Friday, December 30, 2011

Dag Solstad interview

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Writing as a career

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

V.S Naipaul interview

"But if you’re a writer, you do the one book, then you have to go on to do the second, and then the third… It never ends. At the age of nearly 80, I am still tormented by this need to go on a little bit more... So perhaps a lot of the discoveries about the nature of writing came to me from this need to go on."

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Teju Cole in A Public Space

"At this fractured moment, our American agora appears to be dominated by noisemakers. Political debates are “won” by those who shout loudest, op-eds are written on little more than conjecture, and popularity counts more than anything else. The more thoughtful and reflective spaces are being silenced. And yet a self-preserving and self-nurturing instinct tells us that the essential work of interpretation is best found in a culture’s quieter spaces. We need reports in fiction, nonfiction, and photography that are engagé without being ephemeral and are steeped in a proper thoughtfulness."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Another e-book: a plug for myself

I have another e-book out, this time at It's a novella called Delhi Riddle. It is about an artist who encounters a strange physical relationship between a man and a woman, both married separately, while in Delhi during a group show, and is so deeply moved that he tries to capture it on his canvas.

Of course, it's literary fiction: not the dull, stodgy kind, but an easy, fast-paced narrative. In it, though, I have handled such things as love, sex, art, urban life in post-globalisation India.

The book's cover is done by my artist-friend Basudev Ghosh.

Please read the book if you feel interested, and give me feedback, if you have time.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Umberto Eco interview

"Literature is a perverse game because it’s too easy to say that the teller pretends that Little Red Riding Hood or Madame Bovary or Anna Karenina is a fiction. Step by step, I want you to lose your critical control and start crying about the fate of Anna Karenina. But then I know that once you finish reading the book, you come back to reality and at the second reading you don’t cry any longer but simply appreciate the way in which I obliged you to cry the first time. That is the perverse literary game. Simonini is more cruel. He wants you to believe. He doesn’t want to show his inner strategy. The writer desires that you discover my strategy. Simonini, no. Every forger wants to be taken seriously."

Friday, November 25, 2011

Indian Litfests: "Buy my book."

In today's Hindustan Times, Farrukh Dhondy has an interesting - and brutally honest - take on Indian literary festivals that are so common now-a-days( sorry, no link is available).

The central idea that emerged, at least in my mind, was that the lack of critical response and debate, the total absence of criteria of what is good, bad, necessary, imitative, blatantly stolen, fresh, redeeming, skilful, pioneering etc will give us a consumer industry in books but no 'culture' of literature.

Dhondi further writes:

The Colonel Sanders and the Ronald McDonalds of the Indian literary scene can be seen at all all the litfests peddling their goods and there is no one, literally no one, to discuss, raise the questions or debate the nourishment or debilitating obesity therein.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Anita Desai interview

The gets writer Kiran Desai to interview her mother Anita Desai, the well-known writer.

KD Your books often refer to a mix of languages. You quote Iqbal and Byron in Clear Light of Day. In Custody is about Hindi and Urdu. You quote a lot of literature in all your novels, mingle it with every geography.

AD Yes, I always give myself away! Well, Urdu was what we heard spoken in Delhi, and it was spoken very beautifully in those days. Then there were the books we bought for ourselves. My father would read Byron and occasionally he would burst out and recite snatches of what he remembered from his schooldays, Byron, Swinburne, Browning, the same scraps over and over again. Oddly enough, he never brought Bengali music into the house, which was such a pity. But perhaps because he came from a political family – he had a soft spot for communism – he loved Russian music. I remember hearing "The Song of the Volga Boatmen" played and played on our gramophone, thinking it so oppressive and dreary. Oma brought back a piano with her, had whole albums of Beethoven and Brahms, Schubert lieder and also her German library, beautifully embossed leather books in the old German script. When my father died and she left Delhi, she gave her books to the library of Delhi University, which had a German department.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Publishing today: editor is a banker now!

"There was a time at the Frankfurt Book Fair when we would rush back to our hotel rooms in the evening to read manuscripts. Now, it all works with a two-page outline. A publisher reads two pages and writes a $100,000 (around Rs.50 lakh) cheque. It’s about investments. The editor has become a banker."

