Saturday 2 December 2023

Interview with Roppotucha Greenberg


Roppotucha Greenberg is the author of a flash and micro-fiction collection Zglevians on the Move (TwistiT Press, 2019) and four silly-but-wise doodle books for humans, Creatures Give Advice (2019), Creatures Give Advice Again and it’s warmer now (2019), Creatures Set Forth (2020) and Cooking with Humans (2022).

Roppotucha has lived in Russia, Israel and now Ireland. She speaks three languages fluently and has tried to learn six more. Arachne Press has previously published Roppotucha’s stories in the Solstice Shorts Festival anthologies, Noon and Time and Tide. She shares regular micro-fiction on X/Twitter: find her @roppotucha.

Below, she talks to Laura Besley about her new novella, Getting by in Tligolian

Interviewed by Laura Besley

LB: Firstly, congratulations on the publication of Getting by in Tligolian – it’s a fantastic novella! 

RG: Thank you so much! 

LB: Often, while I’m reading – whether it be a novel, novella or one of the various forms of short fiction – I find myself wondering what sparked the story. Was there a moment or a character or an image or something entirely different that led you to write Getting by in Tligolian

RG: It was the image of that city: those huge glass enclosures, the traffic, and the narrow streets with tired looking shops, and the river. The giant as well. His presence was almost instantly apparent in my imagination. 

LB: There are various strands to this novella, one of which being ‘language.’ In the story ‘Appendix,’ the main character states: ‘I tried to learn Tligolian so many times and forgot it just as many.’ Did you purposefully use language, or the lack of language, to disorientate her and set her up as ‘an outsider’?

RG: I think she would be an outsider regardless of the language. Apart from the physical fact of immigration, her chronic naivet√© both protects her and isolates her from the world. Through learning Tligolian, which is not necessary for communication in Tligol, she attempts to ground herself in the world. Language learning makes things seem simple, especially in the beginning when one talks of girls eating apples and your mother being a teacher and things like that. Of course, this does not work, because language turns into layers of forgetting, while its difficult tenses wrap around her and make her confusion grow. 

LB: The main character describes Tligol, the fictional city in which the novella is set, as ‘so beautiful, I convinced myself that I was in charge of the perfect expression of its beauty.’ Do you feel the city functions as a character within the novella and if so, how did you go about conjuring that feeling? 

RG: Thank you for citing this line. In a way, Jenny spends the whole book chasing the city, trying to express its beauty, learn its language, find its giant, take the trains to all its time layers. The city is a character. Like other places in real life, it is alive and wonderful, but it also evades easy capture. One comes near, but only just near enough, and being in the midst of the thing you want to capture complicates matters. 

LB: Another aspect of the novella is ‘time.’ Did you layer in that complexity through multiple versions and/or edits, or was that aspect of the novella clear in your mind from the outset?

RG: That was something that became apparent very soon, in one of the early drafts. Time-travelling trains are an inherent part of the city.  Though other aspects of the city became apparent earlier – the way its spaces are not quite stable, for example, or the way living people get recorded as ‘reflections.’ 

LB: All of the chapters are short, some only a few lines. Was this a conscious choice? What is the effect of this on the reader? And what benefits do you feel you gain as a writer by learning to write/writing concisely? 

RG: Yes, this was a conscious choice, but it was motivated by the needs of the story. For me, the novella in flash works so well for fragmented narratives and stories that work with negative space - in the sense that the narrative gaps are a part of the story. Without giving away too much, I feel that the form of the text works well with its ending.  

LB: Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions!  

RG: Thank you for being such a generous and attentive reader. I am very grateful. 

About the interviewer
Laura Besley is the author of 100neHundred and The Almost Mothers. She has been widely published in online journals, print journals and anthologies, including Best Small Fictions (2021). Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, twice nominated for Best Micro Fiction and she has been listed by TSS Publishing as one of the top 50 British and Irish Flash Fiction writers. She is an editor with Flash Fiction Magazine and a Creative Writing MA student at the University of Leicester. Having lived in the Netherlands, Germany and Hong Kong, she now lives in land-locked central England and misses the sea. 

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