The biographical details of Lynn Freed, who was born in Durban, South Africa but has lived for many years in the United States, permeate her work. It’s particularly visible in last year’s collection of essays, The Romance of Elsewhere. As the title suggests, the volume deals with Freed’s experiences negotiating expat identity. She asks us to think about how we can understand “home” and our relationship to it, despite physical or emotional distance. Her collection encourages us to look closer at the romantic associations of the far away, a pertinent topic in an increasingly globalized world. Continue Reading
If Joan Didion and Fran Lebowitz had a literary love child, she would be Lynn Freed — or, at least, the resulting book would be Lynn Freed’s essay collection, The Romance of Elsewhere, on sale from Counterpoint Press on Oct. 10. The collection of 20 previously-published essays spans decades and continents, and is in equal turns funny, wise, and sardonic; charting both Freed’s evolution as a traveler and her evolution as a writer. Travelers and readers seeking an unusually un-romanticized take on wandering the world will love it. Continue Reading
When did you know you wanted to write?
I can’t remember ever wanting to write. I just wrote. At first, as a child, and for a number of years into adolescence, I seemed to write partly to show off. I’d write a story or a play — I wrote a lot of plays, mostly awful — and I’d run downstairs to read it to my mother. She was a completely honest critic: harsh and fair. If she came forth with praise, I knew that what I had written wasn’t fake. Continue Reading
When award-winning writer Lynn Freed stops talking, does her eyebrow immediately arch in irony? In wry challenge? When sharing a bottle of wine with a worthy conversationalist does she sit back and scrutinize? Her delicious replies to PopMatters 20 Questions may have you wishing, like us, that she could be your dinner guest. The world of possible topics for discussion is her plate of oysters—oysters she will crack open with the proper tool, wrench from their protective covering, and then share with you and savor with laughter. Continue Reading
Novelist Lynn Freed plunges into a tumultuous underworld of emotion
How did you get started writing fiction?
Every week at school, we were given the choice of writing either an essay or a story as homework. I used to choose a story because it seemed so much easier, so much less terrifying. And then I’d read the results to my mother. I was looking for praise, of course, but I didn’t receive much, not unless I wrote something that she thought good. She had a fine ear and a love of good writing, and no idea that a child should be encouraged on principle. How refreshing that seems now. Continue Reading
January 23rd, 2006
Lynn Freed’s odd, elegant novels take place in and around the Jewish community of Durban, South Africa, where the author spent her early years. Though she once regarded the city as “hopelessly provincial, a backwater,” in her fiction Durban emerges as a fascinating hub, where four cultures intersect: British, Jewish, African, and Indian.
In Reading, Writing, and Leaving Home, her salty new collection of essays, Freed discusses her “piebald” upbringing as the youngest daughter of a prominent Anglo-Jewish family. Translating her experiences into fiction has not, she recounts, been without perils: In 1987, after she published the highly autobiographical Home Ground—which begins with her alter-ego, Ruth Frank, “pulling on the garden boy’s penis“—she found her name splashed across the covers of South African tabloids under headlines like AUTHOR HAS SEX WITH SERVANTS. Continue Reading
Thomas Cooney: How is the tennis game?
Lynn Freed: Appalling, partly, I think, because I don’t care who wins. Same goes for Scrabble, Monopoly, spectator sports of any kind, and much else.
TC: The Mirror was the first book of yours I read. As others had, I too succumbed to the narrative voice that was so strong, so determined, that it wasn’t until halfway through the novel that I realized that the author was really writing herself into new territory. By which I mean, here is a female character, making her way in the world circa 1920, still a teenager, and the author is not going to get in her way by reducing her to just a victim or making society force her to pay for her drive. It must have been liberating to create a character with such abandon.
LF: Liberating for me? If so, from what? The presumption of Literature as Personal Therapy is unworthy. Also, might I add, “teenagers” then were not teenagers now. At seventeen, a woman was a woman. Continue Reading