Our TRANSCENDENT Authors: a Featured Interview with Alistair Rey

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In our new author series, we’ll be offering a clairvoyant peek behind the veil of who and what makes up TRANSCENDENT. Here’s a glimpse at Alistair Rey and his story “Sightseeing.”


What inspired your story?

A few years ago, I was forced to leave Europe and temporarily settled in Morocco. I was taken by the culture of tourism that existed in the country. There is the Morocco which visitors get and the other Morocco which is less enchanting, rooted in patterns of daily life, custom and deep ethnic affinities. I was reading a great deal of postcolonial literature at the time, and was especially taken by ‘Abdelmajīd Bin Jallūn’s story Wādī al-Dimā’ (Valley of Blood). Watching the tourists and reading Jallūn’s work on colonial Morocco, something just clicked.

Did you have to do any research? If so, what kind? What did you learn?

To a certain extent, although none of my reading was research per se for the story. The story perhaps grew out of readings on the Maghreb and orientalist literature by the likes of Gérard de Nerval, Washington Irving and Pierre Loti. I learned that Loti was wrong, which was not surprising to say the least.

Can you tell me a little bit about your protagonist?

While there is a main character the story follows, I think the protagonist is a country and culture in this case. Morocco and Islam center the narrative, and in doing so I could explore themes of otherness, demystification and identity by navigating between concepts of authenticity and cultural commodification.

What would you like readers to take away from your story?

I don’t think stories should be prescriptive. I often feel that stories are a pact between author and reader. A reader should draw their own lessons and conclusions. That said, while I was writing “Sightseeing,” I found myself reflecting on how we identify ourselves, what we believe we know about ourselves and how that can be challenged when we confront something outside the domain of our ordinary experiences. Maybe readers will take some of this away with them, or maybe they will find other themes that speak to them.

Which phrase are you most proud of in this story?

“Aversion for one’s own kind is a peculiar type of loathing,” simply because it rings true.

If your story was front-page news, what would the headline be?

Trespassers Disrupt Quiet Urban Settlement; Ancient Mannequins in an Uproar.



What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

I once bought a woman named Phoebe Sachs a drink in an upscale, modish bar in Berlin. It was a gin and tonic. Not only did I get a life-long companion out of that one drink, but an unofficial editor with a discerning eye and no-nonsense attitude toward prose. I have to think that the €8 I shelled out for the drink was one of the best investments I ever made.

If you had to put your name on someone else’s book/story, which would it be and why?

Always a difficult question, and I am sure it would change depending on mood. At the moment I would say William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom. Faulkner’s prose is amazing and I like the gothic sentiment and sense of tragedy that looms over the entire story.

When did you decide to take writing seriously?

I am not sure I ever have. It’s a position I gleaned from Kafka, I think. I cut my teeth writing political propaganda for post-authoritarian regimes. After a while, it seemed I might as well be writing fiction. The transition was not that difficult.

If you could choose a single superpower, what would it be and why?

Necromancy. In reality this is a dark art rather than a superpower, but I still think its fits within the domain of supernatural abilities. I believe there is a great deal we can learn from the dead. Unfortunately, we only have access to them through extant texts and, to be a bit more macabre, epitaphs on tombstones. What if all these cold texts could suddenly be verbalized and transmuted into living consciousness once again? It would radically alter our views on religion, existence, and humanity in general.


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At various points in his life, Alistair Rey has been an author, rare book dealer and writer of political propaganda. His work has appeared in The Berkeley Fiction Review, The Lowestoft Chronicleand Juked, among other publications. He presently resides in the United Kingdom.


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Featured Image: “Valley of Blood” (C) Eriopsis



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