Taiye Selasi on sex in another language

Africa39 author, Taiye Selasi. Image credit: The Independent, UK.

Arifa Akbar reports on Taiye Selasi recounting her experiences writing for GQ Italia and attending the Iceland Writers Retreat (IWR):

Writing about sex in Italian for magazines gives her a freedom she wouldn’t have in English, she says: “I write about sex – women sleeping with Italian men – for GQ Italian. I write directly in Italian, particularly when I want to have a bit of distance from myself. I started writing in English and thought ‘This is a cheap Sex and the City and I’m not Carrie Bradshaw’.”

"Ghana Must Go",  by Best Young British Novelist (2013) and Africa39 author, Taiye Selasi.

“Ghana Must Go”, by Best Young British Novelist (2013) and Africa39 author, Taiye Selasi.

For Selasi, a key factor is her limitations in Italian. As counter-intuitive as this sounds for good writing, I see her point: a smaller, more utilitarian vocabulary can’t accommodate the obfuscations and hiding places that her boundless English could allow: “My vocabulary is limited in Italian and it should be when you describe sex, really. I’ve found that simple subject verbs in sex are wonderful. It means the writing is direct and honest because you can’t dissemble with an adverb.” It’s a method exercised by English language novelists such as Geoff Dyer who succeed in writing such scenes in convincing ways by using exact, almost clinical, language. Not everyone can achieve this effect though, which is Selasi’s point.
(source: The Independent, UK)

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