eMigrating Landscapes Interview / Marek Kazmierski

DTS PR cover
June 2013

This is your first full-length publication. Please tell us a bit about what your literary career has been until now and how this collection of short stories was put together?
It’s pointless to talk about “careers” when discussing writing. Maybe even harmful. I’ve wanted to be a writer, little else, since my university days. I then spent ten years working, travelling, doing all sorts of reckless research to have something to write about. It wasn’t until I finished a novel and tried to get an agent that I realised the world of publishing is far more complex and, in places, insidious than expected. I did what I was told to “become a writer” – penning columns in newspapers, attending and running creative writing workshops, getting short stories published here and there, teaching, lecturing, etc. Even though I was still working in refugee centres, prisons, bars and the like, just not to know I had not lost that sense of connection with life outside of literature. This collection came out of a desire to prove something else as well. To show I can write in different voices, from different perspectives, as opposed to what a lot of contemporary writers, especially men, do – writing from their own solitary and often ditchwater-dull perspective.
These stories are various tales on displacement, on migrants, nomads, people who are looking for their place, but not always finding it. To what extent is it your personal experiences of an emigrant, but also someone who lives in London, the European centre of migration on one hand and on the other to what extent is it the result of your observation of the social and political change in Europe of last 10 years?
All the stories in the book are true in the sense that they happened either to people I know or read about in the press. As true as literature can ever be. Ten years ago, I didn’t know a single Polish person on this island. Now, I know hundreds, and that is just those involved in cultural animation and social work. But the book is not about the here and now alone. I meant it to be universal – through experiences of a specific group of people in a specific time and place for it to say something about reality to anyone anywhere on the planet. Young, old. Free, oppressed. Simple, smart. I believe in literature as “essential entertainment” – layered so that anyone can get something out if in a myriad of ways. I would run a marathon if I had to face the prospect of having to read Joyce or Hughes or Milosz again. They wrote books for their high-brow pals, and that is death on the page for me.
Among the ten central characters those who stand out are outsiders, for whom the symbolic disconnection from a “source”, cutting off from their roots, has had a rather negative effect. Do you agree with this reading of the book?
I have to. In spite of how “dark” the book looks and reads, I am a blessed with a sunny disposition. Painful experiences wash off of me, and things other people find depressing I often find inspiring. But on a more macro level, I don’t expect art to cuddle. If the people we read about don’t hurt, and aren’t sometimes destroyed by their own folly, we will never take anything from art other than distraction, a betrayal of what the power of storytelling can and should do. Especially that now, after a few decades of consumerist comfort zone, the world is starting to spin in all sorts of worrying directions.
Read the rest of the interview here: eMigrating Landscapes