Tag Archives: characters

#InterviewsinTranslation Antonio Flórez Lage. A new author, an intriguing story of friendship and an irresistible philosophy of life.

Hi all:

It has been a while since I last brought you a new interview, but I’ve recently translated a book that I was sure you would be interested in. And its author was kind enough to answer a few questions too.

Here I introduce you to Antonio Flórez Lage.

Author Antonio Flórez Lage
Author Antonio Flórez Lage

When and how did you start writing?

I am a reader that every so often goes over to the Dark Side and writes. I have read a lot since I was a young child, but I started writing in an organised fashion a few years back. At first, I was writing articles for a magazine but little by little I became more confident; now I have accomplished my dream of publishing a book and on top of that I’ve won an international prize.

I am very happy.

Could you tell me something about your experience as an independent writer?

I am a vet and therefore I was not familiar with the publishing world, but I love to try different things. I’ve learned new skills and I have enjoyed the whole process. Now an important publishing company has made me an offer, but I haven’t accepted it yet. Perhaps I will, in the future, to have a different experience and be able to focus only on writing.

What is your fondest memory (so far) of your experience as a writer?

There are many, I could not pick only one. The joy of managing to make your stories reach other people, of touching your book hot off the press, of seeing it on a bookshop window side by side with the books by your most admired writers, of leaving a special memorial to those with whom you’ve shared some time in your life, of reading a positive review, of being surprised when a writer compliments your style, of seeing how your sales spiral out of control in Amazon, becoming emotional when somebody shares a quote from your book… Knowing that your words will break the space-time continuum to reach where you won’t be able to is something that makes one’s mind boggle.

What are your favourite genres (both as a reader and as a writer)?:

I read everything, I like to change and jump from one genre to another. As a writer, I’ve started by writing a story that includes mystery, action, and adventure (always with a touch of humour), but I’d like to try other genres too.

What made you decide to translate your book?

The story has been very successful in Spanish and has received very good reviews in Spain as well as in many Latin American countries. Once I managed to make the jump to other countries I share a language with, the next step, the next challenge I wanted to take on was to get it translated into English. I am very much looking forward to seeing how it does and to hearing the opinions of the people who read my novel in that language.

Can you tell us something about your book?

The best thing to do is to share the description:

In the outskirts of a tiny Galician fishing village, there is a huge rock that hides a mysterious submarine cave. What happens to those who dare to go diving there? Several events from their childhood drag the protagonist and his peculiar friend back to that eerie place.

They meet again, years later, and set off on a seedy trip around Mexico, full of action and dangers. The unexpected outcome of that journey changes the life of the protagonist forever.

This novel is one of a kind: it offers the readers a special something; a unique quality that means the story does not leave us when we close the book. Some readers are already applying its lessons to their own lives…

Do you have any advice for other writers (especially those at the beginning of their careers)?

I can offer you the same advice I give myself, although I don’t know if it will be useful to others.

Writing is very addictive because it offers very tempting rewards. Because of that, it is dangerous to let yourself get taken over by that Dark Side and give up reading to focus exclusively on writing. However, reading is what can help you the most to learn and to improve, to grow as a person and to find what a Jedi would call ‘the balance of the force’.  That is why I have not looked for shortcuts and I carry on reading every time I get a chance, and I enjoy every page to the maximum.

I was curious about quite a few things about the story itself (where the author got the inspiration for his novel from, if the locations, especially the Rock of the title existed or no) but he likes to play his cards close to his chest and told me that he was happy to answer any specific questions readers had if they contacted him directly.

Here, a bit more information about the book:

 

The Rock of the Missing by Antonio Flórez Lage
The Rock of the Missing by Antonio Flórez Lage

THE ROCK OF THE MISSING: Aeinape International Book Awards Finalist de Antonio Flórez Lage (Autor), Olga Núñez Miret (Traductor)

A BEST-SELLING NOVEL IN SPANISH. SPECIAL LAUNCHING OFFER.

RECEIVED WITH CRITICAL ACCLAIM. “Full of humour, sensitivity, action and mystery.” Discover a not-so-touristic Mexico and the bleakest Galicia.