Friday, November 4, 2011

Anne Enright interview

"Recently people have been starting to say that it’s all about sales, that the companies behind it are very proud of the sales of the books, and nobody’s talking about the books. There’s quite big PR machine behind it, and we know how PR machines are. The writer is a kind of incidental figure in the middle of this global PR exercise. Presumably writers dream of having such a thing happen but actually what we dream of is the fantasy of suddenly breaking free from your critics, which is not actually what happens. You’re freed from a certain amount of financial tension, but if you weighed money too much in the balance you’d never become a writer in the first place. When you get into it, it’s for whatever kind of reward is there. Though I am very interested in what money does to people, because I’ve had money and I haven’t. The years from 1993 to 2007 were pretty thin. I’m interested in how stressful it is not to have money, but also how, if you do have money, you cannot imagine what it is not to have it".

Hanan al-Shaykh interview

“In the West they need to label you to understand what you do. I tell [Westerners] that all those tags have become a real burden to me. I also tell them not to pigeonhole everybody. This is racism.”

Thursday, October 27, 2011

1Q84: Four reviewers

  • "And when, after 900 pages of crepuscular sex scenes alternated with sentimental thoughts about adolescent sexuality, the novel turns out to be a shaggy dog story, it no longer seems a guilty pleasure but instead a tremendous waste of the reader’s time."
  • "1Q84 is the only of Murakami’s translated works that’s ever struck me as overwritten. There’s a lot of internal monologue that simply revisits events and dialogue that have already transpired, that attempts to explain subtext or analyze weird happenings that we’re better off left to engage with on our own. Yet it would be wrong to assume that this ambitious novel’s flaws emerge from what might be deemed as padding or a lack of focus on the narrative core; the more 1Q84 strays from its ostensible plot the better it gets."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Haruki Murakami on George Orwell

“I guess we have a common feeling against the system. George Orwell is half journalist, half fiction writer. I’m 100 percent fiction writer. . . . I don’t want to write messages. I want to write good stories. I think of myself as a political person, but I don’t state my political messages to anybody.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Man Booker Prize 2011 for Julian Barnes

"Well, to be honest I think I tell less truth when I write journalism than when I write fiction. I practice both those media, and I enjoy both, but to put it crudely, when you are writing journalism your task is to simplify the world and render it comprehensible in one reading; whereas when you are writing fiction your task is to reflect the fullest complications of the world, to say things that are not as straightforward as might be understood from reading my journalism and to produce something that you hope will reveal further layers of truth on a second reading."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Salman Rushdie on Intellectuals

"Intellectuals are not saints, and can sometimes be very stupid indeed. In the United States, it is very difficult for intellectuals to have an impact on society, whereas in Europe it is more possible. I never knew Foucault. I met Jacques Derrida several times and he had a level of personal vanity which distorted the way he expressed himself. When you look at events, things look chaotic and shapeless, but there is a strong human need for form and shape. What intellectuals can offer amid the shapelessness of the everyday is a sense of 'how to look,' so that you can begin to discern shape and form. They can be fools, but they are about finding meaning and about understanding the world you live in."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Murakami madness!

Release of 1Q84 being barely a week away, you already see a kind of Murakami madness all around. Frankly, I'm also caught in it.

My translator-friend, V. Ramaswamy, himself a Murakami fan, sends me a link to a recent Murakami interview.

By sheer coincidence, though, I'm now reading Kafka on the Shore. I feel addicted to a novel - after a long time. It's a real page-turner,and no cheap material in spite of lots of sex. In fact, I'm having a great time with Kafka, Nakata, Colonel Sanders, Oshima and Hoshino. These characters, not the plot, drive the novel. They are not very real but not unreal either. Hegel, Rousseau, Beethoven, Mozart all pop up during your reading journey, and they help you glean insights about the characters and the life you live. Add to it the dollops of humour that Nakata provides through his naivete and "not being bright'. Murakami is not only a seasoned pro, he is also a writer of huge intellectual capacities.

I also read an old Haruki Murakami interview published in the Paris Review to know about the novelist and his art of fiction.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chinua Achebe on literature and ethnicity

"The creative enterprise is a magical space onto itself - the mind in mutual collaboration with the world and its elements to produce something of aesthetic value. Creative writers are like painters, using words to paint a literary tapestry. I think that words have a magic, that human situations- one's environment, culture, ‘ethnicity' as we have spent time re-discovering - can be unburdened to join other factors wordsmiths use to create literary magic - that extra dimension that the writer can conjure up by placing ideas about the human condition side by side on paper.
I suppose that cultural contexts is another name for what we have so far been calling the factors of ethnicity. Quite clearly these factors do shape literature. The cultural context within which a writer finds him/herself is relevant in so far as it brings something of literary value - contributes to the world story - and does not claim superiority over, deny, obscure or jaundice, even oppress other perspectives or stories. But having said that let me now admit that there are other factors and not least among them is the genius and free-will of the author."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What I write is politics: Arundhati Roy

