Taslima, it seems, has lost her favourite city Kolkata for ever. Bengal Government does not want her back. The UPA government in Delhi, ever eager to please its ally, has decided to keep her on a tight lease in some remote place in India. A caveat has been served on her to the effect that she must not write any stuff that can hurt the sentiments of "our people".
How absurd! India is the land of a wide viariety of people with different tastes, cultures and stupidities. How can you write real stuff without hurting any of them? And who's going to judge your writing?
Taslima Nasreen, the exiled Bangladeshi writer, loses her home in Kolkata. On Nov 22, the Bengal police had shunted her out of the state on the plea that it can't provide her security in the wake of spiralling demand by Muslim fundamentalists that the government cancel her visa.
She was sent to Rajasthan, but Basundhara didn't put up with her. She tried to send her back to Kolkata, but then L.K.Advani intervened. She was sent to Delhi instead, and as of now, is living in a Rajastan guest house.
Taslima now faces the heat of Indian politics. The leftists don't like and support her because of erosion of Muslim vote bank. Hindu bigots wants to help her because her work , to some extent at least, serves their anti-Muslim propaganda, and mind you, she is a Muslim by birth.
The irony is, she has no politics, and writes things as she thinks right.
There is however, an interesting twist to the whole affair. Pressed by top Kolkata intellectuals and thinkers, the leftist government in Bengal invites her again to Kolkata. As things stand, she would return, because she loves the city and its people, and because she has no other option left. But would it be the same Kolkata to her? How is she going to deal with the big humiliation and anguish she experiences now?
Writers are like scavengers. We collect dirt, grimness of life, misery, happiness, feelings of despair and elation, of hope and frustration of the real people. Facts are turned into readable fiction that ultimately make the reader ponder over the real issues raised from these facts.
So here comes a writer who thinks exactly the way a real writer should. Toff upbringing, years in advertising, a legend of a copywriter, then quitting it all for realistic fiction. And he is focussed on the underdog. I'm a bit surprised that his brilliant novel Animal's People - so long unnoticed - has been shortlisted in Man Booker award this year.
"..those artificial landscapes, are very significant. The landscape in the World Park includes famous sights from all over the world. They're not real, but still they can satisfy people's longing for the world. They reflect the very strong curiosity of people in this country, and the interest they have in becoming a part of international culture. At the same time, this is a very strange way to fulfil these demands. To me, it makes for a very sorrowful scene. The World Parks in Shenzhen and Beijing might as well be the same place. Every time I went to one of the parks for the shooting, I saw all the tourists and how overjoyed they were to be there, and for me it was all very sad. How should I put it? This is what Chinese reality is like. And so, in the film, a lot of action takes place under the “Arc de Triomphe”, or in front of the “Taj Mahal”, or in “London”, or in “Manhattan”. Of course all of these landscapes are fake. But the problems our society faces are very much Chinese issues, and I think all this is not unrelated to that. We're living in a globalised age, in a world saturated by mass media, in an international city, as it were. But despite all that, the problems we're facing are our own problems. So these landscapes are intimately related to what's going on in the film."
I do find a lot of food for thought in ideas of independent filmmakers like Jia Zhangke, the underground filmmaker of China who now goes aboveground with his film, "The World". An interview with Jia Zhangke
Kill Taslima and take money. A new fatwa from the clerics of Bengal, touted as the most secular state of India! They have also sought her ouster from this state within one month, otherwise they would murder her. Taslima has now been living in Kolkata on a visa that gets renewed for six months every now and then. Which itself is a precarious living of sort.
I'm no fan of Taslima, but I have some regard for her. I loved her 'Lajja'- that wonderful novella about the atrocities on minorities in Bangladesh soon after Babri Mosque demolition. It takes a lot of courage and humanity to write such a book. She has plenty of these things, but she seems to have an agenda against the males in most of her writings, which is silly. I appreciate her rant against religions, but she never seems to get her reading of the society right, for whatever reasons.
But is it right for the clerices to announce fatwa for her?. Here is Asghar Ali Engineer, a Mumbai-based Islamic leader, in an article in The Times Of India":
I disagree with Taslima's views and think she is ignorant of Quranic teachings. But holding that view does not give anyone the right to violently attack her or incite people to attack her.
The Paris Review has published an interview with Norman Mailor in its current issue (Issue 181,Summer 2007). Sorry, no link. You have to purchase the issue.
if you’re writing a good novel then you’re being an explorer—you’re getting into something where you don’t know the end, where the end is not given. There’s a mixture of dread and excitement that keeps you going. To my mind, it’s not worth writing a novel unless you’re tackling something where your chances of success are open. You can fail. You’re gambling with your psychic reserves. It’s as if you were the general of an army of one, and this general can really drive that army into a cul-de-sac.
