Monica Ali Says Reaction to Previous Novel Caused 10 Years of Depression | Monica Ali
Brick Lane author Monica Ali said it felt like ‘self-obliteration’ when people were confused that she chose to write a novel about what might have happened if Diana, Princess of Wales , had not died in a car accident, rather than on “brown people”.
The novelist said she became depressed when her 2011 book Untold Story was “bewildered”. She told The Big Issue: “I think I was really naive thinking I could write about anything I wanted, like a white writer can.”
Ali, who is of Bangladeshi and English descent, came to national attention in 2003 with his debut novel, Brick Lane, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and detailed the immigrant milieu of east London. His fourth and final novel, Love Marriage, follows a 10-year hiatus in which Ali said he suffered a “catastrophic” loss of confidence.
She told the magazine: “Ten years ago I stopped writing. And then I got depressed. …And the depression made me less able to write and so it became this downward spiral. I lost confidence in myself.”
Ali said writing about “such a wide variety” of topics after Brick Lane’s publication “has baffled people”.
“The response was disconcerting. I remember a critic saying about Untold Story, “a curious marriage between author and subject”. People would ask, “Are you trying to get away from something? For me, the question they really seemed to ask was, “Are you trying to stay away from dark people?” Are you trying to distance yourself from your ethnicity? said Ali.
“I understand this has confused people but… my mum is white, my dad is Bengali, I was born in Dhaka but have lived here all my life. So, I felt that I was completely true to who I am. It took me a lot of therapy to realize that, for me, this reaction felt like some kind of self-effacement,” she added.
“It sounds like hyperbole, but actually I’m not exaggerating; this idea that I have to choose to be one thing or the other – it’s existential. I am neither, I am both. And I’m happy to be both. So I think that critical reaction made me feel things that went really deep, which led to the loss of confidence and depression and all that.