INTERVIEWER: You know, to the extent that there are characters who are more often written about and characters who are less often written about, it does seem that your attraction is to those who haven’t had as many pages devoted to them. And I don’t know if that’s a deliberate redressing, or more just a sort of native interest. Maybe you met a family a bit like that and thought, What would it be like—?
MONICA ALI: Writers write for all different sorts of reasons (though I guess we all share a love of words), and there is no onus on writers to write anything other than the truth about the world as they see it. If their interest is fairly close and narrow, and it’s about their shopping experiences, then that’s what they must write. I don’t hold some idea that all writing must be socially inquisitive. The freedom of the writer to write exactly what they want is entirely dominant for me.
Having said that, I think the gift of literature, what it gives us, as I said before, is an ability to walk in another person’s shoes. That’s what the writer does, and that’s what literature can give you when it’s really doing the best job that it can do. That is its heart, that is its moral purpose. To see the world from another point of view. That is something that would drive me to write. That is what fires me up.
Monica Ali (born 20 October 1967) is a Bangladeshi-born British writer and novelist. She is the author of Brick Lane, her debut novel, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2003. Ali was voted Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists on the basis of the unpublished manuscript.