THE REVIEWERS SAY “‘If I jump, I’ll kill myself; if I don’t jump, they’ll kill me.’ With these words, in an eerie landscape full of rocks and black waves that reminded me of Hitchcock, begins the novel The Rock of the Missing. This book keeps moving, from the initial Hitchcockian scene, later becoming a chilling road movie that takes us across a scorched Mexico, full of gunshots, drug dealers and dead bodies, and ending in a permanent return to Galicia, where the whole thing begins… I recommend you read this novel if you wish to enjoy the art Antonio Flórez uses to carve his sentences if you want to join in an adventure full of humour, sensitivity, action and mystery.”Lavadora de textos, Ramón Alemán.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Antonio Flórez Lage (A Coruña, 1977). A vet, passionate about the sea, travelling, and books, who writes about a world he knows very well.

10% of the profits obtained from the Kindle Book will be donated to ASOCEPA Coeliac Association.

Links:

Facebook page for the book “The Rock of the Missing”:

https://www.facebook.com/Therockofthemissing/

Links to the book in Amazon:

E-book:

http://rxe.me/1FSPRW

Paperback:

http://rxe.me/846973783X

Thanks very much to Antonio for the interview and to Ronovan and the team for running this site, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, and CLICK! Oh, and REVIEW!

Olga Núñez Miret

@OlgaNM7

http://www.authortranslatorolga.com

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#Bookreview EILEEN by Ottessa Moshfegh. A Marmite kind of novel

REVIEWS FOR LITERARY WORLD REVIEWS

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

Title:   Eileen
Author:   Ottessa Moshfegh
ISBN13:  978-0143128755
ASIN:  B01BYMRLEA
Published:  Penguin Books
Pages:  272
Genre:  
Thriller: Crime and suspense, literary

Description:

Shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize and chosen by David Sedaris as his recommended book for his Fall 2016 tour. 

So here we are. My name was Eileen Dunlop. Now you know me. I was twenty-four years old then, and had a job that paid fifty-seven dollars a week as a kind of secretary at a private juvenile correctional facility for teenage boys. I think of it now as what it really was for all intents and purposes—a prison for boys. I will call it Moorehead. Delvin Moorehead was a terrible landlord I had years later, and so to use his name for such a place feels appropriate. In a week, I would run away from home and never go back.

This is the story of how I disappeared.

The Christmas season offers little cheer for Eileen Dunlop, an unassuming yet disturbed young woman trapped between her role as her alcoholic father’s caretaker in a home whose squalor is the talk of the neighborhood and a day job as a secretary at the boys’ prison, filled with its own quotidian horrors. Consumed by resentment and self-loathing, Eileen tempers her dreary days with perverse fantasies and dreams of escaping to the big city. In the meantime, she fills her nights and weekends with shoplifting, stalking a buff prison guard named Randy, and cleaning up her increasingly deranged father’s messes. When the bright, beautiful, and cheery Rebecca Saint John arrives on the scene as the new counselor at Moorehead, Eileen is enchanted and proves unable to resist what appears at first to be a miraculously budding friendship. In a Hitchcockian twist, her affection for Rebecca ultimately pulls her into complicity in a crime that surpasses her wildest imaginings.

Played out against the snowy landscape of coastal New England in the days leading up to Christmas, young Eileen’s story is told from the gimlet-eyed perspective of the now much older narrator. Creepy, mesmerizing, and sublimely funny, in the tradition of Shirley Jackson and early Vladimir Nabokov, this powerful debut novel enthralls and shocks, and introduces one of the most original new voices in contemporary literature.

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

Editorial Reviews

Review

Eileen is a remarkable piece of writing, always dark and surprising, sometimes ugly and occasionally hilarious. Its first-person narrator is one of the strangest, most messed-up, most pathetic—and yet, in her own inimitable way, endearing—misfits I’ve encountered in fiction. Trust me, you have never read anything remotely like Eileen.” —Washington Post

“What makes Moshfegh an important writer—and I’d even say crucial—is that she is unlike any other author (male, female, Iranian, American, etc.). And this sui generis quality is cemented by the singular savage suburban noir of Eileen. . . . Here is art that manages to reject artifice and yet be something wholly new and itself in sheer artistry.” —The Los Angeles Times

