Certain things that are true now have always been true and will always be true. All people share the experience of fear, despair, excitement, shame. We are all surprised when someone we know dies to discover how much we had loved the person.
While all this is true, fiction is not about the truth but is the truth. Fiction is not lifelike but is life. To create life, we have to garb these truths in the details of specific existences. For example, a poor family in India argues about the cost of buying a deodorizer for the toilet. One of the family members buys the deodorizer, but after it has stopped being effective, they leave it in the bathroom because they can’t bear the idea of throwing away something that they spent money on. These details are useful in that they act as news of how other people live. They are also useful because somehow they make unfamiliar and therefore fresh the feelings that we also share.
—Akhil Sharma was born in Delhi, India and immigrated to the United States when he was eight. He is the author of the novel An Obedient Father, which won the 2001 PEN/Hemingway Award and the 2001 Whiting Writers’ Award. He has also published stories in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Quarterly, Fiction, the Best American Short Stories anthology, and the O. Henry Award Winners anthology. He is a graduate of Princeton University, Harvard Law School, and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford. His new novel Family Life will be published in April 2014.
2paragraphs gives special thanks to Anderson Tepper for curating our International Writers Interviews. Mr. Tepper is on the staff of Vanity Fair and is a Contributing Editor at Words Without Borders.