By Farah Ghuznavi

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Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

Writing is my favourite form of self-torture.  Playing with words is pleasurable, fantasizing plotlines from foreplay to climax is enjoyable, but then… getting the words to convey the plot, now there’s the hair-yanking, teeth-grinding, eye-gouging challenge.  Still, the creative process is exhilarating, and in the end it allows me to share thoughts and ideas with others.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

I have published two books this summer with Bloomsbury India. Dark Diamond is a historical fantasy set in 1685 about the Mughal Viceroy of Bengal, Subedar Shayista Khan, who built the Lal Bagh Fort.  I was looking for a time in history that Bengalis could be proud of and a hero who could inspire our youth.  I wanted to look beyond 1971, to remind our youth of our rich, secular, pluralistic past. On another note, I wanted to portray the outer, inner and secret meanings of Islam that come under threat when radical power structures are in place.

Intentional Smile: A Girl’s Guide to Positive Living is a mind, body, spirit book about staying happy and healthy.  It is based on my experience as a yoga instructor and a social psychologist, and a working mother who has struggled with chronic depression.  My co-author, Merrill Khan, is a school counsellor and a life coach.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

In my first novel, Like a Diamond in the Sky, my protagonist was a young junkie who loved rock ‘n roll. Inspired by the Beatniks and folk musicians of America, I tried to simplify and pare down my sentences and paragraphs as much as possible.

The protagonist of Dark Diamond, on the other hand, is a Sufi warrior and swashbuckling hero.  I allowed my writing to be inspired by Sufi poets, but also kept characters like Indiana Jones in mind.

By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

jessica-faleiro-pix

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

To do otherwise would be to deny an integral part of myself. I write because I must, because of my addiction to the feel of an ink pen between my fingers scribbling word-code onto one blank page after another. To me, writing is an aesthetic pleasure that sets every fibre of my being into vibration, when I’m actually doing it. The other reason I write is to be able to make sense of my own thoughts and feelings, and creatively express them onto the page or screen. Sometimes, just the writing process is a form of catharsis for me, even though my scribbles make no sense.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

My last book, Afterlife: Ghost stories from Goa, published by Rupa (2012) is a novel that follows the lives of X generations within a Goan family. At a get-together to celebrate the patriarch’s 75th birthday, there is a powercut that leads organically to the family swapping ghost-stories. Through the process or sharing oral histories, the family history and some secrets are revealed. The structure became an important part of telling the story of the family; I used a frame narrative device to interlink the individual stories. It’s more of a commentary about the social mores of South Goan society, diasporic culture and religious aspects among other things. My intention was to create a story that wasn’t just about ‘ghosts’ but about the things that haunt us emotionally and psychologically.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

Excavating words to reveal complex layers of emotion. At least, that’s the aspiration!

If Jhumpa Lahiri had not been so celebrated already as a fiction writer par excellence, this book from her would be a decent offering in English and perhaps a remarkable one written in Italian by a non-native speaker of the language. 

by Chandra Ganguly

JhumpaEverything in the book In Other Words written by Jhumpa Lahiri is written in Italian, with translations in English on the adjacent page, by Ann Goldstein. And even before I open the book, I am intrigued. I am about to read Jhumpa Lahiri in translation. How much would be lost in translation? And how much transmitted? And why was the title of the book not in Italian? The more I thought about it, the more it troubled me, why would a book in Italian not have the title in Italian? The answer is perhaps that the book was imagined as a translation of her from Italian into English versus simply a work in Italian that would and could stand on its own.

The tale of alienation and immigration, of loss and search for identity, voice and place in a new world is a story every person living in exile can identify with. Characters in all of Jhumpa Lahiri’s previous works have inhabited that space. And what takes a moment to absorb when reading this book is that this is Lahiri at her most honest and vulnerable. This is a first hand account of immigration, these are confessions, thoughts, ruminations written in her diary, later translated and formulated into a book by her publishers. I am both enchanted and a little embarrassed by the intimacy of her revelations, by her raw appeal for acceptance, “I ask of Italian, with a slight impatience: Permesso? May I? (p.17)…. Relationship takes place in exile…. In a state of separation… I have no friends in Rome. (p.35) I trade certainty for uncertainty. (p.37) My sole intention, along with a blind but sincere faith, is to be understood, and to understand myself. (p.59) Those who don’t belong to any specific place can’t, in fact, return anywhere.” (p.133)