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LOCAL>> Amina Cain / Sofia Samatar – A Horse at Night: On Writing / The White Mosque
Two authors in conversation about their new books
Amina Cain and Sofia Samatar join us for a conversation about their new books, A Horse at Night: On Writing (Dorothy) and The White Mosque (Catapult).
This event will be streamed on our Crowdcast channel.
“A Horse at Night is like light from a candle in the evening: intimate, pleasurable, full of wonder. It asks us to consider fiction as life and life as fiction. Amina Cain is our generous, gentle guide through an exquisite library. A truly beautiful book.” —Ayşegül Savaş
“I adore her work, and sensibility,” writes Claire-Louise Bennett of Amina Cain; and Jenny Offill: “Cain writes beautiful precise sentences about what it means to wander through this luminous world.”
Cain’s unique wandering sensibility, her attention to the small and the surprising, finds a profound new expression in her first nonfiction book, a sustained meditation on writers and their work.
Driven by primary questions of authenticity and freedom in the shadow of ecological and social collapse, Cain moves associatively through a personal canon of authors— including Marguerite Duras, Elena Ferrante, Renee Gladman, and Virginia Woolf— and topics as timely and various as female friendships, zazen meditation, neighborhood coyotes, landscape painting, book titles, and the politics of excess.
A Horse at Night: On Writing is an intimate reckoning with the contemporary moment, and a quietly brilliant contribution to the lineage of Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own or Gass’s On Being Blue, books that are virtuosic arguments for—and beautiful demonstrations of—the essential unity of writing and life.
A historical tapestry of border-crossing travelers, of students, wanderers, martyrs and invaders, The White Mosque is a memoiristic, prismatic record of a journey through Uzbekistan and of the strange shifts, encounters, and accidents that combine to create an identity
In the late nineteenth century, a group of German-speaking Mennonites traveled from Russia into Central Asia, where their charismatic leader predicted Christ would return.
Over a century later, Sofia Samatar joins a tour following their path, fascinated not by the hardships of their journey, but by its aftermath: the establishment of a small Christian village in the Muslim Khanate of Khiva. Named Ak Metchet, “The White Mosque,” after the Mennonites’ whitewashed church, the village lasted for fifty years.
In pursuit of this curious history, Samatar discovers a variety of characters whose lives intersect around the ancient Silk Road, from a fifteenth-century astronomer-king, to an intrepid Swiss woman traveler of the 1930s, to the first Uzbek photographer, and explores such topics as Central Asian cinema, Mennonite martyrs, and Samatar’s own complex upbringing as the daughter of a Swiss-Mennonite and a Somali-Muslim, raised as a Mennonite of color in America.
A secular pilgrimage to a lost village and a near-forgotten history, The White Mosque traces the porous and ever-expanding borders of identity, asking: How do we enter the stories of others? And how, out of the tissue of life, with its weird incidents, buried archives, and startling connections, does a person construct a self?
Amina Cain is the author of the novel Indelicacy and two collections of short fiction, Creature and I Go to Some Hollow. Her essays and short stories have appeared in n+1, The Paris Review Daily, BOMB, Full Stop, Vice, the Believer Logger, and other places. She lives in Los Angeles.
Sofia Samatar is the author of the novels A Stranger in Olondria and The Winged Histories, the short story collection, Tender, and Monster Portraits, a collaboration with her brother, the artist Del Samatar. Sofia’s work has received the William L. Crawford Award, the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, the British Fantasy Award, and the World Fantasy Award. She has also been a finalist for the Locus Award, the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Italo Calvino Prize. Her work has appeared in several year’s-best anthologies, including The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. Sofia holds a PhD in African Languages and Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and she currently teaches African literature, Arabic literature in translation, world literature, and speculative fiction at James Madison University.
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