"What I write is politics. Traditionally this is what writers have done. So to separate commentary from writing, from politics, minimises politics, minimises writing, and minimises commentary. This has historically been the role of writers. I could surely go and wear a khadi sari and sit in the forest and become a martyr but that’s not what I plan to do. I have no problem being who I am, writing what I have because I am not playing for sainthood here. I am not playing for popularity. I am not asking to be hailed as a leader of the masses. I am a writer who has a particular set of views and I use whatever skills I have, I deploy whatever skills I have, whatever means I have to write about them, not always on my own behalf but from the heart of the resistance."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Chad Harbach: a writer to watch out for!

If you consider it in material terms, the last big writer was J. K. Rowling. She has lived her full course with glory and all, but she is dud now. So who would be the next big writer? The long search seems to have come to an end. And the new winner is a a young man in her early thirties: Chad Harbach, born and raised in Racine, Wisconosin, a founder- editor of n+1 magazine.

His 500 -page book is being released this week. A whopping advance( $665000), rave reviews even before the publication, excerpts in a popular magazine, authors like Franzen showering praise on the debut author, and the usual hypes that the publishing business embellish their blue-eyed boys with. The mammoth publicity machine is already at work, touting him as the rare hitter of contemporary fiction.

As ever, I have my doubts. Note the title of the book is "The Art of Fielding". Sounds atrocious as a fiction title. No play of imagination. Then it's about baseball. I don't want to mean that there can't be a good literary(?) novel about baseball. But it's somewhat repulsive for me.

Nevertheless, I find Chad a bit intriguing too. He seems kind of awkward, polite, candid, and even authentic in this interview. May be he's a real writer.

Before I sold this book I was kind of pretending I had money by spending so much time by working on N+1 and writing when I didn't have any money at all. I was kind of just barely...well, I was actually in a pretty dire financial situation. The point is I was devoting an awful lot of time to the magazine and I didn't actually have the luxury to do that.

I should have been working at a job that paid me money because I did not have any money. So after I sold the book, it wasn't hard to think about how I am going to spend my free time when I'm not working because I had this book to edit and I already had all this work I was doing for the magazine which I don't get paid for but have been doing anyway. But now I can do it without being kind of anxious the whole time. So it has changed my life in that I'm less persistently anxious.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ben Okri interview

"The fundamental freedom is the freedom to be exactly what we're capable of being, and as a writer that's a very huge problem because every writer comes into the world with a geographical label on them. My ambition is to be a true, living, clear-seeing writer, and it's the most difficult freedom, as first you've got all your own internalised negativities, your mind, to get over. On top of that you've got the rest of the world saying you should write in the way your tradition has laid down. The challenge is constantly trying to escape straitjackets and see clearly without any labels."

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Haruki Murakami interview

The New Yorker has an interesting interview with Haruki Murakami.

Whenever I write a novel, I have a strong sense that I am doing something I was unable to do before. With each new work, I move up a step and discover something new inside me. I don’t see this novel as a departure, but I do think it has been a major step in my career. Formally speaking, this is the first full-length novel I have written from beginning to end in the third person.

Monday, August 29, 2011

An excerpt from Murakami"s 1Q84

Here is good news For Murakami fans who have been waiting impatiently to read 1Q84(English translation) since 2008. The book is going to be released in US sometime in October this year. But you can read an excerpt from the book now, thanks to the NewYorker which has published it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Haruki Murakami banned!

A New Jersey School District has banned Haruki Murakmi's Norwegian Wood from its summer reading list for graphic depiction of a lesbian sex scene between a 31-year-old woman and a 13-year old girl.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

David Davidar profile

The Globe and Mail has an interesting profile of David Davidar, the controversial and over-rated publisher who quit Canada after an allegation of sexual harassment by one of his colleagues.

Former Penguin Canada president David Davidar left Canada under a particularly dark cloud early this year. But somewhere over the Atlantic, that cloud dissipated, and he landed here to an open-armed welcome. He has resumed his place at the top of the flourishing Indian literary world, and that nasty allegation of sexual harassment in the (other) colonies is yesterday’s news.

What's good writing?

Good writing is what you bestow upon yourself, your own most faithful, loving, and observant fan. If you don't write for the emotional benefit of that reader, I believe your chances for fame will vanish.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Uninspired literature!

