Sunday, August 28, 2011

Lop-sided growth is beginning to threaten even the middle class

Siddhartha Deb’s The Beautiful And the Damned: Life In The New India hit bookstores in India earlier this month. In an email interview with G Sampath, he talks his new book, about the challenges of narrative nonfiction, and the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption movement.

What was the transition like, from fiction to nonfiction? Do you think of yourself primarily as novelist who also writes nonfiction or as a nonfiction writer who also writes fiction? Which form gives you a bigger kick?
The transition to nonfiction was difficult for practical reasons. I had to fund long stretches of reporting, and that was difficult at the beginning. I also had to spend a lot of time away from my very young son, and I didn't enjoy that at all. But writing nonfiction is easier in the sense that the boundaries are more clearly defined, and so it's harder to go wrong. If you're reasonably methodical, you can produce something that is, at the very least, acceptable. With fiction, there are no clear boundaries, at least for me, which means there are many more ways to go wrong but also a shot at transcendence, at magic, at creating life out of even nonsense, all of which I rather like. Since I'm desperate to return to fiction, let's take this book as a novelist's foray into nonfiction.

You no longer live in India. How does this geographical translocation affect you as a writer? Apart from other things, especially in terms of choice of subject matter? Do you find America a better place to write from?
My first two novels were set in the north-east of India, which was not the most career affirming move to make while trying to survive as a writer in New York. So, in that sense, I've never been writing for a western audience, and my choice of subjects has been determined on what interests me rather than what sells. And if I possess something of the outsider's eye in writing about India because I've been living in New York, I should add that the outsider's sensibility was honed earlier by the experience of having grown up in the north-east, and of being pretty hard up for a good many years in India. As far as New York being a better place to write from, that's not a guaranteed thing. But the city did push me harder, especially in the beginning. It taught me a degree of professionalism, gave me relatively easy access to an enormous wealth of books and other material, and handed me a surplus of hard-earned confidence.

Full interview here DNA

No comments:

Post a Comment