Monday, July 21, 2008

Like dancing after walking

Arundhati Roy has finally moved her pen into the realm of fiction...for the second time. Outlook reports that The Briefing, her first work of fiction since The God of Small Things in 1997, is an allegory, a powerful fable about Climate Change, the War on Terror and Corporate Raj.

According to the magazine, The Briefing was written for Manifesta7, one of the most important European Biennials of Contemporary Art, which opens on July 19 in northern Italy.

How does it feel to come back to fiction? And she answers:

Well this is only a little shard of fiction...I don't think we should make too much of it. It cannot in any way be compared to writing a novel...but writing fiction-shard or otherwise-is a delight. Like dancing after walking.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The idea of artistic value is meaningless these days

So says novelist and critic Amit Chaudhuri. The context of his saying this is Bollywood and the kind of films it produces. I quote from a review of his latest release (a book of essays, Clearing a Space: reflections on India, literature and culture) in The Economist:

Pausing briefly, Mr Chaudhuri, the earnest poet, dismisses any possibility of Bollywood containing “artistic value”. And then the critic recollects himself, and Mr Chaudhuri reflects that, “of course”, the idea of artistic value is meaningless these days.

Here's on his take on Indian literature and postmodernism:

Post-modernism, writes Mr Chaudhuri, is “polyphony; the conflation and confusion of fantasy with history”, a “rhetoric of excess, plenty and a relentless engulfing inclusiveness”, which has been the context for Indian writers since the 1981 publication of Salman Rushdie’s babbling narrative, “Midnight’s Children”.

An exhausting theorist, Mr Chaudhuri likens this and the Indian literature that has followed it—with all its variety and interconnectedness—to globalisation. Literary merit, he says, has become synonymous with commercial value; “today’s writers are stocks and shares”. Here, the poet in Mr Chaudhuri asserts himself: “The triumphal narrative of Indian writing”—perhaps even including Mr Rushdie’s feted trickery—“bores me, personally speaking, as a reader and writer.”

Thought-provoking, isn't it?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Couple of writers

What happens when both husband and wife become novelists? You might say this is nothing new. You might even give some examples to prove your point. But I find it interesting.

I am talking about two relatively new writers here.

Melanie Abrams, wife of Indian author Vikram Chandra, has debuted with a novel on love and sadomasochism.It is called Playing.

Maria Giovanna writes about Abrams in Mint:

I ask Abrams—whose spouse is the acclaimed Indian writer Vikram Chandra—if she felt the whole subcontinent looking over her shoulder as she wrote an admittedly “gritty” story. She laughs and recalls urging her agent to pursue selling the novel in India as well as the usual markets (the US and UK). Then, reality hit. Says Abrams: “I thought, ‘I must be out of my mind. What was I thinking? My in-laws, my sisters-in-law, everyone is going to read the book now!’” But, she calmly asserts: “I am proud of it. I am not ashamed or worried.”


Also, Anuradha Roy, herself an editor/publisher, and married to famous publisher Rukun Advani (Permanent Black, author of the novel, Beethoven among the cows) has come out with her first novel, An Atlas of Impossible Longing:

Deftly and sensitively narrated, this first novel is the story of three generations of a Bengali family and Mukunda, the illegitimate child of a tribal woman, who became from the age of six a part of their lives. The events span the first 50 years of the 20th century; and in the three sections of the book, the last spoken by Mukunda, the narrative is punctuated with key dates which link loosely the family's history with that of modern India.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Urdu ke naam

Prof Gopichand Narang on Urdu's legacy:

I write in three languages, Urdu, Hindi and English, but I identify most with Urdu. It is in my blood and marrow. Language provides freedom but it is bondage as well. You do not choose a language, a language chooses you. I consider Urdu as one of the finest by-product of the composite culture of the last millennium. Its base is Hindustani, the lingua franca of India. It is like rainbow where so many colors merge to create an effect. It is a misnomer to consider it alien, it is Indo-Aryan, Indic, and 70 per cent of its vocabulary is Hindi with selected Arabic-Persian phonology and phraseology, which has been fully assimilated and indigenised. This cultural blending gives Urdu a sophisticated élan which has a charm of its own. Its elegance and eloquence is like the Taj Mahal, which represents the synthesis of Islamic spirit with Indian sensibility. Urdu all along has been anti-sectarian and its tone and temper has been humanitarian.