"Today's Chinese literature is uninspired. It's true not only in China but also across the world, and it's related to many factors, like materialism oriented by consumption, the nationwide trend of seeking entertainment, information dissemination brought by new technologies. All these things are making bubbles in language and literature."

--Bei Dao,the Chinese poet at the opening ceremony of the festival in Xining,

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mohammed Hanif interview

“I am a very dedicated scribbler. I am a very great recycler as well so I don’t waste anything. For me the act of writing is a bit like reading — when you’re reading, if it’s a good book then you’re discovering what’s going to happen next. So for me it’s mostly like that — I have vague ideas — notions about things — but if I knew what was going to happen, what the story was, then I would immediately lose interest.”

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ann Patchett interview

Q:Your novel follows a traditional narrative, with a hero, a villain...

A:I like a real sense of a story, which could make my work seem old-fashioned, because a story and a plot isn’t something you see often today.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

No Indian author in 2011 Booker long-list!

Out of a total of 138 books, only 13 have been included in the 2011 Booker long list. No Indian author this year. India has an impressive list of Booker-winning authors ( Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy among them), And Booker Prize is regarded highly in India. It is really frustrating to see that none of the authors figures in the list. Not even Amitav Ghosh whose River of Smoke is getting rave reviews in newspapers and magazines. Does not the Booker judges consider it worth it? or is the novel short of literary merit?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Way to save literature!

A Venture by Harvard Alumni

"We push literature without borders and we try to push material with some kind of social dimension to it. It’s not art for art’s sake.”

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tea Obreht interview

"Since a novel is a personal project, it's of course about some personal things, but the stories are not just mine. A novel is about people, not about ideas, about human stories and not about historical stories."

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mikhail Shishkin interview

Q:What is your ideal reader like?

Shishkin: Well he stands beside me and likes everything I like. And hates what I hate. The risk with this is that you are left alone with your ideal reader. But I was lucky enough to have lots of real readers in Russia, in my homeland. The prizes are great, so are the stage adaptations, but the most important thing for me was meeting my real readers in the provinces. A year ago I went on a reading tour through the small towns of the Vologda region, a hotbed of small-town mentality. It was a gathering for provincial intelligence: teachers, apothecaries, librarians. And they all had my books on them and were talking about how important they were for them. I found it very moving. The role and importance of literature in Russia is hard to compare with any other country in the world. Reading in Russia is a struggle for self-preservation, for maintaining human dignity in the face of degrading political reality.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Amitav Ghosh's "Ibis" novels: History book in disguise?

In an interview In The Hindustan Times' Brunch magazine, June 26, 2011 (Sorry, no link is available), Amitav Ghosh was rightly asked if his "Ibis" novels could become a history book in disguise. His answer:

"I could never write a history book in disguise really because..because I am a novelist. I am a writer of fiction. That's what I do. To write history is a very particular thing. It calls for specific talents, which are not ma talents, you know. It's not something that can happen. First and foremost, I'm a storyteller."

I have no problem in admitting that he's an astute storyteller. But is the stuff that Ghosh has been churning out for some years now can really be called literature?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Reading: The investigations of a dog/ Franz Kafka

I had to read it twice. At first reading it seemed like a riddle. So, what was it that the dog was trying to tell us? What was the finding out of his investigation? In my second reading, I simply replaced the "dog" with "man" (in Kafka's world, they are interchangeable any way),and cracked the message of the story.

It is about a metamorphosed society dominated by terror.

Franz Kafka foresaw the emergence of a capitalistic society in his times, and quite prophetically imagined the condition of common man under the new system.

"Even in those days wonders did not openly walk the streets for any one to seize; but all the same dogs - I cannot put any other way- had not yet become so doggish as today, the edifice of dogdom was still loosely put together, the true Word could still have intervened, planning or replanning the structure, changing at will, transforming it into the opposite; and the Word was there, was very near at least, on the tip of everybody's tongue, anyone might have hit upon it. And what has become of today? Today one may pluck one's very heart and not find it. Our generation is lost, it may be, but it is more harmless than those earlier ones. I can understand the hesitation of my generation, indeed it is no longer mere hesitation; it is the thousandth forgetting of a dream dreamt a thousand times and forgotten a thousand times; and who can damn us merely for forgetting for the thousandth time?"

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

Publishers are sheep!

