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.

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