"Literature has always helped us to define who we are. This might even be one of the most important functions of writing; it is the biggest question that writers address when telling the stories of themselves and of others. Pakistani writers find themselves in the dual role of being storytellers as well as the interpreters of culture and politics to an eager, hungry Western audience."
I don't know how a writer - Rohinton Mistry in this case - exactly feels when one of his major works - award-winning Such a long journey-is all of a sudden banned or prohibited with a base and despicable motive(actually a ploy to raise the profile of the youngest member of the Shiv Sena's ruling Thackeray family, Aditya, who is currently a student at Mumbai University.) Mistry, hugely knowledgeable about India and its politics, analyzes the event dispassionately and responds to his book ban with great eloquence and dignity.
As for the grandson of the Shiv Sena leader, the young man who takes credit for the whole pathetic business, who admits to not having read the book, just the few lines that offend him and his bibliophobic brethren, he has now been inducted into the family enterprise of parochial politics, anointed leader of its newly minted “youth wing”. What can — what should — one feel about him? Pity, disappointment, compassion? Twenty years old, in the final year of a BA in History, at my own Alma Mater, the beneficiary of a good education, he is about to embark down the Sena’s well-trodden path, to appeal, like those before him, to all that is worst in human nature.
Does he have to? No. He is clearly equipped to choose for himself. He could lead, instead of following, the old regime. He could say something radical — that burning and banning books will not feed one hungry soul, will not house one homeless person nor will it provide gainful employment to anyone (unless one counts those hired to light bonfires), not in Mumbai, not in Maharashtra, not anywhere, not ever.
The only Bengli novel that I read during this Puja – my time for experiencing Bengali prose – is “Lingalekh” by Debesh Roy who I stopped reading altogether following his pro-government stand on the Singur movement.
What's Lingalekh? I looked up in the only Bengali dictionary that I have, but did not get it. I think it is kind of treatise on male sex organ.
It’s an allegorical novel about today’s changed environs in Bengal when the 33-year-old Marxist regime is on the way out, and Mamata Banerjee’s party Trinamul Congress (satirically described “Mulo party” by Roy) is all set to be at the helms. Since my last reading,Roy has not changed a bit: his allegiance to the Left Front seems as intact, notwithstanding its visible degeneration, depradations and disconnect with the masses over the years. In the novel he lambasts, in a subtle way though, the intellectuals and writers supporting Ms Banerjee in her march to power.
But what I must admit is that Debesh Roy is still compelling, and has world-class craftsmanship to dwell on any subject. He’s more than a story-teller,a well-informed post-modernist actually, and has a brandwidth few writers of world literature have.
I wonder why translators are still not taking him on.
"I often say that Chinese people have no spiritual dimension. Take for example, film-making, Chinese people never make good psychological or spiritual films. That is to say that, Chinese people have no psyche or spirit to speak of. All of our films are so animalistic. What’s more, we make a bad job of describing this kind of animalism because there are no free animals - it’s like life in a big pig sty. At least now we are in a situation where people get enough to eat and don't lack materially: but, if you are looking for spirituality forget it."
Adam Smith, editor, Nobelprizeorg, interviewed Mario Vargas Llose on telephone just after the announcement of the 2010 Nobel Prize in literature yesterday.
Q: May I ask about your interest in politics? You say that you entered politics from a sense of obligation. Was this personal obligation or the obligation of the writer?
MVL: Well, you know, when I ... I, I think writers are citizens too, you know, and have the moral obligation to participate in the civic debate, in the debate about the solutions to the problems that the societies face. That doesn't mean that I think that writers should become professional politicians. No, I never thought, I never wanted to become a professional politician. I did it once because the situation in Peru was deeply, deeply serious. We had hyperinflation, we have terrorism, there was war, civil war, in the country. And, in this environment, my impression was that the very fragile democracy that we had [phone line drops out] was on the point of collapse! So, it was in this circumstances. But, I did it as something very exceptional and knowing perfectly well that this would be a transitory experience, no, which it was.
Mario Vargas Llosa is Peruvian by birth, and truly an international citizen, who embraces multiple genres (novels, essays, politics, journalism).
In 2002, Philip Hensher wrote about him, "When a novelist as gifted, intelligent and perceptive as Mario Vargas Llosa takes on the subject of tyranny and the fantasies of tyrants, the results are spectacular and incontrovertibly plausible. There is nobody comparable in the English-language novel (.....) The Nobel Prize, surely, cannot be long coming."
When I write this, the Nobel jury has already picked up the winner, but does not give as any hint as to who it could be.
Given the Swedish Academy's unique tastes and tendencies, it's difficult to even guess the winner. But we can still have some speculation.
Is it Syrian poet Adonis, or Americans Philip Roth and Joyce Carol Oates,or South Korea's Ko Un or Algerian writer Assia Djebar?
Or would it be Swedish poet and writer Tomar Transtromer, the octogenarian who has long deserved the Nobel Prize for his works?
Or some obscure writer/poet who we have not read or heard about at all?
Little chance for Haruki Murakami or Mahasweta Devi this time.
The Swedish Academy is not very fond of American authors, and has in recent years shown its leanings for dissident European authors( Elfiede Jelinek, Harold Pinter, Herta Muller, for example)
Last year I rooted for Haruki Murakami. This year I've no candidate, so to say. But I'm curious. I've profound respect for the Nobel Committee members who famously don't toe the line of our so-called market, and have great tastes for world literature.