Eileen is anything but generic. Eileen is as vivid and human as they come . . . Moshfegh . . . writes beautiful sentences. One after the other they unwind — playful, shocking, wise, morbid, witty, searingly sharp. The beginning of this novel is so impressive, so controlled yet whimsical, fresh and thrilling, you feel she can do anything . . . There is that wonderful tension between wanting to slow down and bathe in the language and imagery, and the impulse to race to see what happens, how it happens.” —The New York Times Book Review

“The great power of this book, which won the PEN/Hemingway debut fiction award last month, is that Eileen is never simply a literary gargoyle; she is painfully alive and human, and Ottessa Moshfegh writes her with a bravura wildness that allows flights of expressionistic fantasy to alternate with deadpan matter of factness…As an evocation of physical and psychological squalor, Eileen is original, courageous and masterful.” —The Guardian

 

Body of review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Random House UK, Vintage Publishing, Jonathan Cape, for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel that I have freely chosen to review.

I confess that I did look at some of the reviews on this novel before writing mine and they are very evenly divided. Some people love it and others can’t stand it. Yes, I guess it’s a Marmite kind of novel. Why? Having checked the novel in several online stores I noticed that it is classified under mystery novels, and if lovers of the genre of mystery read this novel I suspect many of them are bound to feel cheated or disappointed. Literary fiction, which is another one of the categories it is classified under, perhaps is a better fit.

The story is an in-depth look at a character, the Eileen of the title, who is narrating an episode of her own life, in the first person. It is not strictly written as a memoir. As I observed recently when reviewing a novel also told from the point of view of the older character looking back and reflecting at her young self (in that case it was Anne Boleyn), these kinds of books have the added interest for the reader of trying to work out how much of what is being told is filtered by the wishes of the older person to provide a positive portrayal of their young selves. In this case, what is quite shocking is that either that younger Eileen had no endearing features, or the older Eileen is trying to make herself feel better and reassure herself that she’s come a very long way, indeed.

Eileen is a lonely young woman (twenty-four at the time of the episode she describes), whose mother died years back, who has a very superficial relationship with her only sister (who no longer lives at home and who seems to be very different), and who lives with her father, a retired policeman, an alcoholic and paranoid man, who sees hoodlums and conspiracies everywhere. From the mentions she makes of her mother and her past experiences, her childhood was also sad and the opposite of nurturing, with both parents drinking heavily, and neither of them having any interest in family life (and even less in Eileen, as her sister seemed to be the favourite). She lives in a derelict house, drives an old car with exhaust problems, works at a young boy’s prison, and has no friends or hobbies, other than shoplifting and looking at National Geographic magazines. She lives in a world of fantasy, and even her physiological functions are bizarre.

In some ways, the novel reminded me of Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller because of the narrator, who was also very self-absorbed and had no empathy for anybody, although in that case, it wasn’t evident from the star. Here, Eileen sees and observes things carefully as if cataloguing everything that happens, but has nothing good to say about anybody, apart from the people she gets crushes on (however undeserving they might be).

The novel, full of details which can be seen as sad, shocking, or bizarre but humane depending on our point of view, hints from the beginning at something momentous that is going to happen and has influenced the choice of the point at which the story starts. A couple of new employees come to work at the prison and Rebecca, a young and glamorous woman (at least from Eileen’s point of view) becomes Eileen’s new obsession. She tries her best to deserve this woman’s attention and that gets her in some trouble that I guess it the mystery part (and I won’t discuss to avoid spoilers, even though as I said I don’t think the novel fits in that genre easily, although perhaps it shares similarities with some classics of the genre, and I’ve seen mentions of Patricia Highsmith. Ripley, perhaps?). From the reviews, I saw that some readers were disappointed by the ending, although it fits in well with the rest of the book. (And from the point of view of the character, at least, it feels positive.)

