…almost 5,000 miles away from Calcutta: we meet in central London one freezing cold day in February.
And yet she claims that despite the distance – in geography, experience and I would argue urban imaginations, Chuadhuri’s conversation allows them to be…
…imaginatively transported into the heat of Calcutta, the central character of the new book, which the author explores in all its complexities and contradictions. One can almost see, smell, taste and touch the life of the city’s streets and its inhabitants.
What follows is a fairly ordinary interview – probably commissioned as a result of Chaudhuri’s publisher’s efforts to get him exposure for his new work in the all-important market of the UK, where he discusses his thoughts of the Indian modern, literary influences and his reasons for writing the book.
What was really striking about Chaudhuri’s responses was that all his references – whether literary and others, were Western. There is no non-European here, let alone an India, an Asia or even something remotely related. Details »
I have decided to take a short break from the field work on the The Idea Of India project. The monsoon and exhaustion have collaborated and pushed me to return to Delhi to rest, and also to rethink my work plan for the coming months. But as always, I now find myself immersed in readings, some of which were recommended to me by friends, others I found on friend’s bookshelves, and some that I had ordered online. So what am I reading: Details »
Published on July 7, 2011 8:33 pm.
Filed under: Literature
He was my introduction to Latin American literature. Before I came to Marquez, Bolano, Paz, Allende, Galeano, Borges, Rulfo, Carpentier, Bastos, Llosa, Fuentes and Vallejo I had come across Sabato. And it was this work - dark, nightmarish and frenzied that seduced me, and was my doorway to this amazing group of writers. Details »
Published on May 1, 2011 9:01 pm.
Filed under: Literature
Across my lap sits a fascinating work by Tzevetan Todorov called The Fear Of The Barbarians: Beyond The Clash of Civilizationswhere he confronts Europe’s slide towards xenophobia and Islamophobia and the abandonment of the principles of the Enlightenment (Todorov’s real interest is in this particular moment in European history and his The Imperfect Garden a wonderful exploration of the development of thought and ideal of that period, and their relevance and important to our modern age) that these attitude entail. Details »
Published on December 26, 2010 3:59 pm.
Filed under: Literature
It was once quite fashionable amongst photojournalists to argue that ‘too much information’ about a situation, conflict, region, culture, society, subject or story could confuse and damage a photographic work. I remember at least a handful of interviews with ‘major’ photographers where they each claimed that they went into situations and stories such that they were not ‘influenced’ by readings and open to the experiences and inspirations from actual experience. I always felt that this was yet another weak attempt to veil what can only be described as intellectual laziness behind the obfuscating language of ‘the creative process’. It was quite obvious that the works being produced from complex socio-economic environments were riddled with simplicities, banal clichés and a frankly egregious and irresponsible disconnect from the broader social, political, economic and cultural factors that defined the nature of the ‘social pathology’ the photographers were focusing on. Details »
What first bought me to Tony Judt’s works was a paragraph from a remarkable (for an American audience) piece he wrote in the New York Review of Books called Israel: The Alternative. The specific paragraph that struck me vividly was this one:
The problem with Israel, in short, is not—as is sometimes suggested—that it is a European “enclave” in the Arab world; but rather that it arrived too late. It has imported a characteristically late-nineteenth-century separatist project into a world that has moved on, a world of individual rights, open frontiers, and international law. The very idea of a “Jewish state”—a state in which Jews and the Jewish religion have exclusive privileges from which non-Jewish citizens are forever excluded—is rooted in another time and place. Israel, in short, is an anachronism.
A remarkably honest statement from a writer/intellectual who was once a Zionist, and volunteered as a member of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), to a vehement opponent of the policies of the state of Israel and its continued brutality of the Palestinians. He argued against the Iraq War (Bush’s Useful Idiots), defended the works of Mearsheimer & Walt about the Israeli Lobby (A Lobby Not A Conspiracy). And more recently, despite suffering from the debilitating Lou Gehrig’s disease, he penned some wonderful essays for the New York Review Of Books including some of my favorites like Night, Ill Fares The Land,What Is Living & What Is Dead In Social Democracy. He also appeared in an interesting Dutch documentary about the impact of the Israeli’ lobby on American foreign & Middle East policy.
Edward Said passed away on 25th September 2003. I am re-reading his Representations of the Intellectual, a book that has had a major influence on my own way of negotiating the world, in his memory this week. Though I never met him when I was at Columbia he was a powerful intellectual force at the campus, and even us on the far edges of his universe could not help but be pulled towards his ideas and views. And we continue to be, with his works Reflections on Exile, After The Last Sky, Humanism & Democratic Criticism, The Politics of Dispossession, On Late Style, Musical Elaborations and Culture & Imperialism repeatedly being taken down from the bookshelf as references or as reminders of ways of thinking Details »