Thursday, June 15, 2006

To Live or Not to Live

In this context, what you think of Mishra's view on novels? Do you think that the mid-nineteenth century Flaubertian model that he recommends (and has himself used) works in this century, especially when exploring Indian realities? In these times of globalized powers, terrors and dissent, is it possible for the novelist to be a creature of ascetic calmness and dispassionate observation, an animal without an angle of vision? I have my doubts. Amit Chatterji, at 5:53 PM, June 12, 2006
Dear Amit -
There are many ways in which to go about writing novels, and the model you speak about is still, to my mind, a perfectly worthy ideal, even if replete with all kinds of ifficulties. I don't see at all why it should be unsuited to dealing with Indian realities - in fact, just think of how swampy and stifling our middle-class life is, and how interesting an Indian *Madame Bovary*, written with close attention to the life of a couple in, say, Kota or Ghaziabad would be, were it to be written by an Indian novelist today - office life and family life, the great many things swept under the carpet, complicated and confused attitudes towards sex and the body, the taking of a vacation in Shimla, visits from relatives, letters from an old flame. It would be great.
The kind of observation you are speaking of as possibly being outdated, although you find good, rich words for it, is really not as ascetic and dispassionate as you think - even that has a kind of ferocity and ardour to it, a hunger for detail. It is so subtle as to seem without an angle of vision, which is of course much harder to do than write from a clear point of view - in fact there is a kind of wonder in it when it is successfully brought off. Chandrahas, at 8:17 PM, June 12, 2006

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