Tristan Marajh is the 1st-Prize winner of both the Stratford Writing Competition (Canada) and The Free Association Books’ Short Fiction Competition (England). His work can be read in The Nashwaak Review, The New Quarterly, Existere: A Journal of Art & Literature, Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices, Ricepaper Magazine and upcoming in Blank Spaces Magazine. Born in Trinidad & Tobago, he resides in Toronto.
Hannah Macready: Tristan, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me, and for being the inaugural interview of what I hope is a larger project. Your work has been published in a multitude of journals including Ricepaper, The New Quarterly, Existere, and The Nashwaak Review (among others).
Though many would label you as an ‘emerging writer’ I am always hesitant to use that phrase. My opinion is that labelling artists gives us nothing more than empty categorical crates that rarely show the true value of the art. Nevertheless, the world is always looking to put us in boxes and sometimes it can be an interesting game. My question to you is, what kind of writer do you see yourself as? How would you label your work?
Tristan Marajh: I am reticent to use the phrase too, though for different reasons: I’d always highly regarded the “writer” title; additionally, people with supportive attitudes have long – and prematurely – been calling me that for a long time because I used to dapple in it and say it was something I was interested in. I learned to shut up about that after I wasn’t producing. To answer your first question, I’d simply say “a writer”. To answer your other question, I would label my work as fundamentally literary, though I’ve been including speculative elements lately.
HM: Your story, Roshan, was published in The New Engagement, and I feel that the content of that piece is increasingly poignant. In the story, we meet Roshan, a young political science major who feels disconnected from his feelings of compassion in the face of increasing global trauma. The initial scene reminds me of Camus’s, The Stranger, in which Mersault finds himself unable to feel emotion even in the face of his mother’s death.
As we correspond, the world is on-pause in light of the COVID-19 crisis. Some people are creating and others are frozen in fear. How do you personally deal with the weight of the world? Do you find solace in creation and art? Or do you opt for a quieter approach to sustaining?
TM: That quieter approach. Art comes from there regardless. People may think I have fallen off the face of the Earth, but I am very much on it; focussing on wind, trees, animals, soil and sky. The world and the Earth are two very different entities and after checking out the world for too long a time, I’m slowly checking out of it now.
HM: On the topic of emergence, I think it is always interesting to hear how writers started their career. Can you tell me a bit about how your early writing career looked? What worked? What didn’t? Where are you focusing your creativity now?
TM: The whole writing thing began with a decision that followed significant contemplation and manifested, first, with “The Complete Works of Min-Ju Kim” (The Nashwaak Review, 2015). What worked better for me is definitely not what works for some other writers; writers who meticulously schedule their daily writing routine, methodically plot story outlines and give themselves a certain minimum page or word-count quota for the day. “The taste of memory” came out of a similar rigorous approach but I was stressed, bored and restless while constructing that tale. It garnered the most accolades out of all my stories and I remain grateful, but “The taste of memory” left a bad taste in my memory. What works better now is aligning with the flow of life and letting the writing come on its own time, in its own way. I won’t say I focus creativity then; creativity in itself is unfettered. I let creativity focus me.
HM: I love interviewing writers and there are so many ways that we can talk about craft and career, creating and destroying. But I think what writers do best is unwrap the mundane and bring light into general living. Can you tell me a bit about your day to day life, whether that includes writing or not, and where you find art in simple existence?
TM: With the world more subdued lately a lot of people are now laying low; myself included. It does abet operating at a slower, more observant pace. I take a lot of walks; try to remain down-to-Earth (see above). Non-human animals now seem less wary of us. My hope is that we contemplate why they were wary of us in the first place and appreciate the change.
HM: Thank you again for taking the time to speak with me. I will finish off this interview with a forward-facing question. As we both know, the current world is a mess. It is difficult to know what will happen next week, or next year. But as writers we always have our craft. What new work can we expect from you in the future? And how do you see yourself, and your art, growing from here?
Thank you, Hannah, for your questions. You’ll see more literary work as well as that speckled with the speculative. As long as I abide by the answers I gave you, I expect growth to occur accordingly.