BackStory: Five Questions with Anita Goveas
Author of Frau Roentgen’s Left Hand
What inspired you to write ‘Frau Roentgen’s Left Hand’?
I was writing a presentation about women in science, and it made me think about all the women who were involved in science behind the scenes, the wives, sisters, mother, daughters who were essential in lots of ways that were taken for granted.
What is your favourite piece of historical flash, prose poetry or hybrid work? What do you like about it?
There are lots, but most recently I loved The Day Leopoldine Hugo was Lost by Nuala O’Connor in Jellyfish Review. It makes a time, place, person and their relationships and emotions come alive for me with sensory details and beautifully descriptive language.
How much research did you do while writing and editing this piece? Did you discover anything that surprised you?
I looked into Frau Rontgen’s life, and about the late 1800s in Europe to get an idea of the context of her life.
I was surprised that there was so little information about her. Nowadays, I expect she’d be all over Twitter, talking about how it felt to be bombarded by invisible rays and what she thought about the process. But that might be because that’s my idea of a good story!
What is your favourite part of the writing process? Your least favourite?
I like finishing a story! And I don’t like the bit just before I finish a story when I decide it’s terrible, and I don’t know why I started it and I should probably do something more useful like the washing up. (Is that just me?)
We are open to imagined and alternate histories as long as each story rings true of itself. How important is historical accuracy to you in your own writing?
Personally, I’m drawn to the people we don’t know a lot about, which gives me the freedom to imagine wildly in the context of the information we do know. And I enjoy the research, and learning about people and places I haven’t thought about before so then I do like to make sure I’m accurate with the facts I get. It’s that chance to make someone forgotten breathe again but also show how they did live that attracts me to writing historical flash/short stories.
Anita Goveas is British-Asian, based in London, and fuelled by strong coffee and paneer jalfrezi. She was first published in the 2016 London Short Story Prize anthology, most recently in Burning House Press, Dime Show Review, Crossways and Literary Orphans. She tweets erratically @coffeeandpaneer.
Image of the first medical x-ray, ‘Hand mit RIngen’ (Hand with Rings), of Anna Bertha Ludwig’s left hand, taken on 22 December 1895 by her husband, Wilhelm Roentgen. This print is courtesy of Wikimedia.