AFLW: Q&A with Aatif Rashid, author of Portrait of Sebastian Khan

Angels Flight * literary west features an excerpt plus a Q&A between Aatif Rashid and AFLW Fiction Editor Pete Hsu about character development, themes exploring ongoing gender and racial-political issues and a new kind of POC narrative. Aatif Rashid is the author of the novel PORTRAIT OF SEBASTIAN KHAN (713 Books), a uniquely beautiful, compelling and contemporary Muslim-American coming-of-age story.


Portrait of a Writer: Q&A between Aatif Rashid & AFLW Fiction Editor Pete Hsu

Pete Hsu: Portrait of Sebastian Khan is very much about beauty. The protagonist and the prose itself are both beautiful and obsessed with beauty. The novel is a piece of art that is at the same time a commentary on the “fundamental unreality” of art. So, let’s talk about beauty: beauty in general and especially beauty in art.

​Aatif Rashid: Well for a long time, beauty was basically the only metric I used to judge paintings. Just like my protagonist Sebastian Khan, I’d completely imbibed that John Keats idea that “beauty is truth, truth beauty,” and so my favorite paintings were those of the Pre-Raphaelites—“images of slender women standing in vivid landscapes, with wild hair and sadness in their eyes,” as I put it in the novel. But as I grew older, I learned to question Keats’ mantra, and I understood that the Pre-Raphaelite women are beautiful largely because they’re so stylized and unreal, and that their beauty actually has nothing to do with truth—and that, on a more basic level, all art is fundamentally unreal. Sebastian undergoes a similar development; early on, he’s drawn largely to the exterior beauty of women, hair and skin and eyes and sensory details, but eventually he learns to decouple beauty and truth, and more broadly decouple art and reality… [CONTINUE ON AFLW]

Categorized as Writing

By Pete Hsu

Author of THERE IS A MAN (Tolsun Books) and IF I WERE THE OCEAN, I'D CARRY YOU HOME (Red Hen Press, 2022)

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