the friend online
02 October 2009

Quaker thought in literature

Marina Lewycka explains how Quaker beliefs challenge her in her work

I have been greatly affected by Quaker ways of thinking but I can’t claim to be a practising Quaker – I would probably describe myself as an agnostic in religious terms. One example is the beautiful Quaker belief that ‘there is that of God in everyone’, which influences how I perceive people including the characters in my books. As a writer, there is a way in which you have to fall in love with your characters – even the bad ones – to be able to do them justice, and I think it’s seeking out that little spark of the divine inside the human that helps me to do this. When the plot calls for someone to be a villain, I find myself remembering that no one is simply ‘evil’. Although the story demands that I show someone behaving in a wicked way, I can’t help thinking about him or her as a person with a past history, with dreams and desires that maybe they haven’t achieved, or maybe they have been thwarted in some way. Perhaps the dreams and desires sit alongside self-doubt or disappointment. Perhaps it is someone who aspires to goodness but circumstances always get in the way; or someone who has not had many opportunities to demonstrate their goodness; or perhaps something happened in their past that closed off better possibilities and propelled them down a perilous road that… ah, that’s another story! Alas, it’s far easier for the writer me to see God at work in my characters than for me as an individual to see God within the real live awkward, curmudgeonly or downright unpleasant people I come across in everyday life – but I’m working on it.

Novelist Marina Lewycka published A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian and Two Caravans. Her latest book is We Are All Made of Glue (Figtree £18.99).

Marina Lewycka


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A testimony to Love
Judy Kirby, Editor
Circles of silence
Gerard Benson
A view of Quakers
David Wood
Testimony to peace
Helen Steven
Middle East witness
Ann Wright
Peace for all
Stephen Hanvey
Living the testimonies
Helen Drewery
Harvey Gillman
Testimony to Equality
Jonathan Dale
Committed relationships
Phil Lucas
Quaker thought in literature
Marina Lewycka
Quaker thought in poetry
Gerard Benson
Ros Smith
Marian Liebmann
Equality and social justice
Belinda Hopkins
Testimony to Simplicity
Jan Arriens and Marion McNaughton
Laurie Michaelis
Testimony to Truth
Linda Pegler
Integrity in public life
Tony Stoller

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