Priyanka Sacheti speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about her essay “Oman is Mars: An Alien All Along,” which appears in a portfolio of writing from the Arabian Gulf, in The Common’s fall issue. In this conversation, Priyanka talks about her feeling of not belonging anywhere—born in Australia to an Indian family, but growing up in Oman as a third culture kid. She also discusses her work as a poet and an artist, and her experience being stranded between countries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Podcast: Priyanka Sacheti on “Oman is Mars: An Alien All Along”
Carin Clevidence speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about her essay “Ghosts of the Southern Ocean,” which appears in The Common’s fall issue. In this conversation, Carin talks about how her experiences traveling to Antarctica on expeditions have changed over the years, and how that change comes through in her writing. She also discusses her 2011 novel The House on Salt Hay Road, and the novel she’s recently completed about an expedition to Antarctica.
Podcast: Carin Clevidence on “Ghosts of the Southern Ocean”
Julian Zabalbeascoa speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about his story “Igerilara,” which appears in The Common’s fall issue. In this conversation from San Sebastián, Julian talks about writing stories set in Spain during the Spanish Civil War and the Basque Conflict. He also discusses his love of travel and his experiences running study abroad programs for college students, and what it’s like to teach The Common in his classes at UMass Lowell.
The morning was clear and the colors vivid: yellow brush, white ocean froth against cobalt sky. In front of me, dense gray volcanic stone appeared to consume the light. I stood in salty mist before an altar on the north coast of Rapa Nui, Easter Island. A single toppled moai lay in violent chunks on the ground. At 9:00 a.m. the sun still hovered tight at the horizon. Rapa Nui, which is part of Chile 2,300 miles away, is kept closer to mainland time than by geographical rights it should be. The sun rises gray and sticky at 8:30 in the morning, and sets late, too. This is not the only disorienting thing about Rapa Nui, but rather the most objective example.
The farmer’s daughter began her fifth period, more excavating, more mortal than the previous. The toilet under the stairs flushed half-heartedly, returning red-brown effluent. Go down, go away, be off to the underworld! She pumped a second time, jangled the handle to make her point. But there would be more. Dark clumps and entrails, another six days of the end of the world.
“Tupac’s not dead,” said Sami. “He’s at the sheikh’s palace.” Sami had heard from his friend Nadia, whose uncle arranged security for the sheikh, that Tupac Shakur, the king of hip-hop, Mr. Thug Life himself, was on Jebel Jais.
A young child, I was privy to hearing this word in my household, around my uncle and his friends reminiscent of his schoolboy youth. A part of a pidgin I could never participate in for fear that the broken English might have too much of an essence, might tarnish my own English. They would not let me code switch thinking the pidgin would overtake me
Early one morning, when the sky was still dark, Annie locked herself in her room. She turned the key three times, then went to her bed and opened a book.
At half past seven, her mother knocked on her door and told her to get up. When Annie didn’t appear, her mother tried the handle and found the room locked. Half an hour later, she put her ear to the door and heard nothing, not even the loud whisper of the ceiling fan. A strange feeling got hold of her; she knocked and spoke more sharply. “Open!” She slapped the wood with the palm of her hand and began to shout for her husband. “Come quickly! Annie’s not coming out—something has happened to her!”
I have dreamt of this Arabian Gulf Portfolio ever since I was a teenager, writing about snow and squirrels and picket fences—despite living in Dubai where I had more experience with temperatures of 40+ degrees, karak chai, compounds… Because English was my first language, the fiction that was available and accessible to me at the time was perpetually happening elsewhere. My high school education focused on the British and American canons, meaning that we had no exposure to global Anglophone literature, let alone any works set in the United Arab Emirates. The bookshops sold mainly self-help and cookbooks in the 2000s. The public libraries were few, poorly stocked, and dominated by Arabic literature that was also generally quite dated. Consequently, for most of my teenage years, my imagination was furnished by foreign clutter and peopled by strangers I had no knowledge of first-hand. There was the book-world and there was the real-world, and I didn’t even appreciate how separate they were in my mind until I began to write about rivers and forests and realized there were none around me. The mimetic dimension of literature had been severed entirely.