Sunday, May 2, 2010

Against the tyranny of facts

Man Booker Prize winner Yann Martel's second novel, Beatrice and Virgil, is in many ways a book of memory and remembrance. The artful metaphor is our only ally against forgetfulness, he says. Excerpts from an exclusive interview...

Yann Martel's second novel has been a long time coming. Recently released in Canada and the US, Beatrice and Virgil has received polarised reviews. That it has been trashed as well as praised, he says, is a sign that it has elicited active engagement, not indifference, from the readers. The controversial reception is a sign that it is getting people to think and act, he says from San Francisco where he is on a promotional tour. Excerpts from a telephonic conversation...

Are you planning on coming to India to promote the book here?
I have a nine-month-old son. Before I can promote it — I am not going to Australia, New Zealand — I want to get back and be with my son. So, as much as I would love to return to India, for any reason, not just to promote my books, just to be in India — I haven't been there for about nine years now — I don't know when that'll be. India has changed a lot, I would love to go back and see that

Is this novel about the primacy of the imagination? You think we live in a world where the profusion of facts is working against making sensible meaning out of it?
Reality is a 100 million details. Right now where you are, if you think about it, you are surrounded by 100 million details on which you could focus your attention. Everything, from chemical, scientific details to cultural details to personal emotional details... now some of that has to be lost. Time, you know, is an eraser. It all goes. [We need] something we can hold on to. It's called history. But even history has hundreds of thousands of details and sometimes it's overwhelming and it's hard to get to. The forte of the arts, the forte of the imagination is that it can take some of those details and give them immortality. A painting, a story, a song can float across the ocean of time like a lifeboat. So you can get to the essence of an event and convey it in the form of art. It can be like a suitcase, taking the essential and preparing you for a trip to elsewhere...

Full interview here Hindu

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