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Meeting Aminatta Forna

31 March 2010 by Administrator

Aminatta Forna Sm

It was delightful to meet Aminatta Forna to record a video interview for The Interview Online although I do sympathise with the nonsense writers have to go through just to publicise their book. As if it weren't bad enough having your afternoon disrupted by a journalist, you then have to pretend that you are lifelong friends when you know damn well it's highly unlikely you'll ever see them again.

However for me I always, without fail,  enjoy the experience and do hope that when I leave it has been at least slightly painless if not  pleasant for the interviewee.

Most people are extremely gracious - offering you tea or coffee while you rig the cameras. Both of you know this won't take all day so we have to try and fast track the niceties and pretend that we've already met a couple of times already. After I have taken several photographs of her, Aminatta completely disarmed me by saying that her husband's first career was as a photographer. Great start eh? Still she has such distinctive features that even an indifferent shot comes out well. Nonetheless I have agreed to let her veto the shots before I publish any here or send them to Writer Pictures. So if you see a photo here, you'll know it's been OK'd

What did we talk about? Well apart from the book of course, we discussed the role of aid agencies in developing countries. Her views would provoke heated debate and as a founding trustee of Street Child Africa, I do have some experience in the Third Sector. When it comes to corruption in Africa we agree that of course it happens, but then European governments are hardly squeeky clean...

Her home is beautiful and dressing the frame is made easier by her ornaments. The book is about posttraumatic stress in Sierra Leone, although when pressed, she says that it's more about love and relationships which could have taken place in any war torn country.

The Memory of Love (published by Bloomsbury) follows the story of Elias Cole in the mid 1960's in the west African country as well as modern times when a young British psychiatrist Adrian comes to help at a  local hospital. Although Forna never actually names the country, she has famously written about the Sierra Leone and her dissident father in The Devil who Danced on the Water.  We can therefore only presume that it is that country. We follows Adrian's friendship with surgeon Kai who looks to America for his future while having to treat appalling injuries as well as routine incidents in the local hospital. We also follow  Adrian's stubborn determination to treat Agnes whose mental injuries are beyond western imagination. The novell is enriched with a large large cast of characters, all of whom have to survive on their own terms.

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