Ross Raisin is an acclaimed British novelist known for his captivating tales of rural life and poignant explorations of human relationships.
Born in Yorkshire in 1979, his rural upbringing greatly influenced his writing, which has a rich sense of place. With four novels under his belt, Raisin has won numerous literary awards and has been shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Prize and The John Llewellyn Rhys Prize.
His first novel, God’s Own Country, published in 2008, quickly made him a literary star, and in 2013, he was named one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists, a prestigious once-in-a-decade list.
He began his literary journey at King’s College London, where he studied English, before doing a Masters in creative writing at Goldsmiths, University of London, to hone his craft. His work features characters who are often complex and flawed, in turmoil internally while also struggling with harsh realities externally.
Al Majalla spoke to Raisin about his latest book, those he penned earlier, and his thoughts on writing.
Your latest novel A Hunger mostly discusses what is known and hidden in Anita’s life. Do you think this might be everyone’s story?
One of the unique qualities of fiction, as a form, is that it allows the reader to be a party to what a character holds privately within and what they portray or perform publicly.
That is one of the reasons reading fiction is an experience in empathy, in a way that going for a coffee with your friend isn’t completely. You can listen and respond, but you cannot truly know what they're thinking.
This novel, A Hunger, takes that idea to its utmost, following Anita’s thoughts minutely. I wanted to pare away the tendency of the first-person narrator to narrate ‘outwards’ in an explicit storytelling voice. Instead, this novel is entirely contained within Anita’s own thoughts and emotions.
At @BelfastFestival last night, Ross Raisin (centre) explained that his brilliant new novel A Hunger is a first-person narrative that never uses the word "I".
"Nobody has noticed, even my editor." pic.twitter.com/myYS5wFVec— John Self (@john_self) October 30, 2022
As part of that, one of the techniques the narration employs — which, to my great surprise, nobody yet noticed — is to remove the word that would most make it a performance of self. So, this is a first-person novel that never uses the word ‘I’.
Anita’s feelings towards her sick husband move between frustration, compassion, and exhaustion. Writing a novel from a woman’s perspective isn't easy. How did you work on that?
It is very easy, I feel, to be a man who labels himself a feminist. It's easy, too, to believe it because you believe in equal rights.
But if you think of feminism as a continuous critical project that involves continuously trying to understand those inequalities and acting on the world to change it, that’s much less easy.
Part of the energy that went into writing this novel was contributing to that critical project. The novel is about forms of oppression, especially duties of care presupposed for, or pinned to, women. It’s also about the male glancing at the food she makes.
As for whether that qualifies me to say ‘I’m a feminist’, I’m not sure. I want to think so. Certainly, I'd call this a feminist book. It isn’t common for a man to write a central, first-person, female fictional character.
By doing so, I’m not claiming to understand what it is like to be a woman, but I have thought long and hard about what it is like to be this fictionalised woman, Anita.