To some extent, publishers are sheep. I honestly think they don't know what they want until somebody else wants it too. Don't get me wrong, I know many creative and brilliant publishers who discover great new things all the time, but it is nevertheless always very helpful if something comes to them already endorsed, either by a prize such as this, or else a quote from someone like Martin Amis telling them how great it is. Anything, really, to convince them of its worth before they have even read a word.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Jorge Semprún interview

I have often said I am not a “real” novelist, because for me the true novelist can use elements of reality to create a world that is more true to reality than reality itself, precisely because it is completely imaginary. I love that line by Boris Vian, “In this novel everything is true because I made it all up.” That, in my view, is a novel. And I will never be able to do that because I feel pulled inexorably toward the autobiographical material.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Andreï Makine interview

Alternaissance, don’t forget this title, because although it is not very well known at the moment, it will be an important novel and will gradually become known. It is about what happens if we start to refuse to be complete idiots, if we’ve had enough of this great machine we are living in. People watch soccer, they work, they make kids, they eat... and then everything starts all over. It is society that has made people such idiots. This way of life suits everyone. And why? Because such people do not revolt. They don’t bother. They accept everything. Their salary is reduced – they accept it. Thus society produces its own slaves. In communism people were given a small flat with a bit of salary so that they won’t make problems, and the same thing happens in Western societies. Brains are filled with emptiness, while we feel that they are full, because there is a bit of soccer, a bit of salary, a bit of food in them. But that’s it and no more. The biological and social creature exists for perhaps a mere twenty thousand days, and then he dies. Just like a small fly. If a human being wants to revolt and says ’no, I am something else as well’, in that case they decide for alternaissance.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lit news: Chiki Sarkar new publisher of Penguin India.

The search for a new publisher for Penguin India has come to an end at last with the announcement of Chiki Sarkar, the former Chief Editor of Random House, as publisher. Interestingly, Ms. Sarkar, is the daughter of Aveek Sarkar, who owns Penguin India jointly with Penguin Group.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Do writers read?

When people ask whether I've read this or that book, I've found that a safe answer is, "You know, I don't read, I write." That shuts them up. Although some of the questions come up time and time again: "Have you read Thackeray's novel Vanity Fair?" I ended up giving in and trying to read it, on three different occasions. But I found it terribly dull.
Umberto Eco.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Aminatta Forna interview

"There is an increasing pressure on writers to serve up easily digestible
stories which don't tax readers. There is room for fun and escapism in the act of
reading, sure. But the job of the writer is to do more than simply entertain."

Aminatta Forna has won the 2011 Commonwealth Writers' Prize.

Why do Western publishers like elite and wealthy Indian authors?

Why is it that Salman Rushdie and his elite friends, mostly from the upper middle class or wealthy families and elite schools, hog 90 per cent of the sales and advances granted to Indian authors by Western publishers?

Friday, May 20, 2011

David Albahari Interview

Q:I’m interested in your choice of form. Leeches is basically written in a single paragraph, with no chapter or paragraph breaks. It’s a form you also used in Götz and Meyer. What about it appeals to you?

A: Well, first it’s an homage to the Austrian novelist Thomas Bernhard, who influenced me. I also liked the idea of it visually: when you look at the pages, everything is covered with words. I think writing should be a process of discovery, both for the reader and the writer who should become united in trying to get through this labyrinth. You have to fight with this form to reach the end. Not all readers like it, I’m aware. But I simply don’t want to give up on it.

Serpent's Tail is 25

"Pete Ayrton is perhaps one of the few persons happy to have his name taken as a byword for noir. Noir in all its literary forms: from sinister to subversive, horrific to humorous, profoundly misanthropic to frivolously mischievous. The heterogeneity of Pete's reading habit crosses linguistic boundaries with equal ingenuity."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Philip Roth wins Man Booker International Prize 2011

Philip Roth wins fourth Man Booker International Prize.

"For more than 50 years Philip Roth's books have stimulated, provoked
and amused an enormous, and still expanding, audience. His imagination has not only recast our idea of Jewish identity, it has also reanimated fiction, and not just American fiction, generally."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Regional writing Vs writing in English

“When people like the late Dilip Chitre, Arun Kolhatkar wrote in Marathi, the established lot tried to belittle our work saying it didn’t count as literature because we were doing out-of-the box things with form. When we write in English, we are blamed for hogging the limelight."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Interest in literature goes in waves!