The novel is beautifully written (although the content itself is not beautiful by any stretch of the imagination), detailed and fantastically observed, and it works as an impressive psychological study, that had me wondering about all kinds of personality disorder types of diagnosis (although the whole family are depicted as very dysfunctional). It is difficult to empathise with such a character, although she seems to be an extreme representation of somebody with low self-esteem and completely self-obsessed (and at a lesser level, even if we might not feel comfortable acknowledging it, most of us have contemplated some of her thoughts or feelings at some point). She is relentless in her dislike for almost everybody and everything, but even her older self remains unapologetic (and well, it takes guts to just not care at all). I could not help but wonder how much better she is now, despite her words, as her comments indicate that she hasn’t changed an iota. If anything, she’s come into herself. But I guess self-acceptance is a big change for her.

I found it a fascinating novel, a case study of the weird and disturbed, pretty noir, but not a read I would recommend everybody. (After all, I’m a psychiatrist…) It is not a feel-good or a nice novel to read but it might be for you if you like weirdly compelling characters and are happy to go with a narrator who is not sympathetic at all. I don’t think I’ll forget Eileen or its author in a hurry.

eileen3

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 4/5
Made Me Think: 4.5/5
Overall enjoyment: 4/5
Readability: 3.5/5
Recommended: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4/5
 

Buy it at:  
Format & Pricing:
Paperback:  $9.52 (https://www.amazon.com/Eileen-Novel-Ottessa-Moshfegh/dp/0143128752/

Kindle: $6.19 (https://www.amazon.com/Eileen-Shortlisted-Booker-Prize-2016-ebook/dp/B01BYMRLEA/

Hardback: $17.64 (https://www.amazon.com/Eileen-Novel-Ottessa-Moshfegh/dp/1594206627/

Audiobook: $23.59 (https://www.amazon.com/Eileen/dp/B01K7U9GFW/

 

Link to an example one (areas you enjoyed, areas for improvement)

Olga Núñez Miret

@OlgaNM7

http://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#Interviewsintranslation. Mo de la Fuente (@ModelaFuente) and THE QUIET ISLAND

Hi all:

I’ve been promising you for a while that I’d be back with some more interviews to writers who had had their books translated to English. But summer can be a very busy season, not only in the writing department but also with school holidays, personal things, etc, so there has been some understandable delay.

Finally today I bring you Mo de la Fuente.  My confession… I was the one to translate her book. I have appended my review at the end, although this is my review of the novel in Spanish (I don’t comment on the quality of the translation. Mo has been kind enough to tell me that she has enjoyed the English version too, and I recommend the story wholeheartedly).

Mo told me she couldn’t find any pictures she liked of herself (although I can tell you I like all her pictures), so….

The Quiet Island by Mo de la Fuente. Translated by Olga Núñez Miret
The Quiet Island by Mo de la Fuente. Translated by Olga Núñez Miret

 

When and how did you start writing?

I had always written short stories because I didn’t have the patience required for a novel. When I got the idea for my first book Ojalá Paula (Hopefully, Paula) I realised that it was time to sit down quietly in front of the computer and dedicate to the story a bit longer than just a few hours.

Describe briefly your experience as an independent author:

I imagine that my story is that of most independent writers. After sending my manuscript to many publishing companies and having it rejected, Amazon seemed to be a good way to share what I do. The main problem I’ve had is promoting the novel, because sometimes one has to make hard choices between carrying on writing or dedicating one’s time to marketing and selling the books. The advantage: the freedom to write what you want within the deadline you choose for yourself. Zero pressure.

The moment that I remember with the most affection (until now) in all my experience as a writer is the first positive review of my book and, of course, the many hours I spend writing.

Favourite genre:

I don’t have a favourite genre. I’m a compulsive and eclectic reader. I read almost everything.

What made you decide to translate your work? And what process did you follow to find a translator?

I decided to translate the novel because my sales were increasing day by day in the United Kingdom. When it was time to choose a translator I chose Olga Núñez Miret because she had the characteristics I was looking for: a writer in her own right and one who lived in the United Kingdom.

Tell us a little bit about your novel.

The Quiet Island is a police procedural story with a very singular backdrop, a magnificent island close to Alicante, and I think the profile of the protagonists is pretty unique too. The public have particularly liked the character of Mónica Esteller, sub inspector in the case, with a troubled past that is slowly uncovered throughout the novel.

Any advice for fellow writers (especially new writers).

