‘I want everyone to read the book’

Afghanistan-born Nemat Sadat is an activist and journalist currently based in the US. He is the first native from Afghanistan to have publicly come out as gay and campaign for LGBTQIA rights among Muslims worldwide. Holder of six university degrees, including those from Harvard, Columbia, and Oxford, The Carpet Weaver, a sweeping tale of a young gay man’s struggle to come of age and find love in the face of brutal persecution, is his debut novel. IBNS correspondent Nitin Waghela catches up with him at an event called Rainbow Talk at American Center in Kolkata.

What inspired you to write The Carpet Weaver?
James Baldwin (late African American novelist and activist) had a great impact on my writing as he had gone through the same experiences I had gone through — him being a gay black man and then being marginalised in United States, and later going to a different country (he went to Paris in France) to write about it. It is something I have had to do with my community in Afghanistan. This apart, of course the phenomenal success of Khaled Hosseini’s Kite Runner made me think I could do the same.

What kind of readers are you expecting to read the book?
I want everyone to read the book, even people with faintest idea or interest about the LGBTQ community. This book is about coming of age of an artist, queer literature, clash of identities and romantic drama; I want it to be accessible for mainstream audience.

How much of introspection did it take for you to complete the novel?
To pen down the novel was all about me coming out of the closet and the shadows to a point where it was okay to share (his sexual orientation) and then going through persecution in Afghanistan. It was all required for me to finish the novel in 11 years.

How does being queer influence your world view?
It does absolutely, and being from the minority you tend to challenge the dominant cultures keen about maintaining their status quo. There are more blind spots in their lenses, while things are clear for those belonging to minorities as they see things through bigger lenses.

Is there a sequel to The Carpet Weaver we can expect?
No, because I want it to be a classic, follow-ups don’t come out so well as I have noticed. I have already thought about my next novel to be a fantasy novel.

Is the Afghan literary works seeing a rise or downfall?
After the advent of Taliban, the literary works have seen a major downfall that continues even now. (IBNS/TWF)

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