Chris Cleave: “I Was Brought Up to Believe Asylum Seekers Were Heroes”

Last March, when British novelist Chris Cleave came to the States to promote the hardcover edition of his second novel, Little Bee, I was fortunate enough to meet him at a luncheon reception for attorneys at Paul, Weiss, a Manhattan law firm that prides itself on its pro bono work for those who come to this nation seeking political asylum—an important theme in the novel, which follows a young Nigerian woman as she escapes from a British detention center where she’s been awaiting likely deportation. The novel takes a complex issue and boils it down to its human and emotional essence; it’s an overt work of political advocacy that emphasizes drama over didactics, and one that you won’t easily forget. And now it’s out in paperback, so your last excuse to have not read it by now has vanished.

In the video clip above, Cleave told me about how the writing of the novel was intertwined with his political consciousness, each informing the other; just before that, we’d discussed his discovery of Little Bee’s voice.

23 January 2010 | interviews |