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Laila Lalami - Longlist author interview

Laila Lalami - Longlist author interview

In the latest in our series of interviews with Man Booker Prize 2015 longlisted authors, we speak to Laila Lama author of The Moor's Account.


What has it been like to be longlisted?

I never had any doubt about the story of Mustafa al-Zamori/Estebanico de Dorantes. From the moment I heard it, I knew it had to be told in the form of fiction. But it’s wonderful (and wonderfully unexpected) to see my novel land on the Man Booker Prize longlist and to have it reach British readers.


What are you working on next?

Another novel.


What are you reading at the moment?

I am reading a lovely historical novel called Balm, by the American writer Dolen Perkins-Valdez. It’s about three people who arrive in Chicago to start new lives after the end of the Civil War.


What is your favourite Man Booker-winning novel?

What a tough question! I’ve always loved and admired the inventiveness of Midnight’s Children and the voice in A True History of the Kelly Gang, but I would have to pick Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee, for its language, subtlety, and grace.


Did your research for The Moor's Account – a novel dealing with the Spanish conquest of the Americas – throw up other lives almost as tempting for you as a writer as Estebanico's?

Among the crew of the Narváez expedition, and the indigenous people it encountered in America, there were many interesting characters: captains, treasurers, warriors, tribal chiefs. But none of them held my attention or interest as much as Mustafa/Estebanico—an outsider, an interloper, a natural storyteller.


Laila Lama