HS interview Writer star Bernardine Evaristo grew up in the midst of racism, but wouldn’t change anything: “If my childhood had been easy, I might not have become a writer.”

More than a million copies of the British novel “Girl, Woman, Another” by Bernardine Evaristo have already been sold in English. Childhood as the daughter of a white mother and a black father gave a difficult start to life. Even some of the relatives broke up in the family. HS met the author in London before his visit to Finland in May.


Britannian The written starry sky has shone since 2019, one above the other: Bernardine Evaristo.

Evaristo’s novel Girl, woman, another (WSOY) has had tremendous review and sales success. The English-language Department of the Novel (Girl, Woman, Other) has already sold more than one million copies in various forms.

No self-respecting literary enthusiast can miss reading this book. The book was published in Finnish in March Kaijamari Sivillin translated.

May in the middle of Evaristo arrives Helsinki Lit literature festival in Helsinki.

Helsinki is one of the very first destinations that Evaristo is touring as an international author. Evaristo was awarded Booker already in the fall of 2019 (together Margaret Atwoodin but the pandemic soon put a stop to travel.

“I got on the plane for the first time since April 2020 … I did tours a lot before, but I haven’t been on the move as a Booker winner before,” Evaristo says in an interview with HS in London at the end of April.

Korona has also just become ill. The author survived the flu symptoms.

Author Bernardine Evaristo gives an interview on the East London campus where she has been recording a podcast. Evaristo is a professor of creative writing at Brunel University: “Becoming a writer requires a lifelong effort.”

Prize novel Girl, woman, another has cast a voice especially for British black women. For once, black and brown women are starring and saying straight words.

“Black women have given feedback that they feel they have been seen. And it has been wonderful to hear. ”

However, white Finnish male readers should not draw the wrong conclusions from this and omit the landmark work.

“Many others have come to say that they find themselves in the book. And they are not women. And not black. There have been eighty men in the crowd, which I am very surprised about. ”

What appealed to them in the book?

“Working class background. The fact that we have had to work hard to achieve what we have. ”

Evariston (b. 1959) his own life was given a more challenging starting point than the average London childhood.

His father was a welder, a black migrant worker who arrived in Britain from Nigeria in 1949. The mother was a white teacher who was just making an effort through her education from the working class to the middle class.

The couple met at a dance in London in 1954, fell in love and got married. They had eight children.

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However, Evaristo’s mother’s rise in class pushed her into marriage with an African man. Some of the mother’s relatives broke the gaps completely. For them, the covenant was a disgrace.

Evaristo explains his background in detail in his book Manifesto – Never Giving Up (2021). It’s a wild read at times.

When the author was a little girl, no attempt was made to cover up racism.

Hooligans broke the windows of Evaristo’s home time and time again. Not all neighbors greeted. Appointments were commonplace. Evaristo’s father slept with a hammer next to the bed, for safety.

When the author herself was 15 years old, a girl in her class came to report that she had done a sociology school job about how many of Evaristo’s classmates would be willing to live next door to “colored ones”: 75 percent would reportedly disagree.

However, Evaristo himself does not consent to be a victim, neither then nor now. What doesn’t kill strengthens and makes the artist. As a child, he entertained himself.

“I don’t think we should stick to the past. If my childhood had been easy, I might not have become a writer, or at least I wouldn’t have written the books I am. ”

From his childhood, he would not change anything.

Evariston experiences as a London black woman from the late 1970s to the present day are also reflected Girl, woman, another novel.

There are twelve protagonists in the book, eleven of whom are women and one non-binary. The mother-child relationship, as well as other important human relationships, can be viewed from the perspective of different characters and different time perspectives.

The age range of individuals is wide, ranging from nineteen years to ninety-three. The backgrounds of the characters also vary greatly.

After the publication of the novel, an interviewer had reportedly asked if all twelve characters were different sides of Evaristo. It frustrated the author.

“People often imagine that if it’s a female writer – or a black female writer – everything is supposedly autobiographical. That is not the case. ”

This however, does not mean that Girl, woman, another The novel would also contain autobiographical material.

Such can be found in Amma, the opening character of the novel. Amma is an avid theater maker, political fighter, activist, feminist and lesbian. Evaristo also did theater at a young age and lived as a lesbian. He is currently married to a man.

“Amma is a younger version of me. He lived a similar life to me in the 1980s, ”says Evaristo.

In the early 1980s, Evaristo and his fellow theater school founded Britain’s first black women’s theater company, Theater of Black Women.

The theater company produced – as the name implies – plays written by black women starring black women.