“International interest surrounding literature goes in waves. First it was all about India. I would think it started with Salman Rushdie's Midnight Children. Then came the likes of Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy and a whole lot of others. Now Pakistani writers are making their mark. You have Hanif, Daniyal Moenuddin, Uzma Aslam, Kamila... Bangladesh's time will come too. There are fine stories waiting to be told.”
- Tahmina Anam

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Gary Shteyngart interview

It’s tough being a writer these days, writing in a slow medium like the novel.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Salman Rushdie interview

Q: Are expatriate writers going to focus more on India now?

A:I think that writers' careers don't go in a straight line, they go in loops. You go back and forth. I've written books about India and then not about India. Then, everybody said you stopped writing about India and then the next book was about India. Then, people said, Oh, you are going to write about India all the time, and the book after it wasn't about it. So you know writers' imagination goes backward and forth and doesn't stick at one place.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Vladimir Sorokin: a literary monster?

In the days of Brezhnev, Andropov, Gorbachev and Yeltsin, I was constantly trying to suppress the responsible citizen in me. I told myself that I was, after all, an artist…. I was influenced by the Moscow underground, where it was common to be apolitical. This was one of our favorite anecdotes: As German troops marched into Paris, Picasso sat there and drew an apple. That was our attitude — you must sit there and draw your apple, no matter what happens around you. I held fast to that principle until I was 50. Now the citizen in me has come to life.”

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What made Midnight's Children?

" Midnight’s Children today is a strange experience. The book has a breathtakingly transcendental playfulness, but one also discovers in it weird echoes of an unborn future with references, for example, to “Muhammad (on whose name be peace, let me add: I don’t want to offend anyone)” and to a wife eerily named Padma (“a consolation for my last days”). Reading it today one wonders about the enormous risk that Rushdie took, investing five years of his life on writing this seemingly self-indulgent novel, crammed with India-specific cultural references that the Western reader would never entirely catch."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Writers with vocal chords!

Having learnt about Franz Kafka’s petrifaction and Philip Larkin’s diffidence about reading in public, I’ve always assumed writing and reading must be judged independently. Having seen Orhan Pamuk display, as a speaker, a teacherly style that sits oddly with the lyricism of his prose or heard the seemingly stone-hearted VS Naipaul confess that listening to other people read aloud from his work moves him to tears, I’ve realised that writers as people of flesh, blood and vocal chords are not to be measured exactly against writers as people we encounter in print..

Anjum Hasan, novelist and Books editor, has an interesting article in Tehelka newsmagazine.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

William Trevor interview

I think the bond between the writer and the reader is very important. One writes the story; that is the writer’s part done. Then the reader gets to work; reading is his job. I have always enjoyed that connection with the reader I haven’t met but feel I know because of having shared an experience: the story.

William Trevor, one of world's finest writers, is interviewed at

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Reading: Norwegian Wood/ Haruki Murakami

Who is the best and most interesting character in Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood? Naoko, Midori, Reiko? Nagasawa,Kizuki, Hatsumi? Watanabe himself?

In my recent read, I find the novel a bit mushy, and not as good as Haruki's other works. May be this was his debut novel - which made him famous, though - and he was still trying to find his own voice and style.

NW has plenty of sex scenes which seem like the printed version of yesterday's blue films, but the thing that astounds me is that they look like natural in the setting of the narrative involving an adolescent and his friends. There is not much you can complain against the writer because he writes it as convincingly as it happens in real life. Kind of new reading experience for me.

The narrative is not that strong: Nagasawa is womaniser and careerist without any sense of morality, Hatsumi and Midori are regular girls aspiring for happy conjugal life. Naoko is a bit incredible as a character who,like her former boy-friend Kizuki, commits suicide in the end. Her long relaionship with Watanabe has not exactly got to a logical end and the readers are not given any clue about her exact illness.

The best portrayed character is Reiko. And she actually saves the novel.

Friday, April 8, 2011

V.S Naipaul interview

The certainty that all is going to be all right since one was serving this noble cause.the thought of being a writer - there's a kind of purity, a blessing, and I'm trying to define this thing about being a writer. This sums it up quite well. It gets the solitude, the touch of aggression and it also makes clear why people don't always like young men who are writers - not always attractive, because unhappy a lot of them, unfulfilled. I used to suffer from rages during this period. In public. But that was a passing phase.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Jennifer Egan interview

Q:There’s been a lot said about your writing process — writing on yellow legal pads without re-reading a word until you start feeding the words into the computer. How did that method evolve for you?

