Thursday, October 23, 2014

Mia Couto on role of art at the time of war

Q: Does art have a duty during times of war?
A: After 16 years of war, it became clear to me that art (and particularly poetry and literature) was a kind of resistance. The first intention of war is to dehumanize. And artistic language can be, in those circumstances, a clear way of rebuilding humanity.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Novels are not content: Richard Flanagan, 2014 Man Booker Prize winner

"I do not share the pessimism of the age about the novel. They are one of our greatest spiritual, aesthetic and intellectual inventions. As a species it is story that distinguishes us, and one of the supreme expressions of story is the novel. Novels are not content. Nor are they are a mirror to life or an explanation of life or a guide to life.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


In his writing career spanning almost 50 years, Mr. Modiano has shunned publicity and the media limelight, and like many of his works, has remained a mysterious character to his readers. This has led to the origin of the French term “modianesque”, used to describe a mysterious person or situation. In some of his interviews the writer has suggested that writing is not something that brings pleasure to him but is more of a burden from which he cannot set himself free. He compares it to driving in fog when one doesn’t know where one is going, but nevertheless one has to go on. Mr. Modiano’s work often deals with his Jewish origin and the period of Occupation. In a 2010 interview to France Today, Mr. Modiano said: “After each novel, I have the impression that I have cleared it all away … but I know I’ll come back over and over again to tiny details, little things that are a part of what I am. In the end, we are all determined by the place and the time in which we were born.” It is this quality that the Nobel Prize committee recognised, describing it as “the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation.” Unlike the detective Guy Roland in his best-known work, Missing Person, Mr. Modiano doesn’t have the luxury of losing his memory. But even if it had, he would always attempt to find it.
---Editorial in The Hindu

Monday, October 13, 2014

Michael Wood's 2000 review of Patrick Modiano's The Search Warrant

An appraisal of Modiano's fiction in London Review of Books back in November 2000.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Was I right in my Nobel Prize prediction?

 It's my ill luck that I had no access to internet since Thursday when the winner of the Nobel Prize in literature was announced, and I just felt helpless and fretted failing to post my " Nobel Prize 2014 goes to ,," on Thursday.  I had the winner's name from my TV and was somewhat elated that I was kind of right in my prediction.

Patrick Modiano was largely unknown outside of France. Like a lot of you, I've not read any of his works, but from inputs as available from different sources, he seems a fairly serious writer, a recluse, and never considered anything in his life except writing. He seems to be my kind of writer, though his comparison to Marcel Proust is a bit off-putting for me. I'm no Proust fan and have always disliked Proust's vain, snobbish, obsessed-about-women mindset in spite of his fine sense of art, music and architecture.

Of course, I would take a shot at Modiano's works. May be I would like him. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Who do you think would win the Nobel Prize in literature 2014?

Thursday (Oct 9) is possibly the day when the winner of the Nobel Prize in literature 2014 would be announced. So, who do you think would win the Nobel this year? Who are you rooting for?

Every year around this time I rack my brain a lot speculating on the possible winner, but I never got it right. The only time I kind of hit was last year when I published a short list of four writers. The third name on my list won it.

Honestly, I have not invested any time or effort this year. For whatever reason, I find myself less enthusiastic and feel that there is less buzz and excitement around the Nobel Prize this year. You just have to visit the World Literature Forum to believe it. There are so many wonderful savvy readers of literature in there who passionately interact, debate and give their valued speculation in the forum. They are there this year too, but without that exclusivity or intensity.

One of the beauties about the Nobel Prize is that it has no long list or short list, and you have to speculate based solely on your reading of world literature and its trends. There is of course betting site like Ladbrokes, but you see some perennial contenders over there every year like Haruki Murakami, Philip Roth etc. The odds against writers are mostly made-up there and never reflective of literature’s best judgement. It does not make much sense to try to locate your future Nobel winner down there.

So who is my candidate this year? I want to play it safe this time. A writer with less established mainstream appeal is going to win the Nobel this time.

What do I base my prediction on? Please consider these facts. Coetzee was followed by Jelinek. Lessing by Le Clezio, Vergas Llosa by Transtromer. There is a pattern: if it's a well-known writer one year, it's sure to be a less-known writer the next year. It was Alice Munro last year - an established mainstream writer.  She is likely to be followed by someone less known, not from the mainstream, even an obscure writer. 

But then the Nobel Prize Committee always springs a surprise.

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