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Jamala Safari Discusses How He Presents the DRC in The Great Agony and Pure Laughter of the Gods

The Great Agony and Pure Laughter of the GodsWith The Great Agony and Pure Laughter of the Gods Jamala Safari wants to show what is happening in the DRC in a way that is different to the view offered to readers by newspapers and the internet. “Everyone sees it just as a country full of trouble, but if you’re looking only at the facts, you don’t see the people.”

Safari, who grew up in the DRC, talked to Thomas Okes about the mix of fiction, history and personal narrative in The Great Agony and Pure Laughter of the Gods and the themes of happiness, trauma, guilt and the importance of hope – even for people or countries that seem to be beyond it. “But if we don’t believe in his ability to change, he won’t change. And the world won’t change.”

Q: This book is a fascinating mix of fiction, history and personal narrative. Was the style of the novel important to the story you were trying to tell?

Fiction has a way of making a stranger’s story very intimate, and I had to try to show the reader a different way of life. What’s important to me is the innocence of a group of people who simply want to be happy, and how war erodes that purity. A child’s voice, like Risto’s, can bring the reader closer to these people’s pain.

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