A:Well, when I started writing, in high school, I had a manual typewriter. And then I had an electric typewriter. So in those years, writing by hand was the most flexible way to go. By the time I started using a computer, halfway through college, I was used to handwriting my fiction. I did write stories on a computer for a year or two, but then I drifted back to my old ways. The bottom line is that I like my first drafts to be blind, unconscious, messy efforts; that’s what gets me the best material.And there’s no way for me to achieve that effect while staring at every word I write in typeface. So I’m led, inevitably, back to the legal pads, and ord I write in typeface. So I’m led, inevitably, back to the legal pads, and my illegible scrawl. It isn’t so much that I don’t reread as that I can’t, without serious effort.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ruskin Bond interview

Q:Did you ever feel demoralised as a writer?

A:Yes, about 20-30 years ago, when I felt that my writing wasn’t being appreciated. But in the last few years, my readership has grown.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

1Q84 Cover unveiled

The English translation of Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 is yet to hit the market - oh, how long I've been waiting for the book - but the cover of the US edition of the translation is just out.(Via Literary Saloon). And I like it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

IMHO U R GR8: Texting in literature

It is the relentless onward march of the texters, the SMS (Short Message Service) vandals who are doing to our language what Genghis Khan did to his neighbours eight hundred years ago.

They are destroying it: pillaging our punctuation; savaging our sentences; raping our vocabulary. And they must be stopped.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Thirtieth anniversary of Alasdair Gray's Lanark

When Alasdair Gray published his novel Lanark thirty years ago, Anthony Burgess had these words: It was about time Scotland produced a shattering work of fiction in the modern idiom. This is it. The first major Scottish novelist since Sir Walter Scott.

The thirtieth anniversary of the novel is being celebrated now.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Hanif Kureishi on the art of writing

The piece of writing I usually most enjoy doing is inevitably the thing I'm not supposed to be doing, so it can seem illicit. I like to work on something over a long period, returning to it repeatedly, adding, subtracting and altering, and taking advice from editors and friends, until I can't bear to look at it, which is when I guess it's done. Writing is highly labour intensive. It takes a lot of time – and much patient toleration of boredom, frustration and self-loathing – to achieve anything. Then you try to sell something to the world it doesn't know it needs.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Another Arundhati Roy interview

I don’t really do research in order to write. Finding out about things, figuring out the real story—what you call research—is part of life now for some of us. Mostly just to get over the indignity of living in a pool of propaganda, of being lied to all the time, if nothing else.

In Guernica,Amitav Kumar interviews Arundhati Roy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why China has no great writers now

"Why is contemporary China short of works that speak directly? Because we writers cannot speak directly, or rather we can only speak in an indirect way Why does contemporary China lack good works that critique our current situation? Because our current situation may not be critiqued. We have not only lost the right to criticise, but the courage to do so; Why is modern China lacking in great writers? Because great writers are castrated while still in the nursery.

Monday, February 21, 2011

H.M. Naqvi interview

Q:Of late, one is noticing a reverse brain drain to Pakistan with well established writers coming back home, and making Pakistan their place of residence: Daniyal Mueenuddin, Mohsin Hamid and Hanif besides you. Is it something about the home country that is attracting the writers back, a kind of nostalgia or the feeling of being an outsider in the West?

A:I don't have empirical data on the matter. I can, however, speak for myself. I returned because I had no money. In any event, there's no place like home. I love Karachi. It's a wonderfully animate city. There are people on the beach at two in morning, traffic at three. You can have breakfast at four – halva, puri – and nihari at five. Moreover, as a writer I wouldn't want to be elsewhere for long. There's a story under every stone.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How and where do you find material for your books?

Answers from three writers

I find it among people. I find it in tiny rooms and in passenger terminals, in dreams, in books, and in experiences from the past that are the poetry of memories. I find it among the streets in which I grew up. I find it in my senses. Imagination is the extension of experience.
-Lars Saabye Christensen,Norwegian novelist

I don't know. What I know is that there is a certain way of life I have to live in order to be able to write the best I can. It doesn't mean only having enough free time and space, but also trying to avoid everyday stereotypes, traveling, doing adventurous things, experiencing uncertainty. That is what I need. My mind is what matters. Topics and material then come by themselves.
-Petra Hulova,Czech writer

In life, in my memories, in family history, friends' stories, textbooks, newspapers, television, documents, archives. I think it depends more on how you look at things than on the things themselves.
-Jenny Erpenbeck, German writer

Monday, February 14, 2011

Leila Aboulela interview

"And those early years of my life in Sudan are still my bearing and measure. But I went in a different direction. That was my fate."