When I think anybody can be a blogger and publish shit on the net, I get a little demoralised. But then net is, at the same time, an avenue - very affordable indeed - where a talented writer can get to build up his audience bit by bit(may be not that worthy in the current market scenario) by publishing his work. I have kind of vision that the digital will one day be at par with the print and be as valued and respected by the audience. Give it some time to evolve.
The Net will be seen as a repository of current and historical primary-source texts, its authors ambitious thoughtful writers, belle-lettrists, feuilltonists, memoirists, epistolary writers, daybook-keepers, fiction writers, poets, literary travel writers, pensées writers, epigrammists, unpaid journalists, humorless shits, propagandists, hacks, ranters, pollyannas, pricks, and illiterates—the same rogues as in print.
Never let go of your vision. Listen to the opinions of teachers and friends and agents and editors and publishers but listen closer to your own voice. It is your job to bring your vision to someone. It is not your job to bring their vision to someone. That is not what art is all about.
RON SAVAGE has an inspiring and insightful anecdote from his writing life.
I'm pretty impatient with contemporary novels that don't have some kind of political or philosophical bent—or, at the very least, a strong sense of humor about the limitations of the personal. It's easier to write novels, of course, that lack an abstract, large scope, partly because that's where the literary mainstream is—in a kind of interpersonal, material realism that's microscopic instead of macroscopic—and partly because we're trained in personal stories from the time we're born. It's a natural, unconscious medium for us. The never-ending narrative of our daily lives is everywhere and we're steeped in it. I want to write past that narrative because it's a trap. It fosters an entrenched conviction that life is all about the individual self and its problems.
Read the full interview with Lydia Millet at Page 23
Lydia Millet is the author of six novels including Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, the PEN USA award winning My Happy Life, and her forthcoming How the Dead Dream. I haven't yet read any of her books, but I like this interview, and put her on my reading list.
It's not safe, in the face of mammoth media blitz for Harry Potter across the globe on the eve of latest book in the series, to churn out something against Harry Potter stuff and its writer J.K. Rowling. But now's really the time to stand against them.
I have said it already in Harry Menace and want to say it now that Harry Potter stuff is simply overblown crap, and children are learning little out of them. Read a similar observation by Nicholas Lezard at Guardian Unlimited bookblog. This is the kind of prose that reasonably intelligent nine-year-olds consider pretty hot stuff, if they're producing it themselves; for a highly-educated woman like Rowling to knock out the same kind of material is, shall we say, somewhat disappointing.
Children exposed to this kind of writing aren't learning anything new about words, or being stretched in any way; as Harold Bloom said, they're not going to be inspired to go off and read the Alice books, or any other enduring classic.
People go hoopla because they're delighted that Rowling has got children reading books - big, fat books without pictures at that. Can't argue with that: and maybe they will learn something about sheer reading stamina in the process. But it's all too easy.
The popular writer whose style is most similar is, it suddenly occurs to me, Jeffrey Archer (all those dead adverbs). All that paper, all those trees felled, all those words ... surely Rowling could have chosen some better ones, or put them together in a more exciting way?
She has, in her grasp, the power to galvanise minds instead of reeling out cliché after cliché. Will The Deathly Hallows do this? I hope so. But I fear not.
Gerald Jones is a quirky but talented writer. Once I often visited his website not so much for his writing as for information and e-mail addresses of some literary agents I was then desperate to get in touch with.
I found myself visiting this site today after a long time. What struck me, he still continues to lambast the publishing establishment in his own "call-a-spade-a-spade" style. It's nice to learn,though, that he's a published writer now.
Here is from his latest entry:
"I ain't got no phone. I had it pulled 'cause of people callin' all the time. Who needs the aggravation, right? The interruptions."
How cool is it being the world's greatest living writer? Very. If I wrote senseless slop for fame and fortune I'd have to hide out, wear me some fancy sunglasses and run around with an entourage to keep the paparazzi at bay. This way I get nothing but priceless peace and quiet...and the intimation of all that joy my immortal soul's gonna get to have when people finally discover what morons their forefathers and foremothers were. O frabjous day!
Have you noticed the rhythm, melody and harmony in Haruki Murakami's prose? These are important to him,and he has learnt to use them from music - especially from Jazz, which has been his lifelong passion and obsession. Murakami tells in this article how he turned into a novelist from a Jazz aficionodo.
Your style needs to have good, natural, steady rhythm, or people won’t keep reading your work. I learned the importance of rhythm from music — and mainly from jazz. Next comes melody — which, in literature, means the appropriate arrangement of the words to match the rhythm. If the way the words fit the rhythm is smooth and beautiful, you can’t ask for anything more. Next is harmony — the internal mental sounds that support the words. Then comes the part I like best: free improvisation. Through some special channel, the story comes welling out freely from inside. All I have to do is get into the flow. Finally comes what may be the most important thing: that high you experience upon completing a work — upon ending your “performance” and feeling you have succeeded in reaching a place that is new and meaningful. And if all goes well, you get to share that sense of elevation with your readers (your audience). That is a marvelous culmination that can be achieved in no other way.
