Colson Whitehead is one of the most important contemporary American authors. The 51-year-old will read on October 13th at the Konzerthaus in Vienna – and in an interview he will talk about his new novel “Harlem Shuffle”, identity and his pessimism.
With the two Pulitzer Prize-winning novels “Underground Railroad” and “Nickel Boys”, Colson Whitehead established himself as one of the most important contemporary American authors. With his new novel “Harlem Shuffle”, he proves that the 51-year-old, who reads at the Konzerthaus Wien on October 13, also has a light ironic streak in parallel to a gloomy worldview.
In your novels you have repeatedly dealt with African American history in the USA. But before the interview you asked not to comment on the political racism discussion. Are your interviews that bad?
Colson Whitehead: Countries with a colonial past are more ethnically diverse, so I feel more comfortable there and the questions are less strange. But countries like Denmark, Poland or Germany have not yet finished dealing with this issue. A Polish cultural critic once said to me that Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” was a documentary about slavery. For me, the rule of thumb applies: the whiter the country, the stranger the questions.
Why did you turn to a more nimble subject after the oppressive stories in “Underground Railroad” and “Nickel Boys”? Did that have a recovery effect?