Forfatteren Tabish Khair bor i Danmark og underviser pΠAarhus Universitet
Forfatteren Tabish Khair bor i Danmark og underviser pΠAarhus Universitet

What do you need to be a writer? In the past it used to be a pen. These days, obviously, you can do without a pen. In the past, it used to be a backbone too. These days you need a network.

As someone who has never had a network, I considered myself an oddity until I came across these lines in one of Charles Bukowski’s novels: “The worst thing for a writer is to know another writer, and worse than that, to know a number of writers. Like flies on the same turd.”” Now, Bukowski’s novels have an exaggerated reputation for realism: anyone who knows anything about women would take them with a pinch of salt. And a six-pack of beer. But I am convinced that when Bukowski talked about writing — or drinking — the man was dead honest.

Forfatteren Tabish Khair bor i Danmark og underviser pΠAarhus Universitet
Forfatteren Tabish Khair bor i Danmark og underviser pΠAarhus Universitet

One has to be cautious when it comes to announcements of books being adapted into films. A book might get optioned for film, announcements might get made but the making of a real film rarely follows them. Mohsin Hamid was lucky in getting Mira Nair to make a film out of his novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist. So was Jhumpa Lahiri—Nair made a film version of her novel, The Namesake. But even Salman Rushdie had to wait for nearly 30 years before his most famous novel, Midnight Children, was adapted for screen. After many false starts, the film was finally made by Deepa Mehta and released in 2012. Similarly, a film is planned for Amitav’s Ghosh’s The Sea of Poppies (its screenplay is ready), and when Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger won the Booker Prize, a film was announced—apparently, Farrukh Dhondy was to write the screenplay. However, there is no news on both these films.

By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

Forfatteren Tabish Khair bor i Danmark og underviser pΠAarhus Universitet
Forfatteren Tabish Khair bor i Danmark og underviser pΠAarhus Universitet

 

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

Good question! I wish I knew. It is either like a person breathing or an alcoholic drinking, depending on the day.

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

I have just finished a study of xenophobia. And I am finishing a novel on a very topical issue: the current rhetoric of jihad etc. The only way to find out what I had in mind while writing them would be to read them. Preferably, after buying a copy of each. Preferably, after buying two copies of each – one for your friend, one for yourself.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

Is there one? Apart from good coffee?

Although it is mainly diasporic writers who have made Indian English writing global, and have translated works into many other languages, there are many others ignored by the media, the government and other establishments.

by Aju Mukhopadhyay

tagoreWhat is Indian English Literature?

Indian English Literature is the work of Indian-origin poets and writers writing in English, and living anywhere around the globe. They usually have similar mindsets, especially when writing about, or referring to India. Meenakshi Mukherjee has said that it is born out of Indian and English parentage–thus twice- born1. Another writer, Maria Tymoczko, thinks that it is born out of one culture and expressed in another2. Their opinions carry the idea of translation, but it may be said that there is exactly no question of translation as such, because when the creation is one’s own and not an independent version or expression of another’s creative production, albeit in a language not one’s own, the creative product is a trans-lingual/cultural endeavor. When an Indian writes his Indian experience in a foreign language it can be said to be a trans-cultural creative process. The history of this expanding literature has covered more than 200 years.

How-to-Fight-Islamist-TerrorFighting Islamist terror is not the book’s focus and, although both main characters have lively libidos, sex is not a particular concern either. In a Danish setting that seems to reflect Khair’s own role as a lecturer at Aarhus University, friends from the Indian subcontinent, one Indian, one Pakistani, move into the flat of an older Muslim, Karim.

Tabish KhairLike you, Modiji, my Sanskrit and Hindi tutor was a member of the RSS. He would put on his khaki shorts and go for lathi practice. He would also turn up, unfailingly, for Id dinners at our place, pointing out that he only ate at the houses of old Muslim families as they knew the value of cleanliness and hospitality. He would add that he could hardly eat with most Hindu families either, because “people have forgotten the old ways and only picked up the worst of the new ones”.

Given this sharp precipice of literary creativity, which allowed me little toehold, largely because my difference could not be countenanced in standard class or post/colonial terms, I latched on to the odd book that I could relate to. The most enabling was VS Naipaul’s A House for Mr Biswas. I picked up a second-hand copy from a roadside stall. I was doing my Inter at the local college in Gaya. I doubt I had heard about Naipaul. Even if I had it must have been fleetingly. What struck me was the context — provincial and seemingly unstructured — in which Mr Biswas struggles to live and write. I could identify with it; identify much more with that Caribbean space than even with RK Narayan’s Malgudi, which exuded a suggestion of structure and calm that was often missing in my small town space.