Peter C. BakerJun 1, 2022
An interview with debut novelist Peter C Baker. Planes (Knopf, 2022) is the story of a global crime unfolding principally in the domestic lives of two women, Amira, an Italian convert to Islam living in Rome, and Mel, a school board member in North Carolina. Amira is a direct victim of the crime of extraordinary rendition, her husband, Ayoub, having been abducted without criminal charges and taken first to Pakistan and then Morocco, where he was imprisoned and tortured. Ayoub’s eventual return to Amira is a lesson in how trauma comes like a wave for all those in its path.
Mel’s life appears quieter. Her activist days behind her, she lives an ordinary suburban life, throwing herself into work on the school board and into a workmanlike affair that seems, at the surface, to have little effect on her family life. That is until the affair is discovered and her onetime partner on the school board is revealed to be deeply intwined with the rendition program that abducted Ayoub.
Peter and I talk about how to write about torture outside of the torture room, our unwitting complicity with illegal rendition programs in the US, and our shared love of W.G. Sebald.
Books Recommended in this episode:
W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn
Marlen Haushofer, The Wall
Chris Holmes is Chair of Literatures in English and Associate Professor at Ithaca College. He writes criticism on contemporary global literatures. His book, Kazuo Ishiguro as World Literature, is under contract with Bloomsbury Publishing. He is the co-director of The New Voices Festival, a celebration of work in poetry, prose, and playwriting by up-and-coming young writers.