By Mitali Chakravarty

Aruna pic

A versatile woman of arts and letters, acclaimed and celebrated, Aruna Chakravarti’s writing has been acknowledged by awards like Vaitalik Award, Sahitya Akademi  Award and Sarat Puraskar. Chakravarti talks of interactions with greats like writer Sunil Gangopadhyay and actress Sharmila Tagore to discuss her books and translations in festivals. Her books are often a protest against social ills which linger beyond the past. Her first novel  The Inheritors ( 2004, Penguin)  was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and her third, Jorasanko ( 2013, Harper Collins) received critical acclaim and also became a best seller. Daughters of Jorasanko ( 2016), a sequel to Jorasanko, has sold widely and received rave reviews.  Her translated works include an anthology of songs from Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitabitaan, Saratchandra Chattopadhyay’s Srikanta (which won her the Sahitya Akademi Award) and Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Those days, First Light and Primal Woman: Stories. Chakravarti was the  Principal of a prestigious women’s college of Delhi University for ten years. She is an academic, creative writer and translator with fourteen published books — three novels, one book of short stories, two academic works and eight translations.

22fa274f-4a0d-4c09-8935-35685fae7e7eChakravarti’s latest work, a novel titled Suralakshmi Villa, published by Pan Macmillan this year, will be her fifteenth book. The launch scheduled for 25th February, 2020, in Delhi’s  India International Centre will have a panel discussion on the book by eminent academics for half-an-hour followed by a multi-media presentation of an excerpt from the book created by the author herself. In this exclusive, Chakravarti talks of why and how she writes and more.

 

Since when have you been writing? What inspires you to write?

I used to write prolifically as a child. Poems and stories would pour out of me in a joyous, unthinking stream and I loved the feeling it gave me.

Things changed when, after joining the English Honours course in college, I was introduced to the academics of literature, taught the principles of criticism and how to distinguish good writing from mediocre. I became disillusioned with my work. I found it wanting on so many counts.  I felt I was useless as a writer. Self- criticism is good but, in my case, it verged to the point of negativity.

I stopped writing altogether.

There was a gap of twenty-five years before I picked up the courage to write again.

To answer the second part of your question my juvenilia reflected whatever I was reading at the time, mostly poems and stories written by English writers, and was hugely imitative. But my adult work is derived directly from living experience. It is from the world around me that I draw inspiration.

The venue of the world famous Jaipur literature festival, Diggi Palace, could be running into a controversy even before this year’s programme has started.

A petition has been filed in court after the state government, ignoring the security concerns raised by the police in an internal report, gave a go ahead to the venue. The matter will be heard a day before the festival begins — on January 20.

Concern about stampede looms large in a copy of the report, accessed by NDTV. Last year, around 35,000 people were inside the venue, which can hold only 2,000.

There would be more for literature lovers at the next Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) to be held from January 24 to 28, 2013. The annual literature festival that has been growing in reputation since it was first-held in 2008 would add another exquisite feather to its cap in its sixth editionby establishing a connection with The Man Booker International Prize.

“We will be announcing the ‘List of Finalists’ for the Man Booker International Prize at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Thursday, 24 January 2013. This will include an event as part of the festival at the Diggi Palace Hotel followed by an invitational dinner celebration at the City Palace,” said Truda Spruyt, associate director (culture), Colman Getty Consultants, the UK’s iconic culture and campaigning consultancy, which handles the prize.