“We were just brats back then, a little in my twenties. … I got great satisfaction from our work, and we were politically motivated. ”

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There were also more drastic reasons: If women had not set up their own theater group, they would not have had enough work in the field. Theater companies were run by men. The roles went to white – and preferably still traditionally beautiful – actors.

But even black men didn’t look well at the theater of young black feminist women. In their view, the women’s theater rocked a black common boat.

“They saw us as a disruptive force. But we didn’t care about them. We didn’t want to join black theater groups because they were only run by men. ”

Another one Girl, woman, another The character in the novel draws directly from the author’s own experiences.

The Dominique character drifts into a relationship in which mental and physical violence is used by an older woman. This was once the case for Evaristo himself.

“I allowed myself to be subjugated, but not by a man or a white person, but by a black woman. Since then, I have learned to recognize the warning signs of control friction and leave the scene, ”says Evaristo Manifestoin his book.

According to Evaristo, feminism and political activism Girl, woman, another the basis of the novel.

“However, almost not all characters represent my own opinions. For some, the worldview is even the complete opposite. And so it must be, because fictional characters must have their own lives. ”

Evaristo achieved his world fame relatively mature, just sixty years old.

Girl, woman, another is already, however, his eighth work. Evaristo has already been translated into Finnish. A novel Emperor’s sweetheart (The Emperor’s Babe2001) appeared In Finland in 2003 Anni Sumarin translated.

The author’s previous production has also pleased critics, but the number of readers has remained relatively small. However, Evaristo has said he saw himself as the Booker winner years ago.

Special praise is given to a loyal British publisher and there, in particular, a publisher Simon Prosser:

“He kept believing in me. They didn’t shelf me, even though I didn’t bring financial success in twenty years. ”

Now success tastes sweet.

The highlights were weeks when Girl, woman, another toured the UK’s best-selling charts in 2020. A few “high-literary” works can do that. Evaristo was at the top of the pocket list in Britain as the first black female writer.

Yet a few decades ago, black writers born and raised in Britain were reportedly having a hard time finding a publisher.

Yes, the publishing houses were already interested in the stories of immigrants from Africa and Asia. Equally strong African American female narrators gained space as early as the 1980s.

“Black Britons, on the other hand, were despised. It’s as if we were inferior to blacks. ”

Evaristo remembers the case from the 1980s: A couple of women had edited a book on African feminism, but a British publisher specializing in women’s literature was not interested in it. The reason was not that the book was poor, but that no suitable test reader came to the publisher’s mind.

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Now the situation has reportedly changed. British publishers have woken up to the demand for polyphony.

Author Bernardine Evaristo is active on social media. Angry feedback sometimes comes from surprising things: “If, for example, I have said something positive about the royal family. [kritisoijat] are that ‘how can you say such a black person, what about that British Empire’ ”.

Evariston the list of merits and recognition today is enormous.

Last November, he became chairman of the Royal Society of British Literature (RSL) – the first non-white RSL in its two-hundred-year history. Evaristo is also a professor of creative writing at Brunel University.

In January, the financial magazine Forbes chose To Evaristo’s list, which named the world’s fifty most influential women over the age of 50.

“Absolutely wonderful! Society’s values ​​are finally changing. ”

Until now, the media has reportedly been “ridiculously obsessed” with youth. Young people at the beginning of their careers are hunted for interviews.

“Older people are despised, even if they have life experience and a lot of interesting things to say.”

This however, this does not mean that Evaristo himself is not the first to support young people.

Evaristo mentors a young generation of writers and encourages them to patiently develop their skills. There are no quick gains in the field of literature.

“I can’t stand older writers who do nothing but bark at young people. I will not mention names. Quite a few of them are men. ”

Bernardine Evaristo will perform at the Helsinki Lit Literature Festival at Bio Rex on Saturday 14 May. He is interviewed by Koko Hubara. The full program at helsinki-lit.fi.

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Author Bernardine Evaristo

Evaristo’s life changed at the age of 12 when he joined the youth theater.

  • Author Bernardine Evaristo was born in London in 1959 and grew up in the middle of an eight-headed flock.

  • Evaristo attended theater school and is one of the founders of Britain’s first black women’s theater company.

  • He has published eight novels as well as an autobiographical work.

  • Evaristo calls his style fusion fiction (Fusion fiction) because it confuses prose, poetry and drama and does not always care about punctuation rules.

  • Novel Girl, woman, another brought Evaristo the Booker Literature Prize in the fall of 2019. Evaristo shared the prize with Margaret Atwood.

  • Evaristo is married and lives in London.

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