Sudeep Sen on his latest book EroText.
Why is EroText a book of fiction?
A novel is a meditation on existence . . . The form is unlimited freedom. — Milan Kundera
Kundera’s ‘unlimited freedom’; my own remoulding of the ekphrastic technique; Rodin’s passionate dictum where ‘the artist must be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation’ form the essential keystone for the soul and syntactical structure of the experimental fiction in Erotext. So, unsurprisingly, I use a highly wrought stylized mode of micro-fiction that overlaps with aspects of prose-poetry, and poetry that overlaps with aspects of fiction.
In EroText, I have also experimented with language like one would in the rendition of classical Indian raga, where the same piece of song or text can be variously sung or interpreted by different practitioners, albeit in a highly controlled and dextrous manner. So an old poem may have been revived or reincarnated as a prose text to convey a different angle of the same story, a happenstance, or another hidden moment in time.
Changing the form without at all altering the textual content can be very rewarding, albeit risky at the same time. But then, what is cutting-edge avant-garde writing, if there is no risk-taking. What is the point if one is not willing to bend and push the conventional boundaries of genre to come up with an alternate score or a variation, much like the formal play in classical music and jazz improvisation.
EroText is an avant-garde experimental book. It attempts to redefine or extend the standard genre-classifications of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. I can tell you, from what I can see from the early market and critical response, that as a book of micro-fiction it is generating interest from an entirely different set of audiences who see themselves as consumers of general, commercial and literary fiction, and not perhaps of poetry. So that is a very healthy and positive sign.
Tell us about the ‘Disease’ or ‘BodyText’ section of the book.
In the dark times, will there also be singing? Yes, there will also be singing, about the dark times. — Bertolt Brecht
The ‘Disease’ or ‘BodyText’ section of this book contends with private and uncomfortable areas of pain, illness and disease — an example of how a prolonged anesthetic medical experience can give rise to lyrical writing, inspired by and in spite of its sterile surroundings. Commenting on this, literary critic Pramod Nayar, wrote, ‘While excavating a set of images from physics, chemistry and biology, Sen does an extraordinary job of imbricating the corporeal with the natural elements and processes [in] a brilliant formalizing of these themes . . . the images are startlingly fresh and extremely evocative.’