Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Festival notes 4: knick-knacks

A few fragments of conversation overheard at the Jaipur lit-fest:
At the airport here I saw people sitting about reading newspapers. In California they would have been looking at themselves in little mirrors. In Japan they would have been playing on those handheld videogames. When you’re in India, it’s almost possible to believe that reading and writing make sense in the modern world. I mean, come on, we’re literally sitting on the same stage that Amitabh Bachchan was sitting on yesterday!
(Pico Iyer, during his front-lawn discussion with William Dalrymple)

Things started happening to English literature in the mid-1980s. Suddenly it was about Rushdie and Ishiguro and Ondaatje and other strange-sounding foreign names. Before this happened, it felt like you were walking into a closed, stuffy room in Miss Havisham’s house - it was still all about Dickens and Eliot.
(Iyer again)
Good books get praised in the first year of their publication, bad books get praised, good and bad books get ignored. You can’t take all this too seriously.
I approve of sponging off your parents...People always say a book will come out of you no matter what, but that isn’t true – you can’t write if you don’t have money.
(Vikram Seth, in conversation with Sonia Faleiro)
There are so many Indias, it really should be possible to write about India at several different levels.
(Vikas Swarup, discussing the controversy about poverty-depiction in Slumdog Millionaire, based on his novel Q&A)
I had just read David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, with its six intersecting narratives, and I thought I’d try to write Cloud Atlas Lite, so to speak.
(Swarup again, this time discussing his second novel The Six Suspects. Actually, “lite” doesn’t begin to cover it. Here are my reviews of Cloud Atlas and The Six Suspects)
In Afghanistan there are people who are so cut off from modern knowledge that if they see a shooting star or satellite movement in the sky they say, look, Allah just moved that star from there to there.
(Nadeem Aslam, talking about his new novel The Wasted Vigil)

Aslam again, tongue-in-cheek, responding to a question about how traditional Islamic people view technology: “Actually, some of them use it very well! Bazookas and other weapons, and Google Earth to plan terrorist attacks, even though they wouldn’t allow you to take a photo of the women in their house.”
Some people thought I was being offensive to the generals’ families through my book – but then they were offensive to 130 million people for 12 years. You have to look at the scale.
(Mohammed Hanif, on the reactions to his writing about real-life Pakistani generals in his political satire A Case of Exploding Mangoes)


  1. It's been really interesting reading about the fest. Apart from a bit in the TOI there seems to have been nothing in the mainstream media. It's sad how so few people care about books.

  2. superb vignettes! another installment, please.

  3. this is as good as being there!

  4. How did your own session with Chetan Bhagat go? I read on the website that he called Namita Gokhale a "Hot Aunt", what did he call you?


  5. Enjoyed reading your notes on the festival, thanks much. Hope there will be more. We depend on people like you for these ones, since they're not newsworthy enough for mainstream media! Any other sites where we can read about the fest?

  6. Smoke Screen: an enterprising young acquaintance named Aayush Soni has been putting up the transcriptions of interviews he conducted at the fest. You can see his blog here.