21 April 2014

politics and literature

i came across this wonderful conversation between kamila shamsie, whose work i love (burnt shadows was absolutely beautiful) and pankaj mishra, whose work i know. they discussed political anger in contemporary literature, sparked off from the controversy surrounding chinese novelist mo yan’s winning of the pulitzer in 2012. it covers a lot of ground (and authors), and brings up great points for discussion: 

Do we ever expose the political preferences of Mo Yan’s counterparts in the West to such harsh scrutiny?...
[What i objected to] was the attempt to delegitimize [Mo Yan's] literary achievement through some selective reference to his political choices, like his refusal to sign a petition. If we were to take that narrow measure to many of the canonical figures of Western literature—from Dickens with his bloodthirsty writings during the Indian Mutiny, to Nabokov, who adored the war in Vietnam—those writers would have to be dismissed as worthless. 
...we need a more complex understanding of writers working under authoritarian or repressive regimes. Something to replace this simpleminded, Cold War-ish equation in which the dissident in exile is seen as a bold figure, and those who choose to work with restrictions on their freedom are considered patsies for repressive governments. Let’s not forget that most writers in history have lived under nondemocratic regimes: Shakespeare, Tolstoy, and Goethe didn’t actually enjoy constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of speech. And let’s not forget also, alas, that freedom of speech doesn’t guarantee great literature. 

...You have to ask: How many writers in Anglo-America who, unlike Mo Yan, enjoy untrammeled liberty to say whatever they want on political issues, have actually made use of their privileges during the last decade of violence and mayhem unleashed by their governments? 

...The fact is that the patron saint of modern liberalism, John Stuart Mill, thought that barbarian peoples like the Indians were unfit for self-rule. 

...Where is the rage? It’s one thing to say writers don’t get worked up about what their nation is doing in the Middle East, but here we have writers not getting worked up about what the state is doing to their ability to write without constraint. 
I have been wanting to write up something regarding literature and human rights, and this is the perfect encouragement. in fact, it was nice to read one of my fav authors on a topic close to my heart. isabelle allende, barbara kingsolver, kamila shamsie, gabriel garcia marquez, mohammed hanif; they all write political, social fiction, and i love them all. i have been too busy engorging on the prose lately, and not paying enough attention/homage to the content. this article was a pleasant knock on the head. 

09 April 2014

children's characters grown up, and love versus duty

for all of you who compulsively read the famous five, malory towers and other wonderful children's series, you may want to check out their lives some decades later. compulsive confessions's take on these characters grown up is.. deliciously dark, not what you would expect perhaps, but fun to read! why didn't anyone do this ages ago? (or did they, and i just don't know about it..?) the posts brought back so many memories.. ahh, enid blyton!

100paths wrote a post some time ago on 'our duty to be happy', that has lots of nuggets to savor. such as "happiness comes and goes. but love? of all the things precious to man and god, it is love that goes on." and, "marriage is a dance with a mirror; we only receive the expression we make, we only swirl in the direction we move ourselves, we only reap what we sow into our own souls". totally worth reading, for these awesome nuggets, and for much food for thought. her conclusion, that living a life of love is more rewarding than striving for a life of happiness, is something that i came across on another blog (albeit in a different manner of expression).. and it is one that islam also preaches.. on a very very tiny scale, i am noticing the fruits of my tiny acts of love at home.. love is also not always easy though; my very first lesson after marriage was that love is a verb.. but that is all for another post!