated into 21 languages and includes literary fiction, science fiction, political monographs, and a young adult novel. His short fiction has been widely published, and his nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and The Nation, among other publications. He is the winner of numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, a Grammy and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He became a writer in his thirties, after a decade-long career as a computer programmer. He lives in New York City.
Question: What is a writer’s political or moral responsibility?
Walter Mosley: I believe that a writer has to tell what they think is the truth in a human experience. The truth of the human experience cannot escape the political. So for instance, if you’re going to write about a woman whose husband has died raising her two children in Cincinnati in 1905, well there’s some things that you have to know. There’s some things that you have to be able to talk about. Like this woman can’t really own property. That this woman cannot vote. That is woman doesn’t have equal rights to men. That this woman is going to be seen in certain ways inside of courts, on the street, in the kinds of jobs that she can have, in the way that she deals with money.
If you understand those things, your novel necessarily becomes political. If you don’t understand those things, your novel becomes not a fiction, but a fantasy. And that I think that it’s important to try to keep reality. Now, of course, I think that Gabriel Garcia Marquez speaks a lot about reality in his magical realism. So I don’t think we have to be hyper-realistic. But we have to understand the pressures that undergird the lives of the characters within that novel.
Recorded November 10, 2010
Interviewed by Andrew Dermont
Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler
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