The Interview with the Author E.H.Kalenda for 'Nelum Morning Magazine'

Thursday 14th May 2024

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What inspired you to write the book?  

At the beginning, it was all the fault of John Humphreys and his Radio 4 morning battles. Two years ago, when I found myself alone and without television in a small flat in West Hampstead, I listened to the Radio4 BBC Today Program every day. I liked the program –a bit of news, curiosity, social life, science, politics. I made lots of notes and thought deeply about some of the issues.Everything was new for me; almost everything was different from Italy and the Czech Republic. I was wondering why, I was wondering what and who. I started to put my past experience together with the present. I projected it into the future. The World After Narora: 1.The Retro-Keywas born.

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Where did the title of the trilogy come from?

The title itself comprises of three key words. It was probably the hardest part to write – the story was already in my mind but the title took me some time to create. The World– is the beginning. It means now and here. The present. Our world. After– addresses the question of ‘how the future could possibly look’? How will humanity look? After – represents a dream we have about the future. Narora– is a town in India on the banks of the river Ganges. A nuclear power station is located nearby. I always believed that a country like India, China and South Korea should be a symbolical representation of the future. The Indian author of ‘Q&A’ (The film: Slumdog Millionaire) Vikas Swarup said in one of his interviews: ‘India is the flavour of the season, there is a sense of opportunity there. Everyone is trying to move up in life...’ In my life experience, I have applied the words in the quotation to the World. All we have to do is to try to ‘move up in life’. I like to write about ‘moving our lives’ and the fantasy background supports the plot with a spice of adventure.

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Describe your book in one sentence.

After an unprecedented environmental and biological catastrophe at Narora the Universal Judge, a Superhero, begins a one-man war against a secret alien society, born from the saviours of the Third Planet. 

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The scene of group rape and killing observed by Captain Gaborone – isn’t it too dark for a fiction novel claiming itself to be ‘relaxing holiday reading’?

Look at India for example; sadly this is not a fiction. Thimphu, Moroni and their companions represent the dark side of human identity, the emotional instability. In the book, the students illegally block their Emotional Control chips. (They call the subsequent experience ‘flying on Emofad’.) Their feeling of freedom is suddenly fused with a freakish loss of control and the superficiality of their usual innocent existence becomes cruelly apparent. All of sudden, they have no control over their desire to hurt, to kill.The violent thoughts inside their minds make them terribly credible because of it.  ...Even relaxing holiday reading needs to hold on to some relationship to the real world.

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The characters in your book are based on people you met?

The characters are a seasoned blend of faces, voices, perfumes and feelings. They could be you; they could be me. They are part of the urban population and part of the glorious myths and legends decorating the history of nations. They are people I have met, they are people reading this interview now, and they are people yet to be born. All humans are playing some character in their personal life-play all the time. I am just an observer.

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Professor Doha is murdered thanks to a ‘vigilante act’ by two of his students who are looking for revenge. The appeal to all ‘good’ citizens proclaimed in Kharthoum’s TV-show ‘The Aliens Are Here!’ sounds familiar to my ears: ‘Young citizen! You must be vigilant! They are here, they are between us!’

Yes, I picked this up from various historical periods: from the Inquisition, from the Gestapo, from the Cold War, from the current War on Terror.  The need for an enemy. We need to reflect cautiously before we stigmatise someone as an enemy. Once the word is out, you cannot take it back and it can be out with one mouse click. The response can be unpredictable. Like opening Pandora's Box.

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How come a potentially world-ending post-nuclear catastrophe is the beginning of the story rather than the end? 

The genetic post-nuclear Armageddon on Earth is a consequence of a good intention that goes off the rails. But it concerns an important moral issue for our times: how far can we compel people not to be violent? Can we intrude in other people’s lives just because we believe them to be bad? We are living in a world where terrible things happen every day in the name of justice or pseudo-global interest. Who is right and who is wrong is not easily predictable. Sometimes we have to push events to their violent extremes to discover the real identities of the characters. The Retro-Key is just the beginning of a complex conspiracy tale with a lurking, invisible threat.

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The Universal Judge is a loner, a crime-fighter with unlimited superpower who loves to dress cool. His closest collaborators are cyber-being Kyberia and an ancient not-dead-not-alive Lady Valletta from the genetic post-nuclear Armageddon; two women. It sounds a bit subversive to me.

The characters are remarkably faithful to the complex, multicultural society we live in. The good, the bad, the perverse and the innocent: the gamut of humanity. The relationship between the characters in the book - characters who are deeply, painfully credible - is just as brooding and intricate. There is never any obvious reason why certain persons are attracted to each other unconditionally. That is why the superhero might want two ‘virtual-women’ as his closest sisters-in-arms. 

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Your favourite book of all time? 

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)by Jerome K. Jerome. I could easily read it another ten times and will laugh out as loudly as the first time I read it. Probably in one thousand years time people will still laugh loudly and feel good reading it. One of The World After Narora characters is called ‘J’ in Jerome K. Jerome’s honour. 

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Your favourite authors that inspired you? 

Jules Verne was the biggest influence whilst I was a child. I read each and every one of his books voraciously; I spent years inside Verne’s World. There was later H. G. Wellsand, Isaac Asimov with the marvellous ‘Galactic Empire Series’, and George Orwell with the ‘Animal Farm’. The late Kurt Vonnegut was my favourite one and his blending style between black comedy and science fiction has certainly an influence on my writing. 

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Give me the name of the writer that you admire and why? 

I like ‘old fashioned’ writers. For example, the author of the ‘Judge Dee’ series, a Dutch orientalist and writer Robert Van Gulik was, in my opinion, an excellent example of educative and easy-to-read writing. He remarkably combined historical facts from ancient Chinese crime-literature with mystery and adventure, to make it attractive for modern readers. Similarly, The World After Narora: 1.The Retro-Key is bringing under a magnifying glass some painful social issues in a fantasy fiction form.

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The worst thing about writing?

 It is very easy to answer this question: the worst thing is that you need a good publisher more that a good imagination.

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What makes your book different? 

The strongest point of the book is the exact opposite –nothing is different from what we know already. What I am writing about was already told, done, happened somewhere by someone. GLOBAL FAMILIARITY is the secret of The World After Narora: 1.The Retro-Key.

Each and every human-being on this planet will find in the post-Narora world someone who sounds familiar to him or her. The World After Narora is our world. The real ‘aliens’ are human-beings themselves with their differences. Differences, which can unite the whole World – differences which can divide it. Differences, which could destroy the World. As I mentioned before, nothing is different, it all sound familiar to us. The bond between past and future is represented by the fact, that almost all the characters have the world’s capital cities as names.

They come from every corner of society – unhappy teenagers and teenagers in love, students, professors, net-stars,numerous patriarchal families and modern extended families, scientists, soldiers, gays and lesbians, fabulously rich mass media magnates,artists living hand to mouth, second generation aliens with their motto: ‘More human than Newman’, professional killers and humble servants – just to name a few. The unpredictable interaction between them is what makes the book interesting.

The story represents one big human-puzzle. We have our fears and prejudices. It is a fact. Our personal view can be often influenced by our fears and prejudices. Therefore, we can only guess what some person, social group or nation will do – in which direction they will move. We can only guess, but we never Know. WithThe World After Narora: 1. The Retro-Key the situation is the same – you can only guess where the next chapter will bring you. You can only guess where the next piece of puzzle must go. Yes, this is what makes my book different.

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