The evening session started with Italo Calvino’s words for classics ‘books that are treasured by the readers who loved it and also for the first first time readers, those books are classics.’ Imraan Coovadia asked about the relevance of classics to all the three writers who were from very different backgrounds – one writer Lu Jingjie was from China whereas Rajorshi Chakraborti is an Indian writer living in New Zealand, and we had Ambai, a senior writer from Tamil Nadu.
I liked the description of classics by Lu, she said that the itch which one gets and is not able to cure it and then there comes a person who helps you to itch it away and the feeling which one gets after it is exactly classics for her, it helps to touch the untouched. Rajorshi Chakraborti called the feeling inexpressible and he went on an autobiographical mode and said that he is somebody formed by reading, it also influences his way to look at people and this taught him to pay more attention to people. Ambai resorts to classics and likes to go back to them again and again. Like Rajorshi, she took the narrative to a different level, she recalled an incident where her publisher wrote the blurb of a book as the stories of women whereas in reality, the book only had 4 Stories, out of all, about woman. To which Ambai argued that if a man writes about lives of men then the blurb doesn’t say that it is about man but lives. This universality which is from man’s lives is what Ambai questions.
Rajorshi was disheartened about the rise of technology today and said that the attention span of reader had become very short, so the writer had to write short stories more; also because of the lack of attention span, complex structured sentences are getting lost, those sentences which need a pause and a thought before writing are not being written. Lu seconded the thought and agreed that if a writer had to get famous then they were supposed to get online. Ambai also said that it all boiled down to how much time one has for reading because at the end of the day knowledge cannot be downloaded.
Coming back to literary fiction, Imraan questioned about their relevance in mainstream reading, Lu gave a middle ground by questioning whether we really needed to draw a line between literary fictionand bestsellers. This also raised the question of highbrow and lowbrow literature. Rajorshi says that any book which shows a genuine effort to illuminate, connect, and search the readers is according to him anice book. He likes to meet his readers half way and not make him cross the whole road. Ambai concluded the session with a very peaceful thought that even if there’s one person to read her books, her efforts are successful because then there is some place where the wheels got the churning.
About the Author – Kalpita is a Bachelor in English Literature. Her ultimate goal is to fulfill the romantic notion of changing the world for better and she is pursuing MA in Development from Azim Premji University, Bangalore. She currently writes for Bookstalkist.