I don’t think I’m the best person to give any advice other than to enjoy writing and to keep your feet firmly on the ground at the moment of publishing. What I mean is: it’s difficult to live of your writing. It’s likely that one’s favourite book struggles to find any readers but, what does it matter? Apart from any success of sales, a true writer will never be able to stop writing, so, let’s enjoy it!

Links to connect and follow Mo:

The page of her books in Amazon:

https://www.amazon.es/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&text=Mo+de+la+Fuente&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Mo+de+la+Fuente&sort=relevancerank

Blog: http://ojalapaula.blogspot.com.es/

Twitter: @ModelaFuente

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mo.delafuente

And here, the description of the novel and my own review:

As dawn breaks, the usual calm of a tiny quiet Mediterranean island is shattered by the news. A teenage girl has gone missing. Inspector Villanueva, temporarily transferred to the island, and sub-inspector Esteller must fight against the elements, the lack of resources, and their own demons to solve the mystery of what happened in a place where nothing ever does.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01FPBRFDS/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01FPBRFDS/

My review. An island, a Mystery and Unforgettable Characters.

I don’t read exclusively a single genre, although I freely admit that I like thrillers and I read quite a few of them. In part because they are like a puzzle we try to solve thanks to the clues the text gives us, in part because I like to see how the writer manages to bring something new to the genre. And for me, no matter what type of story I’m reading, finding interesting characters I can connect with it’s the most important thing.

This novel takes place in the in the small island of Tabarca, in the Mediterranean, off the shore of Alicante. As several of the reviews of the book note, reading the novel makes one want to visit it, because of the wonderful descriptions of the peace and quiet, the thought of a place with no cars, without pollution, and calm. In such a small place, where everybody knows everybody else (apart from the tourists, of course) and where nothing ever happens, a girl’s disappearance is an event that upsets everyone. And when Clara turns up dead, things only take a turn for the worse. The combination of the place and the setting with the investigators: Hernán, an inspector sent there god knows why, Mónica, who had been sub-inspector in Barcelona but decided to quit due to personal reasons, and Raúl, the only one not hiding from something and who is totally happy there, works beautifully.

The investigation is hindered by circumstances (even with the arrival of the inspector, there are only three police officers in the island, there’s no lab, and now way of following correct protocol) and the lack of resources (an excellent commentary on the budget cuts Spain is suffering) and little by little we discover more details about the island’s inhabitants and about the members of the police. I really enjoyed the ending (that I won’t talk about in detail as I don’t want to spoil the surprise) and it rounds up a novel that although short is long enough to intrigue and touch us.

I found Mónica’s personal story, closely related to the case, fascinating, and it would make a great novel (or more than one) on its own. Apart from the details, for me the author manages to portray complex psychological aspects and the reactions of the characters in a very accurate manner, by using several points of view, that help the reader get under the skin of the characters, sharing in their emotions and their life experiences. For me, Mónica, María (the victim’s mother) and the island of Tabarca stand out in the narration and I’m sure I won’t forget them in a hurry.

I recommend this book to readers who love mystery novels that go beyond the usual, psychological thrillers and extraordinary settings.

Thanks so much to Mo for the interview and for her novel, thanks to you all for reading, and remember, like, share, comment and CLICK!

Olga Núñez Miret

http://www.authortranslatorolga.com

 

 

Warning: These 5 Points Will Help You Create Awesome Female Villains @sacha_black

Sacha Black is a UK friend who seems to have more time in a day than I have in a week. In other words, the woman needs to relax. But if she did we might not have this article to share with you today. Check it out.

Sacha Black

Warning: These 5 Points Will Help You Create Awesome Female Villains

What is it about women that just isn’t scary? Perhaps it is that women represent motherhood and mothers are loving and caring. Or maybe it is because we are (generally) smaller framed and not as physically strong as (most) men and therefore don’t epitomize the brutality of villainy.

View original post 913 more words

The Author’s Role in Representation @NatachaGuyot

Guest Author

Natacha Guyot

natacha guyot authorAuthor of the

Newly Releasednatacha guyot

 

The Author’s Role in Representation

Diversity in representation has been something important to me for many years. My interest has only deepened as I grew up and became more aware of cultural diversity and how representation matters.

