Curious Affinities by Sophie Chauhan

Sophie Chauhan's Curious Affinities is a lyrical exploration of the personal and political residues of intimacy, and what happens when the borders of things meet

Book Review by Tara Okeke | 20 Nov 2023
  • Curious Affinities by Sophie Chauhan
Book title: Curious Affinities
Author: Sophie Chauhan

Halfway through Curious Affinities, a question is posed that swells in the imagination until much of what came before is occluded: "What is to be done with meaningless hurt?" Less a line of enquiry and more an unanswerable loop, with these eight words, author Sophie Chauhan shifts the shape of her preceding musings from the political to the personal and back again. And, in turn, the subsequent specifics – the actually very meaningful and affecting recount of hurt, harm and health crises experienced by Chauhan and those she has held dear – dilate to contain all that we are compelled and conditioned to endure en masse.

Chauhan is at her most assured when she lets her prose and poetics accrete around life’s incongruities and injustices. In early passages, she contends with the "pseudo-scientific fabrication" and "violent defences" of race, bearing down on the implications of being mixed-race – both its affordances and its crude divides – not through polemic but, instead, a channel of childhood memories that flow and pool. Later, reflecting on her time as part of activist circles established by Djab Wurrung leaders, Chauhan inveighs against settler-colonial systems of (supposed) logic with a cool rush of vignettes.

While a few of Chauhan’s experiments in personal-as-political recollection and projection register as either slack or strained – the class-centred passage Quiz is perhaps guilty of both of these charges at once – Curious Affinities is decidedly at its best when Chauhan offers an unbounded view of life lived relationally: of queer kinship; of "citric summers"; of the source of things; of the state of things; of being "a dyke in love with a dyke"; of unforced eros; of the meaning we find along the way.

Cover art for Curious Affinities by Sophie Chauhan. A line drawing of a carabiner clip on a yellow background, with the title and author name at the top and bottom of the image.

Hajar Press, 23 Nov