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Anita Desai on Being An Outsider

Celebrated writer Anita Desai spoke with Joshua Barnes of Sampsonia Way about how she became a writer, her writing process, and what it’s meant to be an “exile” from her homeland while writing about it. Indeed, writing as a daily practice is inundated with multiple requests to engage and interact with fellow writers and readers in a way not known before, mainly because of the fluidity of communications available through the Internet. She also explains that in spite of our increased connectivity, we are nonetheless drawn to the mode of exile because of its impact upon both our ancestors and our present:

I’m interested in people who live in a kind of exile; it may not be political exile, but in some sense it’s exile from the rest of society. It may have something to do with my upbringing and my parents. My mother, having been German, lived most of her life in India and never felt able to return to Germany . . . But on a superficial level, by uprooting yourself, you experience the world from many different angles. On another level, it leaves you as an outsider for good. You’re always an observer rather than the participant, and that’s a big difference.

To read more of this interview, click here.

Amitava Kumar on Writing in English

Amitava Kumar discusses the politics of writing in English as well as the desire, or need, to get published in the West rather than be content with getting published in India.

“I read the message from my friend and wondered whether Paul Auster had ever heard of Patna.

Although I hadn’t till then read anything by Auster, I now felt a connection. A couple summers ago, I saw a young woman on the beach reading The Invention of Solitude, and bought a copy the next day. When Auster’s memoir Report from the Interior came out last year, I again picked up a copy. Early in the book, there is mention of “the starving children in India.” Auster is describing a scene from his childhood. American mothers in the 1950s talked of half-naked, emaciated Indian children begging for food so that they could shame their own kids into finishing what was on their dinner-plates. This pleased me, but the memory was so general that it took on the character of a myth, which is what, in the end, it was. read rest here


Arisa White writes ‘Post Pardon’ based on poet Reetika Vazirani’s life and death.

I was living in California the first time I heard about  poet Reetika Vazirani. I mention where I was living because this woman I did not know is one of my strongest memories of living in a State/place I grew to love despite the few months I was able to call California home. The reason which  I first heard about Vazirani was less than stellar. She had committed suicide and, what seemed, impossibly, even worse,  she had also killed her two year old son. My elder son was, at the time,  two and a half years old, and, don’t we all suffer dark nights, and yet, we fall asleep and wake up ready to give a new day a fresh chance. I could not get her son out of my mind. That night I wrote a story about such an incident but I did not try to get it published for some  words you need to bare your heart of just for yourself. But, since that day over a daceade ago,  I do think back to that woman and her son and wonder what happened? What happened?

Poet Arisa White  is trying to answer exactly that in Post Pardon, a series of poems loosely based on Vazirani’s death. White had met Vazirini and her son, Jehan, and she was also a student of Jehan’s father, Pultizer Prize winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa.  White says:

“Post Pardon is an investigation of that why; it is an effort to occupy the mindset of a person who would commit an act of murder-suicide, in such a way where reason is not given, judgment is not passed, or excuses are formulated. The series of poems is a chorus of voices speaking from the interiority of a woman who contemplates life: the taking of her own and that of her only child.”

To peer into what may have lain in Vazirani’s heart, Arisa White uses the strategies of  Irish poets  Medbh McGuckian and Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill. White was drawn to  McGuckian’s ablity to imagine and create worlds of her own and Dhomhnaill gaze into the  spaces between sanity and insanity. White is also writing an opera based on Post Pardon.

thanks to Minal Hajratwala for the tip on Post Pardon: the Opera. You can see the kickstarter Post Pardon trailer here.