Sunday, August 8, 2010

The story of a family affair

Poet-turned-debut novelist Tishani Doshi speaks to Meena Kandasamy about writing The Pleasure Seekers, a fictionalised chronicle of her parents' love story, her blood connection with Chennai and fascination with displacement.

The Pleasure Seekers tells your parents’ love story. Have they read your novel? How do you expect them to react to it?
No, they haven’t read it yet. I have a wonderful freedom, because I don’t expect them to read it and provide feedback. If they want to, they can; if they don’t want to, they don’t have to. I think they’ll probably read it, but not at the moment. I think they are going to wait.

Why did you choose to chronicle their love story?
 It was not so much a conscious decision like saying, “I am going to write this story.” It was always a story that I had. Because I am a poet primarily, I don’t think in terms of storylines so much — more  in images and different ways of looking at the world — in terms of my writing.. I had been doing short stories and I thought that for a novel, what I had around me was good stuff to mine and explore. I had to make up a lot, most of it is imaginary. I didn’t have my grandparents to tell me stories, even my parents were very reticent. I had the bare bones of this story, and I went for it.

You talk of the transition from poet to novelist. How was that experience?
 It was difficult, which is why it took me quite a long time to write the book. But I am very happy that I took this long. It is not easy to switch registers. I don’t know of any prose writers who have suddenly decided they want to write poetry. I think you can develop an instinct for different kinds of writing, and for me, I have always loved the novel as a form. You need to be able to contain a whole universe in your head. You need to be able to sustain it for weeks and months at a time. It requires so much stamina and continuity that are not necessary in poetry which involves little bursts of wondrous joy. There’s a lot of despair in a novel that I never feel with poetry.

Full report here New Indian Express

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