When younger, I first realized unbalances in representation in regard to female characters and how some stereotypes hurt female characters in books or especially on screen. I more easily identified with female characters than male ones, but their ethnicity was never an issue for me. One of my strongest role models while growing up was the comic book character Yoko Tsuno, a Japanese engineer. I also recall how one of my all time favorite characters in Star Wars is Lando Calrissian.

Diversity in stories, in gender, age, ethnicity, species (I have loved Science Fiction and Fantasy since I was little) and background matters to me. This is why I easily am drawn to female character study in my research as an independent scholar. Science Fiction isn’t perfect, but it still has given us some interesting female characters over time. Yet, there is still much to work on to improve representation.

I also began to ask myself questions about representation through my roleplaying experience, which has been my major fiction writing since 2008. I explore different aspects of writing in this universe in my blog series ‘A Galaxy of Possibilites: Discussing Character Writing, Diversity, Star Wars and Fandom’.

It made me consider how I pick my ‘image claim’ to give a face to the characters I write. While I only write human or near human types of characters, I decided to look at my list of characters. Out of thirty three characters, I use persons of color for eight of them. Yet fifteen of my characters aren’t humans, or only partially. So the question of diversity arises from different points of view. As for gender, I only write four male characters! Even in my original fiction, I only recently felt comfortable enough to have a larger number of male characters. I also have an intersex character to make their apparition in my Clairvoyance series in the years to come.

While the question of diversity is something on my mind on a conscious level, my characters generally come up in an organic manner, including when it comes to their looks. When I have a solid concept of character but am unsure of their ethnicity, I try to avoid using a white image claim. I had some of my roleplay characters switch from a latina actress to a white one, just as I had a character switching from a white actress to a black model. In the end, I go with what fits the character best.

When I returned to original fiction in 2014, I realized that while I had a generic idea of the Fantasy universe I was to write a series of short stories in, most of my characters were very open in terms of diversity and how they could look like and who they might love. I like discovering more about my characters as I build their story.

I can’t say that I create the character before the story or the opposite. It is a mix of both. Depending on the mood, the story and the character, the creative process can change a lot.

In my contemporary Fantasy universe Clairvoyance, several species coexist: Fae, Shifters, Weres, Anomalies, humans with supernatural abilities and regular humans. With many supernatural beings having extreme longevity, if not immortality for some, it brought some challenges. While most of the action, at least in the first volume, is between the USA and the UK, several characters come from other places, some going back as far as Stone Age Africa.

After years spent roleplaying, I attach an existing (famous) face to all my characters. I have tried to match the faces to the origins and background as much as possible, when it was an important part of who the character was. And even if I leave interpretation open to the reader in the way I write, I know in my head, that my imaginary cast look the part. Not only does it feed my inspiration, but it also makes me feel more responsible towards the credibility of said characters.

As writers, how do you approach diversity and its multiple forms? Is it something that naturally comes to you? Do you have certain guidelines to ensure that your gallery of characters is diverse enough?


Great post from Natacha! Now don’t wait. Go NOW and get A Galaxy of Possibilities: Representation and Storytelling in Star Wars. This isn’t a fanboy thing. This is a highly educated person with years of research spent doing this the right way. And she had no idea I was going to advertise her book because I’ve had this guest post for a while now. So go get the book by clicking here! I did.

Much Respect

Ronovan

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The Imitation Game. Is normal always best?

Hi all:

While we wait to see if any queries will come to the desk of the psychiatrist regarding characters or plot twists (we don’t really use divans), I thought I’d write about something else that I’ve been pondering about for a while.

The Imitation Game. Poster. imdb.com
The Imitation Game. Poster. imdb.com

I went to watch The Imitation Game (that I really enjoyed. I’m not sure how accurate this biopic is to the life of Alan Turing, but the story is fascinating and Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance is extraordinary) and it got me thinking about how many characters in TV series (Sherlock himself, or the female Swedish detective in The Bridge, Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory), films and books are…different. One of the readers who left a comment in my post also observed the same. He noted that characters like Raskolnikov in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment are by no means  your normal Joe, but it would difficult to make them fit into a standard psychiatric diagnostic category. Many of the psychopaths (that by the way, is not a psychiatric diagnostic category, although used to be a legal one in the UK before changes to the Mental Health Act) that grace our books and screens are also (hopefully) not quite the picture we have of our friendly neighbour. One possible explanation —apart from the fact that we’re always interested in people and places that are far from our usual environment— would be that some of them are shown as engaging in extremes of behaviour and going to the dark side, that maybe we have theoretically thought about, but would not cross over to.

