By Nicoletta Peddis
Andy Owen served in the Intelligence Corps of the British Army reaching the rank of Captain. He completed operational tours in Northern Ireland (2003), Iraq (2004 and 2005) and on intelligence duties in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2007. He published his first novel, “Invective”, in 2014.
On Thursday the 23rd of January, as part of the York Literature Festival, Andy Owen presented his second novel, “East of Coker” (2016), about the personal aftermath of conflict. Interviewed by Dr. Fraser Mann, he explored the themes of his novel, which uses TS Eliot’s “The Waste Land” as a structural and thematic starting point, asking challenging questions about our responsibilities to those that have seen and experienced war. He explained how Eliot’s poem has influenced him both for its use of language and for the way he uses myth to relate contemporary events to past events, showing the cyclic nature of history. Owen uses myth in own novel for the same reasons, and also uses references to a whole range of literary texts creating an intertextual layer that makes his novel fascinating and engaging. He believes that, has TS Eliot himself said, “good writers borrow, great writers steal” and that writer, when starting a book, finds himself in stream where all that is been written before washes upon him, making intertextuality in this sense an unconscious process of awareness.
— Dr Adam James Smith (@elementaladam) March 23, 2017
Andy Owen also reflected on the importance of literature and storytelling in creating empathy. Sharing stories of people suffering of PTSD because of their war experiences can help people to better understand how it feels to suffer the aftermath of conflict, increasing understanding and helping to fight the stigma that surrounds mental health issues, especially in the military environment. Regarding the importance of storytelling in dealing with trauma, Andy Owen also spoke about his collaboration with the War Writers Campaign and their work with veterans and PTSD professionals. The aim of this charity association is, through written awareness, to change the social perception about veterans’ issues and to promote mental therapy through the literary world and through creative writing. It is possible to find out more about War Writers Campaign at
http://www.warwriterscampaign.org/ and more about Shoulder to Shoulder, another association that helps veterans with mental health issues in Glasgow and with which Andy Owen collaborates, at http://timebank.org.uk/shoulder-to-shoulder .
Read Nicoletta’s interview with Andy Owen tomorrow on Point Zero.