Leila Aboulela, Sudanese writer, is interviewed at Times Live.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Edna O'Brien interview

"When I read something thrilling or I write a good line. When I have a lovely drink - I drink white wine or champagne. When I'm with someone, usually it's one other person, rather than a crowd, whose intelligence and stimulatingness is great. Because one wants to be both inside one's self and removed from one's self. Those things make me happy.

"Nature makes me happy, even though I live in the city, deliberately; I don't think I have the inner resources to live alone in the country. I wish I knew more about music. I listen to classical music, and sometimes I am bestirred, but language is my first love in the arts, and then painting. I love paintings."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A writer's absolute essentials

A dressing gown, a hot water bottle and some whisky if you can procure it

Sunday, January 30, 2011


The Lit zone is the new hot spot. If earlier it was Rohit Bal taking his shirt that caught your pg 3 eye, now it'll be William Dalrymple like a big dervish(thankfully with his kurta on)doing the trick. There's a new influx of babalogs and Beautiful People in the earlier boring world of book events. The truth is: even the writers look smarter and prettier these days. With a dash of Brechtian 'temporary suspension of disbelief', you could be at a Taj hotel attending not the lunch of the winter collection of Tarun Tihalini but at the lunch of Rana Dasgupta's new novel.

Of course, it's from a story of an Indian daily's culture page, done by a literary savvy scribe. Take note of the tone of the writer. He seems to take great delight in reporting Dalrymple's trick, new influx of 'babalogs and Beautiful People'(who never read literature) in the book events, and glamorous book lunches.

Alas, this sums up the literary scenario in India and elsewhere, courtesy the new culture that free market economy has fostered. Literature is now touted as gliterature. Would you laugh or worry?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Jaipur Lit Festival & William Dalrymple

The article is more than a fortnight old, but since the Jaipur Lit Festival is still on, it's not stale yet, featuring as it does William Dalrymple, "the pompous literary arbiter of literary merit in India", who calls the shot as its director.

It is not for nothing that over the recent past, Dalrymple has been in conversation with authors as diverse as Tishani Doshi (though a romance linking Wales and Gujarat is perhaps a fit setting for him) and Sonia Faleiro (what could Dalrymple have to contribute to the Bar Girls of Bombay?; on the evidence of the evening, not much). Symbols matter, and if Dalrymple appears central to our literary culture, it says something far more damaging about us than about him.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Literary Festival or Fashion Week?

Some literary festivals have become the Bombay Times party of the book world. Not surprising, considering that some writers now get more advances than models. With money and fame both at their feet, the literati is no different from the glitterati. This is why even those whose bedtime reading is their credit card statement will elbow their way to the DPC Jaipur Literary Festival opening this Friday. It has evolved into a new genre of Fashion Week. Everyone is turned out in intellectual chic, or the bohemian Dalrumpled look.

From Jaipur to Kolkata, this is the season of literary festivals all across India. I know no one better to give a low-down on them than Bachi Karkaria, that fabulous columnist, with her cutting wit and humour.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Roberto Bolano on literature and exile

"Literature and exile, I think, are two sides of the same coin, our fate placed in the hands of chance. "I don't have to leave my house to see the world," says the Tao Te Ching, yet even when one doesn't leave one's house, exile and banishment make their presence felt from the start. Kafka's oeuvre, the most illuminating and terrible (and also the humblest) of the twentieth century, proves this exhaustively."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Oh, the Joy of reading Haruki Murakami!

I've begun the new year with Haruki Murakami, and want to read his works exclusively this year. For a while now, Murakami has captured my attention and interest. Last year, it was Roberto Bolano who piqued me this way.

The Murakami book that I just finished was After the Quake, a collection of six short stories. I read one story a day, and though I was tempted to begin the next one, I decidedly held back. Each story had its resonance, and I needed to live it in full. For three stories, I jotted down my impressions there and then.

Thailand: A wonderful story about man-woman relationship in today's hectic world. The metaphor of polar bears is just as apt and brilliant.

All God's Children Can Dance: It's about a young man who seeks his biological father in vain. Offers great insights into religion (Christianity) and sexuality.

Super-Frog Saves Tokyo: An amazing story of Katagiri, an average Japanese ("All I do is eat, sleep and shit"), who fought his battle - not in real terms though - to save his beloved city from an earthquake.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Helon Habila interview

"People should not compare ours with the generation of Chinua Achebe. Our content is not the same. It is not this generation that will judge us. This generation judges the books written 50 years ago. Likewise we shall be judged by the next generation maybe in another 50 years."

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