But I think with some of those characters, there might be something else at work. Of course, Alan Turing is not a character in a book (well, it is, but based on a real person), but if we are to go by his depiction in the film, he appears to have likely suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome (part of the Autism Spectrum Disorders), very high functioning. He is very single minded and obsesses over his work, with no evidence of any other interests, has very few social graces, and although we do not know much about his childhood, from his conversations with the only friend he is shown to have when he was a teenager, Christopher, he’d always been “different”, as he quotes his mother remarking on it at times.

There is a fairly illustrative scene, when he is talking to his friend, and Christopher gives him a book on cryptography and code breaking. When young Alan asks what that is and Christopher explains, Alan asks how is that different from normal human interaction because (and I’m paraphrasing here): “People never say what they mean and one has to try and decipher what code they are using and what they are really trying to say.” Can you even imagine what it must be like to try and navigate a social situation without being able to read people’s expressions, and taking literally everything you’re told? If you’ve ever experienced extreme cultural shock on finding yourself in an environment that was completely alien, imagine that multiplied by…many. Maybe, just maybe, these characters put into context, or highlight, how our social interactions work, and how we take for granted and natural, codes of behaviour and speech that are nothing but. They might help us reflect on the true nature of our prejudices and the moral compass of a place, a time, and a society. Perhaps they might make us realise that we are the truly weird ones.

The facts of Alan Turing’s life, his tragic death and his terrible treatment at the hands of the justice system of the time (being a homosexual in the post-war era wasn’t easy) only highlight that the “normal” society, the one that’s supposed to be flexible and easily adapt, makes no such efforts most of the time.

If we can sometimes look around and appreciate something different after reading a science fiction book in which pages we recognise a distorted image of our world, we might do the same by offering a different perspective on our social world through some of our characters. Just saying.

By the way, I leave you a link to the UK Royal College of Psychiatrists’ page on Autistic Spectrum Disorder information page:

http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/parentsandyouthinfo/parentscarers/autismandaspergerssyndrome.aspx

From that page, a summary of some of the behavioural manifestations of the disorder:

Overall, the problems and behaviours can be divided into three main areas:

Difficulties with communication

Children and young people with ASD have difficulties with both verbal communication (speaking) and non-verbal communication (eye contact, expressions and gestures). Some children may not be able to talk at all or have very limited speech.

Some have good speech and language skills, but still have difficulty using their speech socially or to sustain a conversation. Their use of language may be overly formal or ‘adult-like’. They may talk at length about their own topics of interest, but find it hard to understand the back and forth nature of two-way conversations.

Difficulties with social interaction

Children and young people with ASD have difficulty understanding the ‘social world’, for example, they often have difficulty recognising and understanding their feelings and those of people around them. This in turn can make it difficult for them to make friends. They may prefer to spend time alone, or appear insensitive to others because of their difficulties understanding social rules and expectations.

Difficulties with behaviour, interests and activities

Children and young people with ASD often prefer familiar routines (e.g. taking the same route to school every day, putting their clothes on in a particular order), and tend to have difficulties dealing with change, which they find difficult and distressing.

They may also have unusual intense and specific interests, such as in electronic gadgets or lists of dates. They might use toys more like ‘objects’ to line up, for example. They may have unusual responses to particular experiences from their environment such as tastes, smells, sounds and textures. For example, they could be very sensitive to the sound of a hair dryer, or the feel of certain materials against their skin.

Some children show unusual repetitive movements such as hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complicated whole body movements.

If you are in the UK, this is the link to the National Autistic Society:

National Autistic Society (UK)

http://www.autism.org.uk/

And in case you want to check The Imitation Game in Rotten Tomatoes (it seems it opens in the US on Christmas Day):

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_imitation_game/?search=The%20Imitation

Thank you so much for reading if you’ve found it interesting, please like, share and comment. And if you want to CLICK, that’s fine too.