In Arise,sir Salmanin Oulook magazine,Priyambada Gopal evaluates Salman Rushdie's works and laments his changes as a writer.
After the fatwa and relocation to America, Rushdie changed from a fiercely principled writer into one who was less willing to be be consistently and equally critical of all tyranny. A man who had written of the 'folly' of trying to contain a writer within passports now invoked an insistently American 'we'.
Fiction writers go where news reporters and historians dare not tread: into characters' heads, into the dreams they lose at the moment of waking, into the memories forgotten, the fears never articulated even to themselves. We do all this, even while making stuff up or distorting and embellishing "what really happened" for the sake of a dramatic arc; and, in so doing, we claim our ability to convey emotional truths, more revelatory about a time and place than any series of facts. If I were a historian I am sure this kind of talk would drive me crazy.
Kamila Shamsie, Pakistani novelist, has an interesting article in the Guardian.
Writing a novel is full of stops and starts and paths not taken, or taken and then untaken, or paths best not taken but taken anyway. How the book ends up looking and how I might describe it now could be two very different beasties. I will say that my intention is to write a bicultural novel, where Japanese perspectives are given an equal weight to Dutch/European perspectives. It's the most demanding thing I've ever tried to do. The research is a trackless swamp, and the book wishes to be written in ways that historical novels are not usually written in. It feels as if I am having to invent its "cinematography" as I go along. On good days, it's an exhilarating ride; on bad days I crawl along feeling travel-sick and disconsolate and wishing I'd left university and got myself a proper job.
As a writer, sometimes I feel that I don't know what something is till I have put words to it. This is especially so nowadays when we are bombarded by visuals and images.
Amitav Ghosh gets the prestigiousGrinzane Cavour International prize for a life dedicated to literature this year. Now,the popular perception is that every recipient of this award subsequently goes on to win the Nobel Prize for literature. Think of Nadine Gordimer, J M Coetzee, Wole Soyinka, Gunter Grass and V S Naipul who all received this award before their Nobel.
Let me confess: I've never read any Pynchon book, but continuously read a lot of stuff about him. As an idiosyncratic novelist who does not observe any rule of writing, who does not care about his readership, and who is reclusive in the real sense of the term, Pynchon is simply irresistible to me. In his review in VQR William Logan has some interesting observations:
Intelligence makes Against the Day bearable, though everywhere it creates its own rules, undermines its own gravitas; in this it already satisfies the first condition of a classic: a novel we appreciate because of its flaws (the second condition is longevity). As an artist of paranoia, that American state of mind occupying the space between New York and California, Pynchon is the comic opposite of Kafka, whose Weltanschauung he otherwise embraces—a world of conspiracy and liminal terror, of shadow worlds that lie beneath real ones. Paranoia is the limiting climate in fiction, as depression is the limiting climate in depressives—if everything is a conspiracy, there’s no getting to the bottom of it, because fiction is a conspiracy of conspiracies, where a wizard, or a bunco man, always stands behind the curtain.
..publishing has dumbed itself down. Marketing departments, not editors, rule the roost...When lowest common denominator logic dictates editorial policy, bookshops fill up with literary equivalent of Athena posters.
Tom McCarthy writes about his publishing experience on Timesonline.
"...it decodes the DNA of Hispanic civilization. It is a "total" novel, designed by a demiurge capable of creating a universe as comprehensive as ours. One Hundred Years of Solitude has done something astonishing. It has survived, accumulating disparate, at times conflicting rereadings."
Ilan Stavans, a teacher of litearature, writes about his current reading experience of OHYOS in an
"My instinct is to talk about politics in my work and that is your instinct too. That is the sense in which Come Sunday, too, is a very powerful story. An effective, powerful and moving depiction of the modern world with its politics in all its various dimensions. One should not attempt to avoid that because of this superstition that politics somehow is inimical to art. There are some who cannot manage politics in their fiction, so let them not . But they must not insist that everybody else must avoid politics because of some superstition built up in recent times that defines art as only personal, introspective, away from the public arena. That's nonsense. Fiction in the West has suffered in recent times by that limitation. When I see a book like yours which is grappling with the big issues -- violence, injustice, victimization -- that also has the scope of the whole world, that goes from the center to the periphery and back, that's great. It's difficult to do, but difficulty is no reason not to do it."
"The emperor would prefer the poet to keep away from politics, the emperor's domain, so that he can manage things the way he likes. When the poet is pleased to do that, the emperor is happy and will pay him money to stay within his aesthetic domain. But you and I don't have to agree with the emperor. We have to say no. Our business involves the peace, happiness and harmony of not just people but the planet itself, the environment. How we live in the world is extremely important. How we see our relationship with the environment is important. If we see it in terms of conquest, if we go out and conquer Mount Everest, what are we doing? Even the language becomes significant. If somebody climbs a mountain, they conquer it"