Altaf Tyrewala is a Mumbai-based Indian, English-language writer. He studied advertising and marketing in New York, and returned to Mumbai in 1999 to work on his critically acclaimed debut novel, No God in Sight. In 2012, he published The Ministry of Hurt Sentiments. His new book is a collection of short stories, Englishh: Fictional Dispatches from a Hyperral Nation.
Kitaab’s Zafar Anjum interviewed him recently over email:
You started writing short stories in 2001 if I am not wrong. So far you have published two collections of short stories, assuming that your first book was a collection of interconnected stories. What explains your fascination with this genre?
I wrote my first short story on the job. I was working as a content developer for an e-learning firm. I guess I would have attempted a novel if I had cut my teeth doing long form journalism or even coming up with ad jingles (I had a degree in advertising). But creating content that would be accessed entirely through computer screens, it taught me a lesson in conciseness and making my point as quickly as possible. So when I began my foray into fiction writing, those e-learning habits were hard to drop. In a sense, No God In Sight is structured like a website, one story hyper-linked to the next, each story containing a world in itself, until things finally come full circle. But I also have to clarify, I never wrote a story without being acutely aware of how it would fit into the larger pattern of the stories preceding it. I wasn’t writing a novel, I wasn’t doing the classic short stories, I didn’t know what I was doing, but it consumed me for 4 years.
Do you plan to attempt a novel anytime soon? I am not saying that it necessary to do so.
Thank you, I appreciate how you’ve tried to soften the blow.