Saturday, October 14, 2006

The world according to Kiran Desai

Kiran Desai, the Man Booker Prize winner for this year, thinks that writing is a dangerous profesion.

"I think anyone who is writing seriously and trying to write seriously, find it really easy to disappear. It is really quite a frightening realisation that you can really go and that you can do yourself great mental harm. It is quite a dangerous profession, it really is," she says in an interview in The Hindustan Times.

I remember reading in a report how her mother warned her about the demands and dangers of the writing profession. And yet she has managed to do her mother proud.

Kiran has a deep and nuanced understanding of the immigration issues. Here is a very thoughtful passage from the interview where she asks if all acts of immigration should be seen and depicted as acts of heroism:

Of course my life has been exactly one of moving between countries and places. But like I said, that has also been the experience of my family. It is an old story. So a lot of it has been witnessing what other people have been through. While characterising the judge, I did read a lot of old IAS memoirs of 1939, which were fascinating. Describing this entire journey during that time period. Going to England and returning while the freedom movement was going on. They were also working for the British and I drew a lot from that research. Some of them writing more frankly than others.

But again, I found that it is quite a common story. People returning to having found themselves transformed, experiencing a kind of disconnect. The same thing happens today, people going to the States for example and then being completely unable to relate to their families. And that's a choice. They make the choice not to relate to their families. You find that there is a huge amount of cruelty taking place. The fact that they are in America lets them make their immigrant journey a very heroic one. There is a lot of insistence as well that people write novels that look at immigration as a heroic act. Books about people who overcome great odds to come to the virtuous land. In reality I think it is not that kind of journey at all. It can often be a very cruel journey and a very selfish one.

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